State of Downtown Speeches

December 6, 2018
Amway Center
View the video

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.

Thank you.

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.

Housing

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.

Visitors

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.

Commissioner Gray

Commissioner Ortiz

Commissioner Stuart

Commissioner Sheehan

Commissioner Hill

Commissioner Ings

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!

The DTO Show
October 11, 2017

Watch the video

December 6, 2016
Bob Carr Theater
View the video

One DTO

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.

One DTO

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.

We have ONE DOWNTOWN.

ONE DTO.

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!

October 22, 2015
Orlando Citrus Bowl
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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, Change.org 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.

December 3, 2014
Church Street Exchange
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Good Afternoon.

It’s a great day to be in the City of Orlando! It’s a great day to be in Downtown Orlando! And… it’s especially a great day to be among so many brilliant minds here at Orlando’s newest home for our community’s creators at the Church Street Exchange!

The transformation of this building into a co-working community is the most recent leap forward in our effort to make Downtown the premier tech hub in the southeastern United States.

This space is 90-percent full with companies including; CANVS, Echo Interaction Group, Splyt, Plan Source, The Iron Yard, Power DMS, Book That Doc, Trend Studios, Be Creative House… And, a company that was just launched today, Echo 42.

But, the Exchange is more than just a collection of cutting edge companies. The story of this building is, in many ways, the story of Downtown Orlando itself. It’s a story of rebounding from tough times… of rebirth and reinvention. Back in the 80’s and 90’s… this was the iconic Church Street Exchange. Millions of residents and visitors came here for dining, shopping and entertainment. At one point, the Church Street District was the fourth leading tourism destination in all of Florida behind only our world-class theme parks.

But, consumer tastes change. Economies have ups and downs. By the beginning of this new century… Downtown Orlando and Church Street had lost its luster. Our center city had become what some described as a “ghost town.”

Around the same time, 11 years ago, this community entrusted me with serving as mayor. One of the first things we talked about was the fact that the great cities of the world have one element in common. They have great downtowns. So, we rallied around the idea that if Orlando was going to reach its potential… then we had to have a great downtown.

To make that happen, we brought together a diverse group of residents, along with business, civic and faith based stakeholders, to form what we called the Downtown Strategic Transition Team and the Parramore Task Force.

These two groups embarked on their missions by asking the members of our community to do something simple. Close their eyes and imagine. Imagine a downtown where people live, work, learn and play together. Imagine world-class amenities for sports, arts and entertainment… places for people to gather and make memories. Imagine a more walk-able downtown with expanded mass transit options. Imagine new places for people to live… and great spaces for people to play. Imagine a safe downtown… a modern downtown… an inclusive downtown that has something for everyone. Imagine a downtown that serves as the economic engine for all of Central Florida and is the destination for the cutting edge industries and quality careers of the future.

What happened next? We did more than just dream. Fueled by the leadership and engagement of every segment of our community, we created a comprehensive plan to bring that vision to life. Then we went to work and we did it!

It took ten years of hard work, but Downtown Orlando is no longer a ghost town. It’s no longer just a weekday employment hub. It is a place where people want to be. Just as this building has been reinvented and reimagined, so to have we reinvented and reimagined Downtown Orlando!

Today, our Downtown is a vibrant and dynamic center city… an economic engine and a cultural destination… with a charm and character all its own.

Last year at this event we recounted all of the specific achievements that made this renaissance possible. We detailed how our Strategic Transition Team turned those ideas into reality.

Once again, we want to thank the members of that team. As much as we appreciate their incredible work, it’s time to turn the page on the last ten years. It’s time to celebrate what’s happening today and to plan for tomorrow.

At this moment, we are in the midst of biggest year in the history of Downtown Orlando. Think about the last year. We opened SunRail, our region’s first commuter rail line and the backbone of a growing mass transit system. We added a new Lymmo route, the Grapefruit Line serving Parramore and Thornton Park. And, we’ll soon open the Lime Line to serve the Creative Village and the Florida A&M Law School. In the last six months, Lymmo ridership has jumped by 33 percent because of Sunrail riders.

We also started the restoration of our historic Amtrak station. And, just today, we installed the first of a thousand “smart” parking meters that will make it easier for people to park. These transit options are changing the way people make their way to and through our Downtown. And, the transit-oriented development generated by these projects has already spurred more than a billion dollars in investment.

Now, a few weeks ago the dream that our arts community held for decades became reality as the Doctor Phillips Center opened its doors, raising the curtain on a new era of arts and culture for Central Florida. Just today, the sign went up announcing our effort to secure a hotel adjacent to the Dr. Phillips Center.

This year, we also installed eight iconic sculptures in Downtown through See Art Orlando.

Between our 20 galleries, See Art Orlando and the Doctor Phillips Center, Downtown is alive with the arts. In any other city, these arts achievements would be enough for a whole speech. This year in Orlando, it’s just the start!

Days ago, we opened the new Orlando Citrus Bowl. Tens of thousands of fans were in the stands for the Florida Blue Florida Classic. Tens of thousands more will be at the Citrus Bowl for our two signature bowl games in a few weeks. Our beloved stadium is already attracting new games. We added a third signature bowl game, the Cure Bowl for 2015. And, we’ll host college football’s newest annual Kickoff Classic beginning in 2016 with a game between Ole Miss and Florida State. Through the new Citrus Bowl, we have planted our flag in the turf and declared that Orlando is, as one Orlando Sentinel columnist recently said, “The College Football Capital of The World!”

Speaking of “football” of another kind, you might have heard we secured a Major League Soccer team! A few weeks ago with an assist from our rabid Orlando City fans we broke ground on our new Soccer Stadium. We’re only months away from cheering on our Orlando City Lions in the Citrus Bowl in their inaugural MLS season — and then seeing them take the field in a new state-of-the-art stadium the following year. That same year we’ll host the NCAA women’s national soccer final four.

Our big year in sports also extends to the ice where our Solar Bears will host the 2015 ECHL All Star Game at the Amway Center… and to the hardwood as we were once again selected as a March Madness site for 2017.

Next year we’ll also welcome the Orlando Predators back to Downtown. All of this is on top of our Orlando Magic whose games at the Amway Center draw people downtown night after night.

This year, the Magic will extend its impact beyond basketball further than ever by spearheading a wave of private investment in Downtown when they start work on our new sports and entertainment district that will include a hotel, conference center, dining and retail options.

All of these achievements have put us in the position to proudly say Orlando can host any event the world can bring us!

Beyond our venues, this has been a year of incredible achievement in other areas as well. Lake Eola Park reached an all time high of 2.5 million visitors. This fall, we had the huge announcement that UCF and Valencia College will move into our Creative Village. This new campus will draw at least 10-thousand students. Combined with Orange County Schools’ commitment to bring a K through 8 public school to Parramore, it further cements Downtown as a destination for lifelong learning. Downtown is also helping to drive our vision for Orlando as the most sustainable city in the southeast.

