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State of Downtown 2015

Mayor’s Remarks
State of Downtown

October 22, 2015

Good afternoon.

For nearly 80 years, our community has celebrated big wins here at the Orlando Citrus Bowl from our first bowl game in 1947 to now being the only stadium in the country to host three college bowl games as well as the Florida Classic. And today we’re here to celebrate a different kind of win. A win that can be credited to this team of community leaders coming together to create Downtown Orlando’s game plan.

And because of this plan, Orlando now has one of the best Downtowns in the nation.

A Downtown with world-class amenities. A Downtown that is a destination where families gather to spend time. A Downtown bursting with arts and culture. A Downtown for all of our residents. A Downtown with jobs and economic opportunity. And a Downtown that makes our residents proud to live in Orlando.

This didn’t happen overnight and it certainly didn’t happen by accident.

Our efforts started with our Downtown Strategic Plan and our Pathways for Parramore Plan. This allowed us to achieve big wins together including SunRail, our community venues, an expanded Lake Eola Park, a Downtown Movie Theater, Z.L. Riley Park and Major League Soccer.

Last year, building on this success we launched Project DTO and the Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan. These plans act as our long term game plan for Downtown.

A game plan that makes it clear that for our Downtown to continue to succeed over the next decade and beyond, we can’t be a one-dimensional team. Instead, we are focused on all of the fundamentals; strategic growth, neighborhoods, public safety, historic preservation, parks, venues, and, of course, building our team through partnerships.

This balanced approach ensures that our Downtown attracts quality jobs, defines our creative identity and fosters pride that Orlando is a great place to live, work, play and raise a family.

It is no surprise to anyone here today, or probably in this City, that we consider one of our strengths, these venues.

They are more than just state-of-the-art buildings. They’ve been a game changer for our Downtown, creating iconic gathering spaces, allowing us to host a variety of entertainment for our residents, and drawing hundreds of thousands of people into our Downtown.

In this stadium alone, in less than a year we have hosted more than 700,000 guests.

This weekend we are expecting over 35,000 passionate fans as the world champion United States Women’s Soccer Team takes on Brazil.

Over at the award-winning Amway Center, more than six million patrons have enjoyed 1,000 events. From cheering on our hometown teams; the Magic, Solar Bears and Predators to more than 55 sold out shows, from Billy Joel to Marc Anthony and even One Direction.

The Amway Center provides one of the best customer experiences anywhere and the Orlando Magic are taking it to the next level. We are the first NBA venue in the country to use a mobile app for ticketing, wayfinding, ordering food, drinks, merchandise, and even upgrading your ticket, all without leaving your seat.

More than two decades ago Mayor Bill Frederick set a vision for what became Central Florida’s most anticipated venue. Now, the arts are alive like never before in Downtown Orlando. Over the last year, more than 300,000 people have enjoyed our Dr. Phillips Center. More than a place, more than a stage, more than just entertainment, the Dr. Phillips Center is an iconic symbol that inspires all of us to be proud of our City.

Our venues are also a symbol of our commitment to being the greenest City in the Southeast. The Orlando Citrus Bowl and the Dr. Phillips Center both received Silver certification this year to join our Gold LEED certified Amway Center. This makes us one of a handful of cities to have all of our major venues LEED certified.

One of our most recognized venues isn’t a building at all. Lake Eola Park has been a community jewel for decades. And with the expansion of the East Lawn, more than 2.5 million people visited our signature park last year. This venue provides a natural gathering place for our city’s diverse cultural events and international festivals like Come out with Pride, the Orlando Arab Festival, and Latin jazz concerts.

These one-of-a-kind venues are a destination attracting people from around the world.

Think about this; the Orlando City Lions have drawn fans from all 50 states and 50 different countries, more than 20,000 people from outside of Florida purchased tickets for shows at the Dr. Phillips Center, three-quarters of the people who attended the Rolling Stones Concert and the Mexico/Costa Rica soccer game were from outside Central Florida, the Latin Food & Wine Festival just relocated to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center and attracted 15,000 people this last weekend, and companies like Microsoft are choosing to host their worldwide corporate gatherings in our venues.

Downtown visitors are spurring demand for hotels, with 750 hotel rooms currently planned to open.

