December 6, 2018
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President George Bush Funeral Recognition
Before we begin today…
It’s important that we recognize the national event that’s going on right now… the funeral for our 41st President, George H.W. Bush.
In all of the tributes we’ve watched over the past several days… President Bush is again and again remembered for being a consensus builder and someone who treated others, even those he disagreed with, with dignity and respect.
There’s a lesson for all of us in his passing.
So, in this current political climate where those who disagree with us are so often vilified…
And, at this particular State of Downtown event where we celebrate the power of partnership and collaboration…
I think it’s appropriate that we honor President Bush’s service and legacy to our country.
Please, join me in bowing your heads for a moment of silence as we pay our respects to President Bush and his family.
Sixteen years ago, we started a journey together.
A journey to restore Parramore back to what it once was… a safe, culturally-rich neighborhood with a high quality of life.
We undertook this journey because it was the right thing to do.
We also undertook this journey because we knew that if we could leverage the power of education to transform Paramore… then it would also benefit every single part of Downtown and our entire Central Florida community.
In our Pathways for Parramore plan, we recognized that if we used education as the cornerstone of Parramore’s revitalization… it would also help fuel Downtown’s revitalization.
So, in 2006, we launched the Parramore Kidz Zone with the partnership of more than 40 organizations… as a way to bring healthcare, tutoring, after-school enrichment, mentoring and college access assistance for the young people who lived in Parramore.
Next, we recruited FAMU’s law school to the neighborhood.
We worked with our partners at UCF to secure their Center for Emerging Media… which is home to one of the most sought-after degrees in the country.
Then, a few years ago, when the old Amway Arena site was demolished, instead of selling the land to the highest bidder, we did something radically different.
We came together with stakeholders from the neighborhood… and from across our City… to dream about the impact of creating an industry cluster in digital media defined by education in the heart of Parramore in a place called Creative Village.
And, after 40 years without a public school in Parramore, we worked with Orange County Public Schools to bring a pre-k through 8th grade school back to the neighborhood.
Over these last sixteen years… year by year… and block by block… through strategic investment and planning… by pulling together incredible partners…. we’ve made that vision of a revitalized Parramore through education a reality.
I could go on and tell you why Parramore is different today, especially for young people.
I could tell you…
- Juvenile arrests are down close to 70 percent over the last decade.
- Teen pregnancies have been reduced by more than 75 percent in the same time period.
- And, for the third year in a row, 100 percent of the high-school seniors enrolled in the Parramore Kidz Zone went to college, post-secondary education or the military.
But, facts and figures don’t fully capture how education has reshaped this community… or what the future holds for Parramore’s young people.
So, we’ve invited two friends to help tell this important story… and help set the stage for today’s conversation about how we’re now poised to leverage education to supercharge our entire Downtown.
Please turn your attention to the video boards… and meet Ray-Shawn Brown and Julian Harris.
Ladies and gentlemen, Ray-Shawn and Julian are with us today.
Please join me in saying thank you to them for sharing their stories… and recognizing all of our students and leaders from the Parramore Kidz Zone, our community centers, After School All-Stars, My Brother’s Keeper and all of our youth programs!
Ray-Shawn and Julian’s stories are living proof that education can change lives… change neighborhoods… change entire Downtowns… and cities.
Over the last 16 years, we’ve worked hard to lay a unique foundation of education in Parramore.
We envisioned using that foundation as a first step toward building an entire village dedicated to educational and career opportunities.
Beginning this year… all of our hard work… all of our strategic planning… comes together.
Beginning this year… we will be home to the most robust educational ecosystem in all of Florida… right here in Downtown Orlando!
At this moment, we are less than nine months from the opening of the UCF / Valencia campus at Creative Village.
Here in Orlando… the phrase “this is as important as the opening of Walt Disney World” gets thrown around a lot.
Most of the time… it’s an exaggeration.
In the case of the Creative Village… and everything that will come after it… it’s not.
It’s that big of a deal.
It’s that big of a deal… for the future of our Downtown… and the future of our city… because of how this campus will serve as a launch point for this larger, fully-realized educational ecosystem.
Today, we want to help everyone understand why this is the case with six key reasons.
UCF / Valencia Campus – The Opportunity Escalator
The first reason is… that UCF/Valencia isn’t just a garden variety college campus.
These aren’t just a bunch of college classrooms that have been dropped into Parramore.
Rather… this is an urban campus that has been built with, and for, the residents of Parramore and our entire City.
With help from residents like Ray-Shawn and Julian, every aspect has been designed to serve as a living, breathing “opportunity escalator.”
From its curriculum… to the way it’s tied into Parramore… this is an educational facility designed to open doors and eliminate barriers to opportunity for everyone.