This year, we brought the total number of LEED-certified buildings Downtown to 14, with five more on the way. In the year ahead, we will begin offering recycling to Downtown buildings.

Over the last year we’ve worked to continue to keep downtown safe, reducing violent crime in our center city by nearly 10 percent. Within the last few weeks, we closed on land to build a new Orlando Police headquarters and will begin site preparation next week. The new OPD headquarters will further enhance downtown safety while spurring development along the Orange Blossom Trail.

While we’re creating a Downtown that is built for fun and built for the future, we are not avoiding our responsibility to help those who need it most. And, that’s why our community, led by Florida Hospital, has committed 11 million dollars to a bold new plan to house the chronically homeless in the next three years.

I talk with my fellow mayors from around the country quite frequently. And, I’ll tell you they’re pretty envious of us right now. There is no City in America that can match the kind of year we’re having.

There’s a buzz you feel when you walk around our Downtown. It’s contagious. That energy doesn’t just come from the projects, ribbon cuttings and big announcements. That energy comes from you, our residents and business owners.

You are choosing to live Downtown, work Downtown and invest Downtown. Almost every day, I hear from residents and business leaders about why they want to be part of Downtown Orlando.

I’ve heard from seniors who are choosing to have what they call an “urban retirement.”

I’ve talked to families who say their new favorite thing to do is watch an outdoor movie in Lake Eola Park.

I’ve heard from residents who’ve given up their cars for more walk-able lifestyles.

I’ve heard from residents and visitors who cannot believe we have amenities that are as good or better than what exists in places like Philadelphia and New York.

And, I’ve talked to young people who, ten years ago might have gone elsewhere, but today are starting their careers in Downtown and choosing to live footsteps away from where they work in new buildings like Nora, Artisan 420, Thornton Park Brownstones and The Sevens.

That youth movement is positioning Downtown as the centerpiece of a region that’s built for the future.

Building a city for the future means a Downtown that’s home to the careers and employers of tomorrow. When I talk to business leaders, I hear why Downtown is important to them.

A great example is Red Lobster, which opened its first corporate office in Downtown Orlando four decades ago… and has now chosen to return to Downtown. In a few weeks, Red Lobster will open its new global headquarters at CNL I, bringing more than 300 employees Downtown. Their new home features a Culinary Development Center, where the company’s team of world-class chefs will create innovative recipes for food that will be served in their more than 700 restaurants around the world. On top of that, the company will bring 1600 employees here every year, many of them managers and future managers who, along with receiving the tools and training for successful careers, will stay in Downtown hotels and eat in our restaurants. They want to offer their employees world-class amenities and an unmatched quality of life.

They’re not alone.

When California tech company June-Yo bought Orlando video game company 360Ed recently, they could have moved the operation back to Silicon Valley. Instead, they were so impressed with Orlando and our City’s focus on tech that they chose to stay and grow the company here in Downtown.

There’s the Florida Institute of Technology that will soon be opening a Women’s Business Center in this building with the mission of helping women enter and succeed in the technology field.

When asked why he moved their 50-person firm here, the President of Moore Stephens Lovelace said, “We wanted to offer our employees immediate access to the arts and enhanced philanthropic opportunities and be part of the new Downtown Orlando experience”

These stories and the people behind them are a big reason why Forbes recently ranked Orlando the number one city in America for job growth, creating careers at a pace nearly double the national average!

Now, I want everyone to pay close attention to what I’m about to say next.

There is no doubt this has been a banner year for so many reasons. But, I don’t just want us to remember this year for the projects we completed or the achievements we made. I want us to remember 2014 for something much, much more important. This was the year we stopped trying to be a world-class city with a world class downtown…  This was the year Orlando became world class!

This incredible year would not be possible without the hard work of those who have become champions and cheerleaders for Downtown, so many of whom are with us today. It’s important that we recognize their efforts. Let us start by thanking our City commissioners for their partnership and leadership. We must thank the Downtown Orlando Partnership for putting this event on every year and the work they do to better Downtown every day. We want to thank the Downtown Development Board. We need to recognize those Downtown leaders that paved the way for us, like Bob Snow, who could appropriately be called the father of Church Street. We also want to thank Downtown’s businesses large and small for their resolve and hard work to strengthen our Downtown and regional economy. We want to say thank you to our partners in the tourism community, our faith based leaders and the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. And, we want to thank and recognize Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the members of the Orange County Commission for their partnership. We want to thank our City employees, particularly those who serve our residents here in Downtown every day.

Finally, we need to recognize the residents of our great city. Being the Mayor of Orlando is the best and most rewarding job in the world. One of my favorite parts is when someone tells me they love the Amway Center, or the Lake Eola Farmer’s Market or they’ve got a story to tell about something wonderful they experienced in one of our Downtown Main Streets.

To our residents… Thank you for your partnership, your passion and your imagination as we’ve worked together to transform our Downtown! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making our city a place where my kids and yours grow, thrive and follow their dreams.

In fact, I’m proud that my son Trey and a friend who are here today are following their dreams by starting a new company named “Get Local.” I know it’s a shameless plug, but it’s a testament to Orlando being a startup hub for young entrepreneurs.

We’ve used that word “imagination” quite a bit today. I think everyone here would agree that closing your eyes and dreaming isn’t something you do just once. You never stop imagining. You never stop creating.

That notion also applies to the future of Downtown Orlando. Our community succeeded in bringing to life the vision we outlined a decade ago. But, as I’m fond of saying, success isn’t a destination… it’s a direction. We can’t stop now. To build on the momentum we’ve created, it’s going to take even more imagination, even more creativity and even more resolve to fight for the future we want for our Downtown.

That’s why we tasked a diverse group of more than 100 residents with charting a path for the evolution of our center city over the next ten years – that includes a comprehensive neighborhood plan for Parramore. We call this effort “Project DTO.”

For the last few months, these individuals have donated their time, talents and passion for Downtown to creating that road map. Our community’s most creative minds helped gather an array of ideas and voices from around Orlando for what has been described as a visioning exercise on steroids.

What do we want Downtown to look like ten years from now? What can we borrow from other downtowns? How can we give Downtown Orlando a strategic advantage over other urban economies? What are the amenities and assets the residents of the future will demand that will make our downtown the envy of other cities? These are the questions we put forth as we asked residents to close their eyes once more while also opening their minds.

The result of this process is a plan created by Orlando residents for Orlando residents. It’s a plan that focuses on “Ten Big Ideas” that will keep Downtown’s momentum going and positions Orlando to be a true City of the future. Just as it sounds, these are big, bold ideas. Some of these ideas are already underway, at least in part. Others are merely concepts and are going to take the continued hard work of this community to make them a reality.

