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State of Downtown – 2016

2016 State of Downtown Address
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Bob Carr Theater



A decade ago we asked our friends and neighbors to close their eyes and imagine the Downtown Orlando of the future.

We dreamed of…

  • A revitalized urban core that’s the economic and cultural engine for all of Central Florida.
  • A home for the companies and careers of the future.
  • World class community venues.
  • More places to live, learn and play.
  • And, a vibrant arts and cultural scene.

All of these were once just “big ideas.”

They were ideas – before hard work and partnership turned them into reality.

Today, we gather once again to focus on big ideas to advance our vision for Downtown’s future.

But, this year is different.

It’s different for two reasons.

First, it’s only been six months since the Pulse tragedy.

Our Downtown played an important role in both responding to what happened as well as serving as the place where our community joined together.

Of the memories that will stay with me forever, two of the most powerful were the vigils at the Dr. Phillips Center and Lake Eola Park where our region gathered for strength and unity.

So, as we talk about the future, we’re mindful of the reality that our City and our Downtown in particular are forever changed by what happened.

I think it’s appropriate as we have done at so many of these gatherings since the tragedy that we pause for a moment to let the victims and their families know that we are still with them… still thinking about them… still praying for them every single day.

The second reason why this State of Downtown Address is different is because the “big idea” we want to focus on is not something new.

Rather, it’s a priority our community has been advancing for a long time: the transformation and revitalization of Parramore.

On my first day in office, we made a commitment to the residents of Parramore, which at the time was Orlando’s most blighted and crime-ridden community.

We pledged to restore this proud neighborhood to what it once was, a safe place with a high quality of life.

Through our Pathways For Parramore initiative, we went block by block to overcome challenges.

We reduced overall crime by nearly 20 percent.

We increased home ownership and added new amenities like ZL Riley Park, a community garden and new public spaces.

We connected close to a thousand of Parramore’s residents to jobs and opportunities through our Blueprint program.

And, we helped attract investment in the neighborhood and worked to nurture small businesses.

Through the Parramore Kidz Zone, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, we connected our most vulnerable young people to health care, after school programs and jobs.

Today, with the help of PKZ, juvenile crime is down a staggering 61 percent in the neighborhood.

And, every single one of the PKZ seniors who graduated high school over the past two years has gone on to college, military service or trade school!

A lot of communities would consider our work done.

But, here in Orlando, we dream bigger.

The residents of Parramore have dreamed bigger… and want more for their neighborhood.

Our shared dream is to return Parramore to a neighborhood of opportunity that celebrates its rich history.

A place where learning… the careers of tomorrow… sports and entertainment… and unique amenities… come together in one neighborhood that’s shared by everyone.

We are here today because starting this year, a unique window of opportunity is opening to make this happen.

Education: The Foundation Of Parramore’s Transformation

The big changes ahead for Parramore aren’t happening because of a single project or building.

They’re happening because of the power of education.

Education opens doors and eliminates barriers to opportunities for everyone.

Education drives investment and serves as a catalyst for development.

Education attracts the job creators of tomorrow… and, in turn, the people who want to work at those companies.

We want Parramore to be a place where that power of education is everywhere and serves everyone.

We want Parramore to be a place where someone can grow up… have immediate and long-lasting access to a great education… and can apply that education to a modern career… all without ever leaving Downtown Orlando.

Our vision starts with Orange County Public Schools’ new Parramore Community School for preschool to eighth graders.

When the campus opens next year, 900 kids will have access to educational facilities, athletic fields and a Boys & Girls Club for after-school activities.

Through the leadership of the Rosen Foundation, the school will also offer free pre-school for children in Parramore.

The school’s students will be able to walk and bike to school safely through major improvements we’re making to transportation infrastructure.

We’ll even be piloting a program called a “walking school bus” from multiple locations in the neighborhood to enhance student safety by pairing groups of students with supervising adults.

Eventually, we hope to have the same kind of program for kids who want to bike to school.

Operating in compliment with PKZ and our other youth programs, the Parramore Community School will serve as the first part of a cradle-to-career pipeline.

The next piece of that pipeline is our new University of Central Florida and Valencia College Campus.

When it opens, the campus will serve nearly 8-thousand students and be a 21st century academic hub… for a 21st Century Downtown.

Plans are also moving forward for a 600-bed student housing development that will open in the fall of 2019 along with the grand opening of UCF Downtown.

This building will be home to Valencia College’s new 50,000 square foot culinary school.

Combined with our FAMU law school, Orlando Technical College and the new Webster University campus, we’re putting the elements in place for the kind of diverse, higher education corridor that all the great cities of the world possess.

The third element of our pipeline is turning education into jobs.

As our Creative Village continues to emerge it will become a hub for high-tech, digital media and creative companies, with a diverse mix of students, employees and residents.

In newly-constructed buildings and in reimagined spaces like this Bob Carr theater, the companies and careers of our modern economy will be born.

Those next generation employers will have a built-in pool of homegrown graduates from both the Parramore neighborhood and all of Orlando to choose from, completing our pipeline.

In our vision for the future there’s also an important synergy between education… and housing.