And, it’s designed to offer opportunity not just for the typical 20-something student… but the entire household.
The campus accomplishes this mission in several ways.
The UCF-Valencia campus will be home to more than 20 of the most sought-after undergraduate and advanced degree programs in the country… including communication, digital media, legal studies, healthcare technology and healthcare management.
These programs themselves aren’t unique.
But, all of these degree tracks have a direct tie-in and pathway to internships and career opportunities with employers right here in Downtown.
That includes our hospital partners at Orlando Health and Advent Health… to the Orange County Courthouse… to our own Orlando City Hall and Orange County government… to employers in the finance, legal and technology sectors.
It’s important that we recognize that a four-year college degree isn’t the only form of meaningful opportunity in this world.
The unique curriculum at the UCF/Valencia campus is the embodiment of this idea.
That’s why the campus includes a world-class culinary and hospitality school… that will give students access to state-of-the-art test kitchens and simulate real-world environments like hotel front desks and sales floors.
The “opportunity escalator” doesn’t stop at the school’s official boundaries, either.
The campus will have a connection to the City’s after-school and enrichment programs to help students succeed in middle and high school.
The campus is also connected to the Orlando Day Nursery so that education is attainable for working parents who need childcare.
There’s the ACE school… where young people who grow up steps from the UCF/Valencia campus can get a great early education.
Under the leadership of the new principal Wendy Ivory… attendance is up, algebra scores are up and discipline referrals are down.
By the way, Wendy is up for Principal of the Year!
And, the power of the campus is that it’s not just for young people or traditional students.
Let’s say you live in walking distance of the campus or you’re the parent of a student at the ACE school.
You can take advantage of Valencia’s new Center For Accelerated Training that’s located next door.
Through that academy… in as little as 8 weeks… someone can go from not having a high school diploma to getting the skills needed to get hired in jobs that pay 15 or 20 dollars an hour and a career in some of the most in-demand industries like construction or advanced manufacturing.
Those are quality jobs that can serve as an escalator to the middle class… or help pay for college.
These multiple pathways to education are the very definition of opportunity.
Whether you have 8 weeks to make your life better… or you want to spend 8 years getting your undergraduate and law degrees… or something in between… all of that is now possible in the same village in Downtown Orlando.
And, this all adds up to a new kind of commitment to anyone in our community who wants to leverage education to make their lives better.
A commitment that says… whether you’re growing up next door to campus… or you live in the neighborhood… or you live in Osceola, Seminole or Volusia Counties… there’s a place for you… there’s opportunity for you… if you want it… here in Downtown Orlando.
UCF / Valencia Campus – Academic Engine For The Creative Village
The second reason the UCF / Valencia Campus is such a big deal is because it serves as the academic engine behind our larger effort to create an urban village dedicated to technology, art, creativity and entrepreneurship that’s home to the companies and careers of the future…
An urban village that strengthens our economy and provides great places to live, work and play.
Our community has dreamed for a decade about this kind of place… a true “Creative Village.”
Now that a major college campus is in place… we are finally in a position to see our vision take shape.
At this moment, half-a-billion-dollars’ worth of private-sector construction projects are underway in our Creative Village, with the majority of that work going towards creating new residential properties.
That’s a historic level of investment on the west side of Downtown.
In the weeks and months ahead, we expect to see more investment in the Creative Village as the educational ecosystem we’ve built, combined with new housing options, serves as a magnet to attract new companies and new industries to Downtown… and allows our community to nurture existing companies in innovative industries in a new urban environment.
The Creative Village is already proving to be a place where people want to live.
What’s great about the expansion of our residential options here is that there will be housing for a variety of income levels.
That’s the third reason why the UCF/Valencia Campus at Creative Village is such a big deal… because it helps bring solutions to the table to confront our regional affordable housing challenge.
Right now, almost half of the people in greater Orlando spend more than one-third of their income on housing.
Think about that… more than a third of their income… and housing costs are only rising.
That dynamic is an anchor that could hold back our economy.
There’s no quick fix, particularly in Downtown.
But, we’re doing all we can to make sure that everyone who wants to live Downtown and take advantage of what this community is building… can have the opportunity to do so, regardless of their age, their race, or their income level.
That’s why our City is engaged in a multi-pronged approach on affordable housing that ties directly into the work we’re doing with the Creative Village and Parramore:
- We’re rehabilitating and preserving affordable housing units so that lifelong residents can afford to stay in the neighborhood.
- We’re building new multi-family and single-family homes for our residents for both renters and those who want to pursue a dream of home ownership.
- We’re partnering with developers like Invictus and Atlantic Housing to build close to 500 multifamily units at Parramore Oaks and Amelia Court with units for residents at all income levels.