These venues show returns off the field as well, uplifting our surrounding neighborhoods. Business leaders, inspired by the vision of Florida Citrus Sports that this stadium could ignite neighborhood transformation, formed the not-for-profit LIFT Orlando. With their partnership, the City negotiated to purchase the run-down apartments on Orange Center Boulevard. These sites will be transformed into safe and attractive housing for residents and will strengthen our west side neighborhoods.

More and more people are calling Downtown home.

In 10 years, Downtown’s population has increased by nearly 25-percent.

We’ve added more than 2,500 multi-family units, which are 95-percent occupied.

More than 1,200 units are being built downtown right now, and more are on the way.

As more people choose to live and visit downtown, they are discovering our emerging culinary scene. We are ranked number one in the country when it comes to being an affordable foodie city.

Here in Downtown, our foodies and our entrepreneurs are colliding on the field, in a good way.

Take UCF alum Jesse Wolfe. Jesse launched O’Dang Hummus at the Lake Eola Farmers Market. This provided him a laboratory to perfect his product and create demand. Demand that led him to receive funding on Shark Tank and in just a few weeks his product will land on the shelves of 1,100 grocery stores. And oh by the way, if you ask Jesse, he’ll tell you he owes his success to our Farmers Market, one he calls the best in the world.

Or take Brett Buffington who’s committed to creating urban farms in Downtown Orlando. Farms that produce food for local restaurants and the Farmers Market. His first farm is set to open next year in Parramore where he also plans to host workshops teaching residents how to grow food at home.

Our robust culinary scene means more dining choices with more than 100 restaurants in Downtown.

We’re attracting national restaurants like Wahlburgers and international restaurants like ACE Cafe, which chose Downtown for their North American headquarters.

Some of the region’s most renowned chefs are opening restaurants, including John Rivers of Four Rivers and James and Julie Petrakis of Ravenous Pig.

From the farmers market, to fast casual, to fine dining; our food ecosystem is a preferred location for residents and visitors across our region to enjoy amazing dining experiences.

And if you can’t decide where to go, an easy way to quickly try many of our delicious restaurants is to check out the Downtown Orlando Partnership’s Food Tours.

If you look at the lineup of these Downtown businesses and restaurants, they are huddled along our LYMMO and SunRail lines. Flanked by Florida Hospital to the North and Orlando Health to the South, the SunRail stations and Downtown LYMMO are fueling growth with three-quarters of a billion dollars of transit-oriented development.

The newest project, Crescent Central Station, set to open in just a few weeks, is the first phase of a mixed-use development with direct connections to all of our transportation options including biking and walking.

In the past year more than 3,000 users have traveled 20,000 miles across our City on our Juice Bike Share, which will be expanding with eight new stations for a total of 25. And we’re getting ready to launch a brand new carshare vendor which will make it even more convenient to rent cars by the hour.

We continue to make it easier to get around resulting in a vibrant and thriving downtown filled with pedestrians. Pedestrians who spend more time in our businesses and continue to make Downtown a more desirable place to visit, live, work or open a business.

Just ask Lanell Davis who takes Sunrail every day from DeBary to Downtown. She is excited about SunRail because she doesn’t have to sit in traffic to get to work. She says SunRail saves her time and provides flexibility, it allows her to work out after work, and she also admits to taking advantage of a happy hour or two. And when her son Damian is home from serving our country in South Korea, he is able to come Downtown and take SunRail home with his mom.

One of the newest destinations along the LYMMO line will be our new Soccer stadium, home of the Orlando City Lions which has had one of the most successful expansion seasons in MLS history.

Already, the new stadium is a catalyst for a renaissance in Parramore.

In the past year, we’ve seen over 25 new businesses open in Parramore, more than we have had in years.

Businesses such as Broken Strings and Black Cauldron breweries, Chef Eddies at City View and the Shoppes of South Parramore Avenue are now energizing the Parramore neighborhood. These businesses are helping to define the Sports, Entertainment and Arts District that Project DTO envisioned and creating a great place for entrepreneurs to start their own businesses.

Entrepreneurs like Dr. Renee Forbes-Williams, who is fulfilling her dream of owning a business while giving back to her community. Dr. Forbes-Williams recently opened Design House of Color, a design studio and clothing boutique that also offers educational and mentorship opportunities for residents.

Our lineup of businesses includes a balance of both big players and small players.

More than two dozen small businesses have opened in our Downtown Main Streets.