We don’t have all the answers right now. But, we do have an incredible road map, thanks to the members of the Project DTO. Now, I could go on and tell you about these big ideas. But, the wonderful thing about working with creative minds on a project of this magnitude is that they don’t want to just talk about their vision. They want to show you their vision. They want your heart to beat a little faster… just like theirs does… when they imagine what the future of our Downtown Orlando looks like.

So, it’s now my sincere privilege to ask you to turn your attention to the screens as we take a look at Project DTO, and Ten Big Ideas for the future of Downtown Orlando!

{VIDEO PLAYS}

*Note:  Mayor returns to stage and gives final goodbye

Wasn’t that incredible? I want to thank the Project DTO team led by Cari Coats, Fred Kittinger, Brooke Myers and Philip Holt.

Thank you, everyone, for attending the State of Downtown event today. We want to remind you that there is a reception here in the building that begins right now. Please stay and enjoy some refreshments and explore the building.

If you don’t have plans yet for the evening, perhaps think about staying Downtown and having dinner at one of our great restaurants.

Thank you! 

October 10, 2013
Amway Center
View the video

Good Afternoon. Welcome to the Amway Center. Welcome to Downtown Orlando.

One of the first things I did after being entrusted with the privilege of serving as Mayor, was to gather a diverse cross section of residents to create a shared plan for breathing life back into a Downtown that people had taken to calling a “Ghost Town.” The group was called the Downtown Strategic Transition Team.

We started with a simple, shared belief:  that in the century ahead, the health and vitality of Downtown Orlando would impact the fate of our whole region like never before. If Central Florida was to realize its potential, to compete and thrive in the new economy, then Downtown had to be more than it was.

Downtown Orlando had to be an economic engine and cultural hub for our entire region.
We have done so much, together, in the last ten years to advance this mission.
It has not been easy.

And, that is an understatement! We certainly haven’t achieved everything we set out to accomplish.

But, as I look back at the strategy set forth by our community in the fall of 2003, I am proud of the successes we’ve achieved, the challenges we’ve overcome and the position our center City is in today.

This task force created 166 recommendations to better our Downtown. Today, 136 of those are complete or in progress. That is a tremendous accomplishment and something everyone who calls Central Florida home can take pride in.  As we celebrate the tenth Anniversary of our plan to revitalize and modernize Downtown Orlando, we’re not just going to focus on past achievements. Today is also about looking ahead and thinking about what’s next as we continue to work together to build the best Downtown in all of America!

To map out where we want to go, it’s important to remember how we got here.
The first of five major objectives outlined by our task force was to reenergize the core of our City by implementing what we called “Cornerstone Projects” that would create jobs, spur development and generate economic impact.

Over the last ten years, we’ve shepherded nearly 50 cornerstone projects to completion, which represents nearly two billion dollars worth of investment in Downtown Orlando.
They include high rises that transformed our skyline; 55 West, the Paramount, the Plaza, the Solaire, and the Vue.

These projects have increased residential units by more than 80 percent in the last ten years.
Just as important, these buildings are more than 90 percent full today. Our list also includes catalysts for job creation, innovation and education like the UCF Center for Emerging Media, the Federal Courthouse and the GAI building. Collectively, these projects have reshaped the look, as well as the economic fortunes, of our center City.

Another pillar of our strategic plan was transportation; making Downtown a more pedestrian friendly destination and expanding public transportation options. Today, more than 1 million people a year ride the free Lymmo circulator.

We’ve built an intelligent transportation system that directs people to available parking, notifies them of events and helps them navigate Downtown more easily. And, we’ve created a more walk-able Downtown by widening sidewalks, enhancing crosswalks, activating storefronts and by improving Gertrude’s Walk, which provides bikers and pedestrians with a unique urban trail that runs through our City. There is no doubt, the biggest transportation achievement has been the incredible team effort to finally, after years of work, build a rail system to carry daily workers to and from our Downtown core. You can see a SunRail locomotive for the first time today, along with a cab car, at Church Street Station.

Just a few months from now Central Floridians will, quite literally, have a connection to their Downtown aboard SunRail… our first commuter rail system. In fact, the next time we gather for this event, many of you will have traveled here on SunRail.

The third focus area of our 2003 plan was Quality of Life. We believed then, and still believe today, that more than any single amenity, superior quality of life is what draws employers, workers, residents and visitors to Downtown. Quality of life starts with safety.

We’ve made our Downtown safer by installing a network of IRIS police cameras, adding more foot and bike patrols and opening a new, state of the art Fire Department Headquarters that has helped us increase response times.

We’ve made our Downtown a destination for more free community events like concerts, farmer’s markets, parades, car shows, festivals and, of course, Fireworks at the Fountain.
Through partnerships with UCF, Florida A&M and the Nap Ford Community School we have made Downtown Orlando a place for lifelong learning.

Superior quality of life means protecting our environment and creating a culture of sustainability.
We’ve used Downtown to showcase green initiatives and help demonstrate a business case for sustainable actions and create a place where green tech and clean tech companies want to locate.

Ten years ago, there were no LEED certified buildings Downtown. Now we have 11, including OUC’s headquarters. Quality of life isn’t just about big projects. It’s also about the small touches and a sense of personal connectedness to a place. That’s why we augmented our tree canopy. That’s why we added green space with the opening of ZL Riley Park and the “The Lawn” at Lake Eola. And, it’s why we upgraded the Lake Eola Fountain and added a unique event space called “The Eola House” as part of our effort to make our signature park a one-of-a-kind destination.

The fourth element of our original plan was, and in many ways still is, the most challenging… to create a thriving retail, restaurant and hospitality sector. Ten years ago we declared this our goal, knowing that Downtown Orlando faced stiff competition from some of the best shopping areas and restaurants in the country, not to mention three of the largest hospitality destinations in the world.

Rather than compete, we’ve worked to build a Downtown that compliments the region’s other destinations… and that offers something unique.

We added restaurant offerings and have grown a robust nightlife scene. We’ve utilized mixed-use development to lay a foundation for future retail and hospitality growth. We opened a Downtown information center, where nearly six-thousand people a year have been able to get personalized information about Downtown. Our events and marketing program has worked to attract more business meetings to our City center, which resulted in 32-hundred room nights last year.

We’ve also made urban living more desirable by bringing a grocery store back to Downtown and helping small businesses open and succeed. This year alone, we welcomed 158 new businesses to Downtown, ranging from a fitness studio, to a home furnishing store, to my favorite… a gourmet popsicle shop.