- And, we’re building 57 single family homes throughout Parramore and providing up to 100-thousand dollars in down payment assistance to help residents fulfill the American dream of homeownership.
None of this would have happened without the City stepping up first and laying a foundation for expanded housing options for all income levels.
That’s a total commitment of more than 12 million dollars our City, alone, is investing right now to bring housing to Parramore.
We believe this foundation can serve as a catalyst for more private development to advance this important mission.
The Larger Impact
The fourth reason the UCF / Valencia Campus at Creative Village is such a big deal… is the impact that thousands of people will have on our Downtown economy and our urban environment.
Think about 8-thousand additional people learning… living… working… eating… shopping…. and playing in Downtown.
They’ll become immediate customers, tenants and employees in different pockets across our entire downtown.
They’re going to explore… activate… and energize Downtown in a way we’ve never seen before.
Now, think about that number growing year after year as we see more investment and more residents move into the area.
Businesses in Parramore and across our Downtown are already preparing for this historic infusion.
Popcorn Junkie, Neu Blooms and Chloe Lane just opened retail stores in Parramore.
They join existing success stories on the west side…. like Nikki’s place, J Henry’s Barber Shop and our budding entrepreneurs at Black Bee Honey.
We’re growing our options for start-ups and small tech-based businesses through the addition of three new co-working spaces… Industrious, Pipeline and Venture X.
And, next week we’ll help open a new co-working space for game development and virtual reality called the Orlando Game Space.
We’re excited to welcome a second grocery store to Downtown… the organic market “Earth Fare” will open a new location in the No-vell project at Orange Avenue and Gore Street.
We’re also welcoming new corporate headquarters to Downtown, including airline merchandiser Radixx International… and Bags who announced plans to build its headquarters in Parramore.
Food First and Hawkers join Red Lobster to bolster Downtown’s reputation as an ideal home for restaurant brands by moving their headquarters here… just in time to leverage the talent pipeline from the new Valencia hospitality school.
We can’t grow and attract more headquarters without more office space.
That’s why we’re excited that the new SunTrust Plaza will open in the second half of 2019… with a new hotel, office space, retail space and future plans including an upgraded Church Street SunRail Station.
Across those SunRail tracks at the historic Church Street Depot, there’s plans in the works to bring brand-name retail options that haven’t been in Downtown before.
The owners of the property have launched a grassroots campaign to get input about what Downtowners want to see at the site… everything from a food hall to an Apple store… to a bohemian market.
The fifth reason the UCF/Valencia Campus at Creative Village is such a big deal… it bolsters our efforts to attract visitors and grow Downtown as a destination… and expand our hotel and conference space.
We’ve already made Downtown Orlando one of America’s premier sports and entertainment destinations… with a robust roster of events… and things to see and experience.
- Our bowl season is almost here, and we’ll welcome fans for the Cure Bowl… the Camping World Bowl… and the VRBO Citrus Bowl.
- We’re hosting the NFL Pro Bowl for the third year in a row… the Monster Truck World Finals in May… and the MLS All-Star Game next summer.
- Next fall, we’ll host Florida and Miami for the kickoff classic.
- Thanks to our partners at Orange County and our tourism community, we’re using 60 million dollars to improve Camping World Stadium so that we can continue to attract some of the biggest and best events.
- Those improvements can help us land more marquee events… like the World Cup games in 2026.
- And, maybe with the NFL playing more neutral site games, we can secure an annual Tampa Bay Bucs game in Orlando.
- We’ve got our hometown teams… the Magic, Solar Bears, Orlando City and Pride.
- We’ve got a wealth of arts and cultural events like Immerse and Fusion Fest.
- Stage 2 of the Doctor Phillips Center is underway… and will be home to our local arts groups.
- And, our Downtown Arts District is moving into the historic Rogers-Kiene Building.
- We’re creating unique, interactive spaces to play… including the Under-I.
- And, with the partnership of Florida Citrus Sports, we’re giving Lake Lorna Doone Park an 8-million-dollar upgrade, to better serve the residents of the West Lakes neighborhood.
- Downtown will also be home to the Holocaust Museum For Hope and Humanity.
Planning For The Future
As more and more people are visiting our downtown… and going to school here… connectivity is more important than ever.
That’s why the sixth reason the UCF / Valencia Campus at Creative Village is such a big deal… because it gives us the opportunity to reimagine how people get around in Downtown.
Already underway is our pedestrian bridge above Colonial Drive that will open in early 2019.
The quarter-mile bridge will ease traffic congestion… and connects the Orlando Urban trail to Downtown and Gertrude’s Walk, allowing people to safely enter or leave downtown without the use of a car, or having to cross the congested road.