The Exchange building houses more than 100 technology companies that are innovating creative solutions for today’s problems.

Our Starter Studio has sparked investments in startups like FattMerchant, who is revolutionizing the credit card industry for small businesses.

And companies like Red Lobster, SightPlan, and PowerDMS are choosing downtown for their headquarters because they know the advantage in attracting and retaining talent if you are located in a high-quality urban environment.

We’re such a popular place to open a business that even our own Orlando Museum of Art is looking to move Downtown and build an iconic facility.

To attract business to our City we must make it easy to open a business and that’s what we’re doing with our new online small business permitting. It makes it simpler to navigate the permitting process. We are committed to remaining the easiest city in Florida to start a small business.

As Downtown continues to grow, we continue to grow safer and enhance the services we provide.

We’re investing in Parramore with our new Orlando Fire Department’s Station 2 “The Pride of Parramore,” that serves more than 15,000 residents. This station will provide life-saving fire services and health and community resources.

I am also proud to share that because of the fine men and women of our police department, crime continues to decline. Overall, Downtown crime is down 11 percent.

We are committed to keeping crime low. To do that we must have a strong relationship between the police and the community. Even when strong, it needs constant work and attention with a focus on communication. That’s why our police officers continue to participate in open and productive dialogue with our Orlando Speaks events. It’s why Chief Mina is at the White House today as the only agency in Florida participating in President Obama’s Police Data Initiative, focused on using technology and data to make community policing more effective and accountable.

Because public safety remains our top priority we are building a state-of-the-art Orlando Police Headquarters that we can all be proud of and that will last for generations to come. We strategically chose its new location to further revitalize the Parramore community and the surrounding Orange Blossom Trail corridor.

The new facility will strengthen the ties between OPD and the community and is designed to make interaction easier. One of the most notable features will be our ninth SEE ART Orlando sculpture, which I am excited to share with you today will be “Wings of Protection”, two geometric wings standing over 20 feet tall. This new art piece will enhance community pride and create a place where we can host events and ceremonial activities.

Our police department continues to focus on engaging our at-risk youth. Juvenile crime in Parramore is down 74 percent thanks to programs like our Parramore Kidz Zone. This national model has doubled the number of children attending early learning programs in Parramore. And I’m proud to share that every single one of our PKZ High School Seniors graduated this past year and are now in college.

As we’ve talked this morning about our game plan for Downtown, each of our wins has built momentum.

A momentum that is best described as pride.

Pride in our Downtown. Pride in our City. Pride in all that we have accomplished together.

Residents look to their Downtown as a rallying point.

Think about this, when someone from out of town asks you about Orlando, I bet the first thing you talk about is the unique experiences in our Downtown.

That’s because we have the best team, with the best staff and the best plays, but it’s also of utmost importance to have fans with pride.

It’s clear that our fan base has grown and more and more of our residents are proud to call Orlando home.

Everywhere I go people are buzzing about what’s happening Downtown and so much so that Orlando City has chosen to call our new professional women’s team the Orlando Pride.

This isn’t an end of game victory speech, this is a halftime pep talk.

While we have accomplished so much together, we have to keep the momentum to ensure our City and our region’s long-term winning success.

As we look to the second half, let me share some of the big plays we are working on.

In our Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan, education is the cornerstone of revitalization.

I am proud to say, that the City has joined in a partnership with Orange County Public Schools, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, UCF and the Harris Rosen Foundation to create a pre-school through eighth-grade community school in the heart of Parramore.

With a library, media building, gymnasium and a healthcare clinic, this new school will serve the entire Parramore community and allow all of our youth in Parramore to attend and walk to school together and parents to more easily participate in school activities. Something this neighborhood has not had in decades.

Another way to advance opportunities for Parramore residents and our region is our partnership with the University of Central Florida and Valencia College on plans for a shared campus in Downtown. The proposed campus, in the heart of Creative Village, blends education, technology and workforce development, creating another economic engine for our Downtown.

The campus would connect students to careers of the future with wages for its graduates exceeding the national average.

It’s true, we’ve had some setbacks in starting the campus. But like we’ve had to do with so many other must-win projects. We’ve huddled with our team and we’re coming up with a winning plan to make this project a reality.