The fifth pillar of our original plan called for retaining the Orlando Magic’s presence here in our center City, building a world-class performing arts center, expanding the presence of the arts, attracting more events and securing a movie theater. On this front, I’m not sure there’s a major Downtown anywhere in the United States that has accomplished as much in under a decade. Accomplishing these goals has taken longer than we wanted.

We’ve had to endure the effects of a nationwide recession. But, we persevered, we adapted and we refused to give up. Because of that hard work, our arts community is thriving. We’ve opened a movie theater and 15 art galleries since 2003. Because of that hard work, the Magic are celebrating their 25th anniversary in Orlando. This month, we celebrate the third anniversary of the opening of the Amway Center! Three years ago we gathered here to open the best arena in the entire world! The Amway center has been recognized for providing the best customer experience in the entire NBA. Nearly four million people from across Central Florida, around the country and all over the globe have attended events at this world-class facility in the last three years.
The Amway Center has become the home of the best concerts, best sports and best community events anywhere.

We are hosting events that we would not have been able to just a few years ago like NCAA tournament games, the NBA All Star Game, and this past weekend, world championship boxing.
For all of you basketball fans, you’ll want to know 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament tickets go on sale October 19th. For our growing number of Solar Bears hockey fans, we’re going to be hosting the 2015 ECHL All Star Classic.

More important than any one event, the Amway Center has become a destination where people have shared experiences and make memories with friends and loved ones. When you think about it… the Amway Center really is the embodiment of the shared vision we have for all of Downtown Orlando… to be a place that offers something unique… for everyone.

I just recounted the five focus areas of our original plan. There were actually six. But, Parramore was so important that we devoted an entire task force to Orlando’s historic African-American neighborhood. When we talk about the necessity of having a Downtown that creates opportunity for everyone… we have always believed that ideal must include the residents of Parramore.
Our work in Parramore has helped add 36 new affordable homes and 120 new housing units.
It’s helped reduce violent crime by 33 percent.

Perhaps the greatest impact, our outreach to more than 2,000 young people has resulted in an 87 percent reduction in Juvenile crime and given some of our most vulnerable students access to education and opportunities that have set them on course for brighter futures.
Many of you were with me recently for the Parramore Kidz Zone benefit where we got to hear from a few of the 27 PKZ kids who went to college this year. Thank you for your support of this critical program.

This community has done so much in the last ten years to change this Downtown for the better, forever. These accomplishments wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of everyone in this room and so many others throughout our City. What I would like to do is take a few moments and say thank you. When I say your names, please stand up and let us express our shared gratitude properly.

Thank you to our City Commissioners for your vision and leadership. Thank you to Mayor Teresa Jacobs and our partners at Orange County. Thank you to the Downtown Orlando Partnership.
Thank you to our Downtown Development Board. Thank you to our tremendous partners in the tourism community. Thank you to the members of the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness. Thank you to the small business owners in Downtown who have put your sweat and hard work into building a better Downtown Orlando. Thank you to the members of the Downtown Strategic Transition Team. Thank you to the members of our Parramore Task Force.
Thank you to our arts and sports community. Thank you to our City staff, who serve our residents every day. Most of all, thank you to our residents whose passion for Downtown makes me excited about going go to work every day. Because of you… we are experiencing a Downtown rebound unlike any our country has ever seen.

Because of you, we are on the verge of what’s going to be the most exciting year in the history of Downtown Orlando! I want everyone to think about what’s happening right now in Downtown and how it positions us for the future.

Ask yourselves… is there any other Downtown in America experiencing this much activity? At this moment, nine projects are underway that are creating thousands of jobs and represent a 1.3 billion dollar investment in Downtown. This list includes NORA, Skyhouse and the A-Loft hotel.

In the year ahead, six more projects will break ground that will add another 350 million dollars of investment in Downtown. Together, these 15 projects will add 15-hundred new residential units, 400 new hotel rooms and 50-thousand square feet of new retail space to Downtown.

Think about the arts, culture and sports renaissance going on. Has anyone noticed any new sculptures? Those are part of “See Art Orlando.” Orlando is the only City ever to install 8 privately funded, iconic, public art sculptures throughout its Downtown all at one time.
I want to invite everyone to join us on November 18th at the end of the work day for the community celebration of See Art Orlando.

I also want to thank the See Art Orlando Board, please stand and be recognized. In any other City, that announcement would be a blockbuster. In Orlando, it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the future of arts, culture and sports. Next year, this event will be held inside our new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts! Not long after that, we will play our bowl games in a reconstructed Citrus Bowl. Tying this evolving sports and entertainment district together is the street-scape improvement project for Church Street, which includes a neighborhood entry-way to Parramore.

Think about our Downtown as a shared space. Downtown is the neighborhood that belongs to, and is shared by, everyone who calls Central Florida home. Our efforts to provide more shared amenities will mean an expanded Lake Eola Farmer’s market this year and movies at the park beginning this holiday season.

Think about how we are helping our neighbors in need. This year, our commitment to addressing homelessness takes an important step with the opening of a men’s service center that goes far beyond giving those less fortunate a place to sleep. The service center will provide intake assessment, comprehensive case management, counseling and a path toward self-sufficiency.
Later today, I will join the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness to launch the “Re-Think” campaign, which helps raise awareness about our largest homeless population, children and families.

Think about SunRail, which is being finished before our eyes. SunRail is the spine of what will eventually be a region-wide, multi-modal network of transportation options that allow us to get where we want to go without having to rely solely on car ownership and expensive gasoline.
From SunRail’s foundation, we’re going to see Lymmo expanding to our hospitals and to Parramore and Thornton Park.

Today, we are excited to announce the names of those new Lymmo routes that were chosen by our residents and reflect our Florida heritage. Next year we can ride the Grapefruit line… the Lime line and the Orange line. We’re going to see car sharing and bike sharing programs launch in Downtown – and the expanded use of electric cars through the Drive Electric Orlando program.
In fact, you can join me later today as we launch car sharing. SunRail also paved the way for the renovation of the historic Amtrak Station and the Sligh Boulevard district, which will now offer greater amenities for commuters and visitors to the Orlando Health campus.

And, Florida Hospital has re-oriented its campus to connect with SunRail. SunRail’s connective power doesn’t just stop at the borders of Central Florida. By eventually linking SunRail to the airport and to All Aboard Florida, the planned train to South Florida, we will help build a connection between Downtown Orlando and the entire state… as well as the world. Those transit linkages will be critical to attracting the job creators and workers of the future and to further diversify our economy.

Finally, let’s think about the future and the legacy we are creating for future generations. Right now, we have six proposed projects that would mean another 2 billion dollars in investment. We are working to keep that pipeline filled. We also know the types of projects we seek need to evolve. With the Creative Village and its 5-thousand knowledge jobs as an anchor, and more tech companies looking to call our center City home… our vision is for Downtown Orlando to be the South’s new “Tech Hub.”