We’ve updated our City ordinances so that dock-less bike sharing can enter our market.
Through SunRail’s Southern Expansion… thousands more people are using the system to travel to Downtown every day from Southern Orange and Osceola counties.
Those added passengers are one of the reasons the system has been able to offer expanded service for Magic games.
As part of our Project DTO Initiative… we’ve begun a comprehensive study of the North Quarter District to enhance all modes of transportation there.
And, that’s just the beginning of our effort to reimagine corridors throughout Downtown, as we undertake the most holistic transportation study ever done in our central business district.
Our goal is to optimize vehicle and pedestrian flow and access, this will include all our major roads like Orange, Magnolia and Church Street.
To further support our night-time economy, Orlando will be the first municipality in the country to launch ride share hubs beyond stadiums and airports.
These hubs will offer our visitors, particularly those at night, dedicated pick-up locations with food options and public restrooms.
Challenges – panhandling and homelessness
All of our big plans for the future… are also helping us forge new partnerships to address some of the challenges we face.
That’s especially the case when it comes to the challenge of homelessness.
Earlier this year, we celebrated the progress we’ve made with our regional partners in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties to help place 339 chronically homeless individuals and veterans into permanent, supportive housing with 96 percent remaining housed.
To further support our Housing First initiative, we re-launched the Downtown Ambassador program.
Our ambassadors are working every day to connect vulnerable individuals to critical social services and curb aggressive panhandling.
We recognize that many people want to help the homeless, often by giving them spare change to help meet their basic needs of clothing, hygiene and food.
Unfortunately, this type of giving does not ultimately help the individual get off the street and into housing.
That’s why today… we’re launching a text-to-give campaign called “Give Smart Orlando” that allows you to direct dollars that you might typically give to a panhandler… to support non-profits that are part of the region’s Housing First initiative.
Starting today, you can TEXT “Give Smart” to 8-5-5-1-1 to help us change behaviors around panhandling and help create real, lasting change in the lives of our homeless neighbors.
Beyond efforts with the homeless… the ambassadors are also providing other services.
Ambassadors provided more than 800 safety escorts, contacted emergency services 159 times, helped remove 67 instances of graffiti and provided hospitality assistance to more than 10-thousand people.
Since the Ambassadors started, overall crime in Downtown is down 11 percent compared to last year.
Through their work, Ambassadors have also allowed us to focus City resources more effectively – especially for our police officers, firefighters, EMS professionals, our Downtown Clean Team and venues employees who are able to expand their efforts to keep Downtown safe, clean and welcoming for everyone.
Thank-You’s & Recognitions
None of what we talked about today would be possible without incredible partners.
Ray-Shawn and Julian described the effort around the Creative Village not as just inviting members of the community to the table… but creating a whole new table.
There are so many partners here today who are creating that new table… that we want to recognize.
Let’s start with our City Commissioners.
Thank you for being bold leaders and dedicated partners.
Thank you to the Downtown Orlando Partnership for hosting this event every year and the work you do for our Downtown every day.
We want to thank all of our educational partners… for all that you do to bring this vision of a powerful educational ecosystem to life.
We want to recognize everyone on the Creative Village Team, it’s exciting to see a vision that we’ve been working on for so long come to life.
A big thank-you also goes to our Downtown Development Board for their thoughtful leadership and unmatched dedication.
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 recognize our partners at Orange County… and our new County Mayor Jerry Demings.
And, all of the elected officials in the room.
We can’t forget our City employees, especially those who serve our residents here in Downtown every day.
In closing… I occasionally get asked… why have you made Parramore such a high priority?
It’s a fair question.
I believe the answer can be found in the stories we heard from Ray-Shawn and Julian.
Both of these incredible young men took advantage of opportunities to secure a higher education and chart a career path.
Then, they came back to serve their neighborhoods.
They made the point… even today, with all of the progress we’ve made… their stories are still the exception.
Not the norm.
I want you to close your eyes with me, once again, and imagine Downtown Orlando 20 years from now.
Imagine Parramore 20 years from now.
Now… imagine all of the young people who will be born there next year… and the year after that… and the year after that.
Imagine what our educational ecosystem might mean for them.
Imagine what this new era of mentorship and neighborhood pride is going to mean for them.
Imagine how life-changing it will be for these young people to reach out… and touch… and see career paths and opportunity all around them.
If we succeed in bringing that vision to life… then we will have succeeded in creating a Downtown that’s built to last… a Downtown that’s built to own the future…. a Downtown that’s built to provide a pathway for prosperity for every single person in our city who is willing to work for it.
That is a future for our Downtown that we can all be excited about.
Thank you for coming today!