Our re-imagined plan focuses first on a new shared UCF/Valencia educational building, a renovated Center for Emerging Media, parking and student housing. This will allow 7,300 students to start on the first day. This plan will be going before the state Board of Governors for approval two weeks from today, and then on to the state legislature for support.

We will not rest until this game-changing campus becomes a reality, benefiting our City and our entire region.

Fundamental to the success of Parramore is to ensure affordable housing options for all of our residents.

In just two weeks, we will start the process for a new mixed-income residential project located along South Parramore Avenue.

We envision a mix of apartments and townhomes creating a more than six-acre family-oriented development with community-building amenities.

This project is key in ensuring that the residents of Parramore today can continue to call Parramore home tomorrow.

We have long identified the need to bridge our east side of downtown with the west. In our City, I-4 has served as a dividing line. That’s why I am thrilled to share that we are working with the Florida Department of Transportation to build a park under I-4 that spans more than three blocks and will serve as a community connecting point.

This second urban park will focus on sports, entertainment, and arts, will provide an alternative to our well used Lake Eola Park.

Project DTO made it clear that there is a need for more green space. Scratch that, Project DTO and all of the residents on Facebook, and at the Constitution Green rally made it VERY clear that we need more green space in Downtown.

That’s why we just announced plans to save Constitution Green, preserving the historic live oak tree and ensuring this green space for future generations.

As the most sustainable City in the Southeast, we need a City full of trees. With the support of partners like OUC, we are launching our One Person, One Tree campaign in a couple of weeks to help each and every resident plant at least one new tree.

Great cities not only build vibrant Downtowns, they also uplift the most vulnerable among us.

Building on the foundation of our long-time partners; the Christian Service Center, Salvation Army, Orlando Union Rescue Mission, and the Coalition for the Homeless we are committed like never before to tackling our community’s most complex challenge, chronic homelessness. We will accomplish this with a housing first model. This approach houses people as quickly as possible and
surrounds them with the case management services to keep them housed.

We have seen an unprecedented level of community support behind this effort.

Sadly, among those on our streets are men and women who proudly served our country. Energized by a challenge from the White House to end Veteran homelessness by the end of this year, a surge of more than 500 volunteers took to the streets and the woods to identify all the chronically homeless veterans in our region. Among those identified is David Williams, who spent 14 years living in the woods but is now in supportive housing. David now volunteers to help get other veterans off the streets.

I am proud to say that because of the commitment of David and business and community leaders across our region, the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness reports there are less than 100 chronically homeless veterans still in need of a home. Moving us even closer to our goal of ending chronic homelessness in our City.

We have so much to accomplish together.

We talked a lot about our winning game plan, but anybody who knows anything about football can tell you it’s not just about the play book or the game plan, it’s also the coaches and the players.

I want to ask our coaching staff, if you will, our City Council Members to stand to be recognized.

Commissioner Gray, Commissioner Ortiz, Commissioner Stuart, Commissioner Sheehan, Commissioner Hill and Commissioner Ings, without you, we would not have been able to accomplish any of what we talked about today. Thank you.

I want to thank our teammates at Orange County, Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the members of the Orange County Commission for their partnership. Thank you.

Thank you to our CRA Advisory Board and our Downtown Development Board.

I’d like to thank you, our residents, who have provided input, dedication and hard work in creating Downtown’s winning game plan. Because we created it together, our entire community is working off the same playbook.

I also want to thank the Downtown Orlando Partnership for rallying our community together by putting on great events like this that support our Downtown. You are the best cheerleaders and fan club ever spreading pride throughout our Downtown.

As I walk through Downtown, the pride is everywhere.

Pride when you hear the cheering fans flooding our streets before and after a game.

Pride when you experience Cirque du Soleil and the Orlando Ballet performing together in the middle of Orange Avenue.

Pride when you connect with a stranger over a game of checkers at Z.L. Riley Park.

Pride when you see young families feeding the swans at Lake Eola.

And, pride in the optimism about the future of our great City.

As I talk with our residents, they tell me how proud they are of Orlando. And when you stop and think about what it really means to have pride in something, it’s to have ownership.

We aren’t just proud to live in Orlando, we are proud that it is our City.

Here in Orlando, we have just begun to seize this momentum and are now ready to create an unstoppable second half as we continue our drive to be the best Downtown in all of America.

Thank you.

God bless the City of Orlando

And God bless America.