Let’s also think about how the next generation of projects lend themselves to positively impacting so many different facets of our Downtown. The plan we are bringing forward for a new OPD headquarters is a perfect example.

Replacing this crumbling 41 year old building will help give our officers new tools and training to fight crime, and it will make our department more accessible to citizens. The benefits don’t stop with safety. A new OPD headquarters paves the way for the redevelopment of an entire block in the heart of our Downtown entertainment district. Funding the OPD headquarters, in part, from the large-scale energy savings generated by retrofitting our City facilities helps us save money and allows us to take a national leadership role in showcasing how sustainable decisions can make business sense.

In order to be the home of 21st century workers and visitors, we have to have 21st century amenities. That’s why the sports and entertainment development proposed by the Orlando Magic is so important. With an urban convention center, hotel rooms, retail space and the team’s headquarters, we will be able to transform an entire block into a place that attracts more visitors to Downtown and allows us to host Downtown-wide conventions for the first time in decades.
Just a block west of this project, we are planning a new stadium for the first Major League Soccer team in the southeast!

On Monday, the Orlando City Council unanimously approved the plan to make this happen.
With one more vote from our partners at the county, Major League Soccer will be a reality in Central Florida.

Today 15 thousand people live in Downtown. Every day 75 thousand people come to work here.
Thousands more visit Downtown. Those numbers are only going to grow. We are blessed to have a region filled with internationally renowned destinations. Our region’s future depends on working to ensure that Downtown Orlando is that same kind of world-class destination. A destination for job creation and innovation. For nightlife, arts and cultural amenities. For urban living. For dining and shopping. For life long learning.

A world-class destination for anyone who wants to live, work, learn and play in Central Florida.
To help guide us, I am excited to announce that we are calling on our residents and businesses, once again, to help create a strategic plan for the next ten years in Downtown. This new task force will be called, Project D-T-O. Project D-T-O’s efforts will be bolstered by a federal grant for strategic planning in Parramore. Project D-T-O will take up the mission that their peers started a decade ago and to craft a road map for the continued growth of Downtown Orlando.

This task force is unique and important because it allows people who are passionate about Downtown to have the opportunity to help shape its future. We must always remember that at its core… people are what make Downtown Orlando. Our Downtown is a living thing. It’s an ever-evolving and supremely diverse collection of people who make the decision to have Downtown Orlando play an important role in their lives. Each of these people has a different motivation for making Downtown Orlando their destination, a different reason for why Downtown is special to them. Each of these people, in ways big and small, is going to help us chart our course for the future. I could tell you why our residents love their Downtown. But, I wouldn’t be able to do them justice. So, rather than just tell you… we wanted to show you!

Thank you for attending today. Thank you, once again, for your commitment to Downtown Orlando and to making our City the best place anywhere to live, work, learn and raise a family. Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to some of Orlando’s residents who’ve made Downtown Orlando their destination.

October 3, 2012
Amway Center
View the video

Good morning,

Welcome to the Amway Center, home of this year’s NBA All Star Game and a place where 2.7 million people have enjoyed sports, entertainment and community events over the past two years.
This morning, our City’s signature arena plays host to our annual celebration of Downtown Orlando!

When I look out at a crowd this big, this early in the morning, it’s clear to me why you’re here.
You thought we were giving out free iPhone 5’s!

I’m kidding, of course.

You are here because you have a special connection with Downtown.

You’re here because you are invested in the future of Downtown.

And, you’re here because of a shared belief in the importance of Downtown when it comes to our economy and our sense of community.

Nine years ago this month, I gave my first State of Downtown Address.

Every year since, this event has provided a platform for our community to advance the vision we have for Downtown.

Much has happened since that first address back in 2003, both positive and negative.
In those early days, success seemed to come easy.

We doubled our skyline and tax base.

We watched hundreds of new businesses open.

But, as the recession has gone on, we’ve learned to measure progress differently.

We’ve had to focus on steady, but important gains and long term investments in our future.
Today, four years after the start of the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, our Downtown remains an economic engine for all of Central Florida.

It’s an engine that is primed to help our City continue to move from recovery… into prosperity.

Everywhere you look Downtown, there are signs of progress:

More than 100 new businesses opened in the last year
Office occupancy is up 3 percent and Retail occupancy has remained steady at nearly 97 percent
Our residential apartments are 97 percent full
There are seven major projects underway that represent an 800 million dollars investment in Downtown. These projects will add another 650 residential units and 119 hotel rooms.
Ten more projects are in the works that represent an additional 1.1 billion dollar investment. These planned projects will add an additional 870 residential units and more than 400 hotel rooms
And, the City’s planning department reports that a number of projects that had been shelved because of the economy have been revived or re-imagined
Steps away from us, work is underway on SunRail.

Fifteen months from now, we will be able to board a train that connects our communities in the City of Orlando, Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties.
SunRail will take cars off of our roadways and generate 250-thousand jobs and an 8 billion dollar economic impact over the next 30 years.

We can’t talk about economic impact in Downtown without mentioning the Creative Village.
Earlier this year, we imploded the Amway Arena in order to begin transforming the site into a live, work, learn and play campus that’s home to companies in cutting edge industries like digital media and modeling and simulation.

In the coming months, the first signs of construction will appear at the Creative Village site as we lay the foundation for our City’s high tech industry cluster.

There’s more construction on the horizon with the expansion of Orlando Health and Florida Hospital… along with the Central Station project near the courthouse and Lynx headquarters; and new Magic Entertainment complex.

A refurbished Citrus Bowl is on the way, thanks to the dedication of our sports community and our partnership with Orange County and Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

Later today, I will help break ground on Sky House, which will be the first major residential high rise built in Orlando since the recession hit; another important sign that the tide is finally turning for our local economy and housing market.

We have accomplished much in less than a decade, breathing life back into a Downtown that was called a “ghost town” as recently as 2004.

As we celebrate what we’ve done to create a thriving nightlife scene and attract new residents and businesses, we also recognize that we have more work to do.

The top of our list of priorities includes taking steps to attract more families and continuing to provide more shopping and dining amenities for people of all ages.

Green Works Orlando
Downtown Orlando has always been a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Over the past few years, our urban core has taken a leadership role in one very specific area of innovation: Sustainability.

Of course, sustainability is the theme of today’s event.

In 2007, with the support of many Downtown stakeholders, Orlando became one of the first cities in the southeast to adopt a comprehensive program designed to create a more environmentally-friendly City — called Green Works Orlando.

For years, Orlando had been the top City in America when it came to recycling our wastewater – a distinction we still hold today.

We used this as a starting point for our plan to reduce the use of our natural resources, save taxpayers money and protect our environment.