In the 1960s, Parramore had nearly 18-thousand residents compared to just over 6-thousand today.

Parramore’s future depends on bringing residents back to this historic neighborhood.

We must ensure that anyone who wants to live here can live here… regardless of their income.

That’s why, with Commissioner Hill’s leadership, our housing strategy is focused on expanding affordable and quality housing options and rehabbing existing homes and expanding quality housing options.

The City is seeking a partner to develop single-family homes on vacant lots throughout the Parramore neighborhood.

And, through a partnership with the Florida Real Estate Foundation, we’re redeveloping six lots at Jefferson Park into single-family homes for veterans and public safety personnel that will be called, Heroes Commons.

We also have more than 500 multifamily units set to break ground in 2017.

This includes Amelia Court at Creative Village that will have a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments and provide a new option for families looking to live near the adjacent Parramore Community School and UCF/Valencia Downtown Campus.

Finally, we’re transforming a vacant, six-acre site across from Z.L. Riley Park into a residential community that will offer a mix of affordable housing, permanent supportive housing and market rate housing.


The revitalization of this neighborhood is important for all of Downtown.

That brings us to an important point of emphasis.

Having a massive interstate highway run through our Downtown often makes us think of our center City having two sides, east and west.

But, we don’t have an east downtown… and we don’t have a west downtown.



And… every block, every street, every business, every home is important to its prosperity and vitality.

Success in our Central business district has allowed us to grow our tax base and spur investment in other parts of our Downtown like Parramore.

Conversely, Parramore’s ongoing revitalization is going to benefit all of Downtown… and our entire Central Florida community.

So, as we plan for our future, part of our work involves leveraging all our projects, assets and amenities to better connect all the unique and different parts of Downtown.

This starts by enhancing the physical connection between the two halves of our Downtown.

For decades, I-4 and the parking lot underneath has been a barrier between the two sides of Downtown Orlando.

With the overhaul of I-4 now underway, we have the opportunity to transform this area into a gathering space for the 21st century that will help tie downtown together, rather than divide it.

The Under-I will be a true “park for everyone” with distinct areas that serve as hubs for athletics, food, music, arts and technology… all together over the length of three city blocks with five types of programmed areas.

Adding parks and amenities are important as Downtown’s resident population grows.

We’re moving ahead with plans to create the Tinker Field History Plaza.

This community gathering space will feature refurbished original stadium seats and monuments to commemorate key figures in the field’s history such as Martin Luther King Junior, who spoke there during his only visit to Central Florida.

Through Commissioner Sheehan’s leadership we’ve opened a long-awaited dog run at Constitution Green.

We continue to add more places for people to live in an urban setting with the addition of the Sevens and 420 East.

At this moment two new high-rise apartment towers, Modera Central and Citi Tower are under construction and will add close to 600 new housing units.

And, a new Walgreens is set to open on Orange Avenue next year, bringing another national brand to Downtown and expanding our retail options.

When it comes to Downtown priorities that impact us all, nothing is more important than keeping our neighborhoods safe.

Our new OPD headquarters is more than just a state-of-the-art home for our modern police department.

It’s a reflection of our continuing commitment to open and transparent policing.

And in 2017 new Fire Station 2, the Pride of Parramore, will reopen.

Along with the expansion of the station to include more bays for specialized equipment, there will also be community space for classroom activities like free blood pressure checks and our Take Heart Orlando hands-only CPR trainings.

If you’ve spent time Downtown in the evening over the past year, you’ve seen our culinary scene really take off.

From casual restaurants to fine dining created by James Beard nominated chefs.

From craft cocktails to food trucks.

Downtown Orlando is quickly becoming a destination for dining.

In fact, we were just named the “best foodie city in America” by WalletHub.

Our diverse menu of restaurants is growing with the openings of North Quarter Market, Dovecote, Wahlburgers and the Broken Strings and Black Cauldron Brewery.

Even Vice President Biden discovered there is more in Parramore stopping at Chef Eddies during a recent visit.

The Downtown Orlando Partnership has created fun new ways to explore Downtown’s vibrant food culture with their new craft cocktails tour… and restaurant tour.

We’re also committed to growing food options for all parts of our Downtown.

With the help of a quarter million dollar federal grant, we’re moving ahead with a program to expand local and healthy eating options in Parramore and throughout the west side.

The project will feature a farmer’s market at the new Orlando City Soccer Stadium.

It will create what are known as “farm-lettes” in the front yards of up to 15 residents, along with activities to better connect the area with healthy food options.

Our connection to Downtown isn’t just about our relationship to a place… it’s about our connection to one another.

Nowhere is this idea more important than our commitment to homelessness.

I’d like to recognize the Coalition for the Homeless, the Christian Service Center and Salvation Army who have long been committed to providing services to the homeless.

In April of 2014, we set an ambitious goal to place one third of our chronically homeless individuals in permanent, supportive housing over the next three years.

In less than three years, with the partnership of Orange, Seminole and Osceola Counties, the Central Florida Commission On Homelessness and H-S-N, we’ve accomplished our goal.

We’ve helped more than 300 chronically-homeless individuals and veterans into permanent housing, surrounding them with a network of supportive services that can help keep them from returning to the streets.