In the span of four years we have:

We have reduced our energy consumption by 20 percent as a City government.
We’ve built 8 new LEED certified City buildings, including fire stations and the building we are in right now, the award winning Amway Center.
We’ve provided energy retrofits to more than 1,200 homes that help homeowners save an average of 166 dollars a year on their power bills.
We’ve added more than 19 miles of sidewalks and bike paths, making our City and our Downtown more walkable.
We put plans in place to offer our residents new and expanded methods of alternative transportation through the creation of SunRail and the expansion of our Downtown bus circulator, LYMMO.
We’ve converted public landscaping to plants and grass that require far less irrigation, saving more than 500-thousand dollars per year.
We have begun to lay an electric vehicle infrastructure by installing 150 charging stations around the City.
We conducted a “Green Demolition” on the Amway Arena, which produced 80 million tons of recycled concrete that will be used for the Creative Village infrastructure.
We’ve acted as a catalyst for encouraging the owners of private sector buildings and community facilities to achieve LEED certification like the Orlando Science Center and the GAI Building. There are now 8 LEED certified buildings in Downtown Orlando, including the OUC headquarters.
And, we’ve converted nearly all of our traffic lights to LED’s, which saves us about 350-thousand dollars a year in energy costs.
These initiatives, and many others, now save taxpayers more than 1 million dollars per year.
And, we are on target to reach a savings of 3 million dollars per year within the next two years.
This is real money, which can now go to pay for police and fire protection or parks and ball fields instead of paying for power bills.

Green Works Phase 2

I’m fond of saying success isn’t a destination… it’s a direction.

The idea behind the first phase of Green Works was to move our City in the right direction when it came to sustainability.

Our goal was to lead by example and show results that make, not only an environmental case for sustainability, but an economic one as well.

In doing so, we aimed to encourage our residents and businesses to include sustainability in their decision-making process.

With your help, we have succeeded.

Now, it’s time to build on our success.

Today, we are excited to launch the next phase of Green Works Orlando!

We’ve partnered with former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty to put together the City’s first-ever Green Works Task Force.

Thank you, Mayor Crotty, for your many years of service to our community — and for helping lead this important effort.

Would you, and the members of our task force, please stand and be recognized?

Mayor Crotty and our team of community partners will be tasked with first crafting… and then helping to implement a set of new and ambitious “green goals” for our community.
Goals such as:

  • Performing money-saving energy retrofits on fifty percent of the homes in Orlando over the course of the next decade
  • Planting one new tree for every single person in our City, with the goal of increasing our tree canopy from 23-percent to 40-percent
  • Developing a green building code that encourages developers to meet green standards.
  • Establishing energy performance disclosures for homes and other buildings, much the same way the sticker on a new car explains how much gas it uses
  • Launching both Bike and Car Sharing programs, beginning in our Downtown business district
  • Continuing our investment in mass transit by working to connect SunRail to the airport and other destinations, expanding bus transit and studying future routes for an east-west rail transit line
  • Establishing long-term carbon emission reduction goals
  • Partnering with OUC to make Orlando a solar leader and reinforce our designation as a Solar America City, helping to reduce emissions and create green jobs
  • Working with OUC to convert our street lights from traditional bulbs to LED’s, which save significant energy and money
  • Installing the infrastructure needed to support zero emission electric vehicles
  • We’re also working with OUC to make sure our Downtown venues like this LEED Gold-certified Amway Center are as energy and water efficient as possible

Taking these actions will build dramatically on the 11-thousand “green jobs” that already exist in our community and put people to work.

Finally we aim to take bold steps to reduce the amount of garbage we take to landfills and increase the amount of goods we recycle.

On that last point, we have another exciting announcement to make today.

Beginning the first week of November, the City of Orlando will launch its new Single-Cart Recycling program.

At that time, all current residential recycling customers will begin receiving their new 95 gallon recycling cart.

Say goodbye to those tiny red and blue bins.

And, say goodbye to separating your recyclables.

Instead, you can now put all of those recyclables into one, giant teal or burgundy cart.

This change will allow us to double both the number of people who recycle in Orlando and the amount of material we recycle.

It will also save us more than 125-thousand dollars per year.

We anticipate Single Cart recycling to be fully implemented City-wide by Christmas.

Next Generation Community Involvement and Collaboration

There is no denying our “green goals” are ambitious.

In order to make them a reality, it’s going to take a true team effort.

While Mayor Crotty and our task force will lead the effort, they will not be alone.

We are incorporating a cutting-edge community engagement platform into the launch of the next phase of Green Works Orlando.

The City has partnered with a company called Mind Mixer to create a new resident engagement site that will allow us to better incorporate the ideas our residents have for the future of sustainability and enhance the way residents can participate in the decision-making process.

Through the site, residents will be able to play a role in the decisions we make about water, transportation, food, livability, solid waste, energy and growing a healthy economy.

This tool has been used to help make land use decision in California and to select routes for new walking and bike paths in North Carolina.

We could not be more excited to use this pilot platform to enhance Green Works Orlando and continue the effort to better engage our residents in the work of their City government.

Introduction for Nancy Sutley

When we talk about collaboration, we can’t forget about the role of the federal government.
I know our federal government is sometimes cast as the “bad guy.”

But, make no mistake about it — our City’s relationship with the federal government has helped us secure a number of game-changing projects.

From Sunrail… to Creative Village… to making sure our police officers and firefighters have the tools and training they need to keep us safe, one of our strongest partners has been the federal government.

The same can be said for sustainability.

We are working with our federal partners to help us create and implement this next stage of Green Works.

Accordingly, we are very excited to have Nancy Sutley as our featured speaker this morning.
Nancy is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

In plain English, she is President Obama’s top adviser when it comes to sustainability and environmental issues.

Prior to serving in the White House, she was Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles.

Her background in local government is one of the reasons, I believe, that this administration has been particularly effective in working with America’s cities.

It’s now my privilege to introduce Nancy Sutley.

Mayor Dyer Closing/Thank You’s

Please join me in saying thank you to Chair Sutley for being with us today and helping us launch this next Phase of Green Works!

That concludes our program this morning.

I want to thank everyone at the Downtown Orlando Partnership for hosting this event every year.

I want to recognize the sponsors that made the State of Downtown Address possible, especially Siemens and OUC.

I want to thank all of our Downtown businesses, big and small, for their perseverance.
Through our award-winning Buy Local Orlando program, businesses throughout the City have worked to encourage our residents to spend their money locally.

We also want to recognize our Downtown arts community for all of its hard work.
From our new performing arts center set to open in 2014… to the new Mad Cow Theater which opens this week… to the “See Art Orlando” public art project… Downtown Orlando is leading the way in what will be a “Decade of the Arts” for our City.

We can’t forget to recognize our City Commissioners for all they do for our City.