While not strictly a Downtown issue, together, our region was recognized by the White House and HUD for reaching the goal of effectively ending chronic homelessness among our veterans.

Nothing ties people and places together like transportation.

That’s why expanding Lymmo throughout Parramore and into the North Quarter through Commissioner Stuart’s leadership is so important.

It will connect our growing population not just to destinations throughout Downtown, but to new opportunities to work and learn.

We’re also working to increase options for everyone to safely and conveniently travel to and from Downtown.

SunRail is a critical part of our growing network of options for commuters.

We also know that people want the ability to use SunRail on the weekends, particularly to access our ever-growing calendar of major events.

That’s why we’ve partnered with stakeholders in our business and civic community to offer SunRail on select Saturdays as a pilot program.

Already over four Saturdays, thousands of people have been able to use the train to attend Downtown events.

Of course, many of those events are sports.

We’ve long dreamed of being one of America’s premier sports destinations.

When our City hosts a big game… you can feel the electricity.

Think about the football games we’ve hosted recently or will host soon:

  • The annual Camping World Kickoff which featured FSU against Ole Miss.
  • The Florida Classic.
  • Our three Bowl games, no other stadium in America hosts three bowl games.
  • The NFL’s Pro Bowl in January… and pre-season games.
  • High school football championships.
  • And… the ACC Championship Game this past weekend!

We’re a home for football at all levels.

Our Downtown is host to six major college games.

Think about that.

That’s as many home games as most college stadiums.

Now, if we were only talking about football games this would still be a big deal.

But, of course football is only one facet of our spectrum our Downtown sports offerings.

We’ve also got…

  • Our Orlando Magic and Solar Bears games.
  • Next month we’ll reach a programming first when tennis champions like John McEnroe and Andy Roddick play at the Amway Center.
  • NCAA men’s basketball tournament games this March.
  • Orlando City and Orlando Pride games. We’re only a few months away from opening the new home of the Orlando City Soccer Club.
  • In partnership with the Central Florida Sports Commission we’re bidding on 50 NCAA events over the next four years with 12 being hosted in Downtown.
  • Of course, Wrestlemania, one of the most watched events on the planet, is back in Downtown Orlando this April.

All of this means we can now proudly proclaim that our dream is reality.

Our Downtown IS a preeminent sports destination!

Of course, our vision is even bigger and bolder.

We’re leveraging sports as the foundation of a one-and-a-half mile long sports, arts and entertainment “destination district” that stretches from The Dr. Phillips Center to Camping World Stadium.

Our district will include all of our venues, art galleries and the Orlando Magic’s emerging sports and entertainment complex, which will feature a new hotel and conference center.

We will break ground on the final phase of the Dr. Phillips Center next month, creating a permanent performance space for the Orlando Ballet and Orlando Philharmonic.

We’d like to thank Mayor Jacobs and the tourism community for their leadership in working to complete the Dr. Phillips Center.

This unique area is critical to our future for so many reasons.

Sports, arts and entertainment activities bring people and communities together.

They create massive economic impact for our Downtown and our region.

And, they give our downtown character and flavor, that special identity that the iconic cities of the world have!

Once a year, I have the privilege of distilling all of our progress into one speech.

Over the course of the year, there are hundreds of stakeholders who spend thousands and thousands of hours making all of this happen.

We must recognize them for their hard work.

Let’s start by recognizing our City commissioners for their leadership.

Commissioner Gray, Commissioner Ortiz, Commissioner Stuart, Commissioner Sheehan, Commissioner Hill and Commissioner Ings.

We want to thank the Downtown Orlando Partnership, Scott, Doug and Bridget, for hosting this event every year and the work they do for our Downtown every day.

A big thank-you also goes to our Downtown Development Board for their thoughtful leadership and unmatched dedication.

So much of the success we talked about today is a direct product of Project DTO and the Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan.

We want to recognize every individual who contributed to these important plans for our future.

We must thank our leaders in the world of education – particularly, Dr. Jenkins, Dr. Shugart and Dr. Hitt for building a foundation of prosperity for generations to come.

We want to say thank you to our partners in the tourism community, our faith based leaders and the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness.

We want to thank Ken Robinson and the Dr. Phillips Charities for helping make our vision for the Downtown UCF and Valencia campus a reality.

And, we want to recognize Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the members of the Orange County Commission.

We also want to recognize the Creative Village Concept Team, it’s exciting to see a vision that we’ve been working on for so long start to come to life.

We want to thank our City employees, particularly those who serve our residents here in Downtown every day.

And, all of you in this room.

Your passion for our Downtown and our entire City is what makes being your mayor the best job anywhere in America!

There are many more people we’d like to recognize.

I wish I could stand up here all afternoon and thank each of you individually.

But, I’ve talked long enough.

I want you to hear directly from some of the individuals who are bringing change to Parramore and our Downtown.

We’ve lined up a terrific panel discussion today to do just that.

I’m excited to be a part of this discussion.

I’m excited, once again, to embark on another “big” year for Downtown Orlando.

Thank you.

And, thank you for what you do for Downtown Orlando!