We also want to thank Mayor Jacobs and our partners at Orange County — and other local and state elected officials for attending this morning and for always working to move our community forward.

I want to thank everyone in this room for attending today… and for your commitment to Downtown Orlando… and our entire City.

Finally, I want to thank all the residents of Orlando.

When I walk around Downtown, I’m often approached by residents who want to give their mayor a compliment or some constructive criticism.

It’s one of the best parts of this job.

Your pride in and passion for our City is infectious and inspiring.

It’s because of you that I know we can accomplish, not just our green goals, but any goal we set out to achieve.

Thank you very much.

Have a great day in Downtown Orlando!

Mayor’s Remarks
State of Downtown
October 24, 2011

Good Afternoon.

I have one question for everybody. Who loves Orlando?

A special thanks to everyone who volunteered to be in our video. You certainly have inspired me. Let’s give them all a round of applause!

I want to begin by saying that amid the fun associated with State of Downtown… the future of Orlando is serious business. Jump-starting our economy, creating jobs, and revitalizing downtown will make a difference in the lives of all Central Floridians. Just because this work is serious… doesn’t mean it can’t be done with pride, a positive attitude and with Love.

There’s an important reason we use the word… “Love.” When we love something… We Cherish it. We fight for it. We’ll do extraordinary things in the name of love. Yet, most of us think of love only in terms of our spouse or family. We don’t associate “love” with our relationship to the place we call home. But, that relationship between people and their places is actually one of the most powerful forces around.

For example:

It can inspire people to work together to solve problems or help those in need.
It can turn a visitor… into a resident.
It can bolster local businesses.

This idea is the focus of a book Leslie Hielema recommended. The book is called “For the Love of Cities,” and it ranks Orlando in its top 20 list of “most lovable” cities. After reading it, I was so moved that I got in touch with the author. I told him that people come up to me all the time to say they love Orlando. So, what can we do to harness that love… and use it to make Orlando even better?

Peter Kageyama, the author, is here today. With Peter’s help we gathered some of Orlando’s most creative minds and asked if they would help put together a simple, organic movement to:

  1. Make people more cognizant of why they choose to live in Orlando
  2. Start a public conversation about ways we can make our city more lovable

The response was overwhelming. What started out with 35 people turned into a workshop last month with 150 residents. It’s important to note that the City and our sponsors merely set the stage. It’s our residents who are making this project happen.

A little later this afternoon we are going to report on the plan those residents created… and officially launch: “Why I Love Orlando.” But, before we do that, we want to first spend some time celebrating the reasons we love Downtown Orlando. After all, this is the State of Downtown Address!

Downtown Orlando is home to 17,000 residents. Every day, 75-thousand people come to work here. Downtown Orlando is Central Florida’s economic engine. It’s our region’s gathering place. It’s our hub for arts, entertainment and small business.

You are here today… because you’ve invested in the future of our Downtown. More than that, you’re here because of a connection with Downtown. Maybe you had your first date at Lake Eola Park. Perhaps you have a favorite restaurant Downtown. Or maybe taking your kids to a parade is an annual tradition. In ways large and small, Downtown is an important part of your life.

In the last nine years, we have worked incredibly hard to reinvent and revitalize Downtown Orlando. Early on, success seemed to come easily. We saw a building boom that doubled our skyline. We watched 624 new businesses open their doors that are still operating today. Our Downtown tax base doubled. As we all know, the national recession slowed our progress. So, we’ve had to work that much harder.

I am proud to report that despite the effects of this recession, we made important strides in the past year. This month, we celebrate the one-year anniversary of our award-winning Amway Center! Nearly 1.5 million people have attended events in this building since its opening. The Amway Center has meant thousands of jobs for our residents and been a catalyst for small businesses. While we’re talking about the home of the Magic… I want to publicly appeal to the NBA and the Player’s Union to find a way to compromise so we can salvage the season. I think I can safely speak for everyone in the room when I say, we want our Magic back!

Around the corner the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is under construction. This project is also creating jobs and keeping businesses afloat. The Dr. Phillips Center is the realization of a dream this community has had for decades of a world class home for arts and cultural events in downtown Orlando.

We also remain committed to ensuring that the Citrus Bowl gets the upgrade it deserves so we can retain our bowl games and compete for new events that bring fans and dollars into our City. If you’ve spent time at Lake Eola you know our iconic fountain has been brought back to life! Our beloved fountain is the perfect example of something unique that inspires love for a city. I can’t tell you how many people have approached me to say how happy they are that the fountain is fixed.

But, we didn’t just repair our fountain… we brought it back bigger and better than ever. Tonight, I invite everyone to join me for the first nightly “fountain show” at 8 pm. The show incorporates music, water and lights into a performance that will give residents and visitors another reason to enjoy Orlando’s signature park.

We also love Orlando because of our distinct Downtown neighborhoods and tree-lined red brick streets. This year, we began installing plaques to recognize our historic homes that are over 100 years old. As our economy begins to recover, we’re also seeing positive signs for Downtown Orlando’s economy.

In the past year, 150 new small businesses opened their doors Downtown. Our retail office market appears to have finally stabilized, and our office occupancy rates are up slightly. More and more people are choosing to live Downtown. In fact, our major residential apartment communities are all over 90 percent full. There is one more important number I need to talk about today. The number 50.

This is the 50th anniversary of the Downtown Orlando Partnership (DOP), the organization responsible for putting this event on every year. For half a century, DOP has helped elected leaders, residents and businesses craft a shared vision for how our downtown should grow and prosper. Please join me in recognizing the Downtown Orlando Partnership and its contribution to Orlando today and over the last 50 years.

Why We Love… The Future of Downtown Orlando

While we are proud of our history, we are equally focused on the next 50 years for Downtown Orlando. I hope everyone had a chance to see the 3-D model created by students from the Nap Ford Community School. It’s their vision of a revitalized Parramore neighborhood and downtown’s Creative Village. When I look at the project, I’m excited to think that these same children will likely play a role in bringing this vision to life in the decades ahead. These kids who are playing video games today… might choose a career designing them in the future.

The Creative Village is a 30-year project which will transform the site of the old Amway Arena into a hub for high tech companies and generate 5-thousand permanent jobs. Demolition of the Amway Arena begins in December. When it comes to the future, no single project will transform our city and our downtown more than SunRail.

SunRail will give Central Florida’s residents a needed alternative to their automobiles… and create tens of thousands of jobs. When our new Governor was evaluating whether or not to let SunRail proceed, he asked our local businesses to tell him why it was vital to our economic future.

Dozens of our region’s largest employers stepped up, including those associated with Downtown Orlando’s four SunRail stops. Orlando Health said SunRail will allow them to create an additional 8-thousand jobs in the next 15 years. Florida Hospital described its 810-million dollar plan to re-engineer their entire campus to connect with the rail line. The Orlando Magic said they would explore ways to make it easy for fans to use SunRail to get to games – and proposed a new retail and entertainment complex just steps away from Church Street Station. Last month, they added plans to move their corporate headquarters to the 100-million dollar mixed-use complex.

The LYNX Central Station stop will be Central Florida’s transit hub. Today, RIDA Development is announcing that they are moving ahead with plans to transform the adjacent property into a 200-million dollar mixed use development that integrates retail shops, residential units and green space into a walk-able village connected to a SunRail stop. The project, called “Central Station,” will be a national model for sustainable, transit-oriented development.

It will create hundreds of much-needed jobs and encourage new economic activity along the Orange Avenue corridor. These projects are examples of the power of public-private partnership. The private sector is making important investments in our downtown because of the infrastructure that the public sector is building. And it’s not just the areas near SunRail stops that will benefit… it’s our entire Downtown.

Plans are underway to expand LYMMO, our free Downtown circulator. We are working to bring LYMMO west to Parramore and east to Thornton Park and north and south to both Florida Hospital and Orlando Health. This will ensure that our entire Downtown core has easy access to SunRail.

Expanding mass transit has also set the stage for more development and more job creation including:

The old OUC building’s proposed transformation into a 117 room boutique hotel.
The new 300-unit residential complex called Steel House.
And, the 155-room Cambria Suites at Washington and Rosalind.

In all, there are 13 projects in the works that will create nearly a thousand jobs and bring 3 billion dollars of investment to Downtown Orlando. We are also working hard to bring customers into our downtown businesses.

Buy Local Orlando, our program to encourage residents to spend money at Orlando’s locally-owned businesses, is already a success. Next month, we are rolling out a free Smartphone App that will give users the ability to see real-time discounts and special offers using GPS technology. Imagine standing on downtown street corner… and being able to see that the restaurant across the street has a dinner special or the shop in front of you is giving 10 percent off. The Smartphone App is one more tool our community can use to work together to move our local economy forward.

It’s been said that when something is loved, it flourishes. That goes for people, pets, plants. Anything. It certainly goes for a city and its downtown. This is the ideology behind the effort we are calling, “Why I Love Orlando.” Now, I’d like to call Peter to the stage to talk about the work our residents have done in support of “Why I Love Orlando.”

Let’s give everyone who participated in the Why I Love Orlando workshop a round of applause.

To wrap up this afternoon, I want to encourage everyone to get involved by “liking” the Why I Love Orlando Facebook page. I can’t wait to see how our residents show their love for Orlando. One of our first examples is the “Giving Circle” done by Appleton Creative which is here on display today.

I want to say thank-you to the “Why I Love Orlando” sponsors. I want to thank the sponsors that made the State of Downtown Address possible. Your City government exists to help lay the foundation for you to succeed. I want to thank the members of the Orlando City Council for their partnership in moving our city forward. Most of all I want to thank each of you for being here and for your commitment to Downtown Orlando and our entire City. I know times have been tough. But, I also know Orlando residents are resilient. Uniting in our love for Orlando, we can move from recovery into prosperity.

I hope you remain as excited and optimistic as I am about the future of our City and the future of Downtown Orlando.

Thank you very much. Have a great day in Downtown Orlando!

October 1, 2010
Amway Center
View the video

Good Morning,

This is the 8th time I have delivered the State of Downtown Address. Usually, we hold this event in a slightly smaller setting. But, for this special day, we super-sized it! I want to thank the Downtown Orlando Partnership for helping us put on today’s event!

I wake up every day proud and excited to serve as Mayor of the great City of Orlando. I must admit, today I am a little more excited than usual. This is an extraordinary day for the City of Orlando. This is an extraordinary day for Central Florida. This is an extraordinary day for everyone who believes in the power of partnership and has worked together to move our community forward. I am honored to welcome each of you to your Amway Center!

When we look at the history of any City there are a handful of milestones that define them. Here in Orlando some of our defining moments have been the opening of Walt Disney World, the establishment of UCF and the founding of the Orlando Magic. I believe that when we look back at this moment 20 or 30 years from now we will view the Amway Center opening as another significant milestone. One that changed Orlando for the better, forever.

We are going to look at the opening of the Amway Center, all its far-reaching impacts and the historic collaboration that made it possible, as another bold step toward fulfilling our destiny as the next great American City!

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The fact that we are here today, celebrating, is remarkable. Central Floridians have talked about the need for new sports and cultural amenities for our residents since the 90’s. But, it never moved beyond talk.

That changed in 2004, when we rallied behind an idea. We knew our hometown was a special place to live, work, learn and raise a family. But we also knew we could do more. Our residents deserved the kind of world-class venues that other cities had access to. So, Central Florida came together to support the building of the Amway Center. We didn’t stop there. We created a shared vision for three Community Venues. And, a vision for how those venues could help create jobs… spur downtown revitalization and be a catalyst for other major advances. I emphasize the term “shared vision.”

We simply would not be here but for the partnership of so many people and so many different sectors of our community. I share the stage with my partner and friend, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty. Mayor Crotty, I cannot thank you enough for your commitment to collaboration between our two governments. I also want to thank each member of the Orange County Board of Commissioners who supported this project. My partners in City government are here, the Orlando City Commissioners who supported the project. Commissioners, we could not have done this without you. Would each of you and all our elected officials please stand and be recognized.

This day would not have been possible without the support and leadership of our tourism industry Our largest employers, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld were partners from the very beginning.

Leaders in our hospitality industry from the Orlando CVB, the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association and the Orange County Tourist Development Council were instrumental in securing tourist tax dollars to help fund these venues. I am also proud to share the stage with Alex Martins and Bob Vander Weide of the Orlando Magic. There is no NBA franchise more committed to its community than the Orlando Magic. Bob and Alex, the Magic show this commitment every day… both on and off the court. I also want to thank our civic, business and faith-based organizations for their critical role in getting us here.

The Central Florida Partnership and the Metro Orlando EDC who spearheaded “Project Hometown.” Of course, our Downtown Development Board. All of our local small businesses that helped articulate what this facility means in terms of economic development. Our entire venues team, including the Dr. Phillips Center, Florida Citrus Sports and the Central Florida Sports Commission. And… our Public Venues Oversight Committee for making sure the Amway Center was built on schedule with the highest quality workmanship. I say… Thank you.

Another partnership we are celebrating today is the model we used for the design and construction of the Amway Center. The Magic acted as the developer and managed construction and took on the burden of any cost overruns. This facility would not be here without their leadership and the thousands of local workers employed by contractors and subcontractors on the project. I cannot thank everyone by name.

So let me recognize the development team, the design team, the construction team, and everyone at the Orlando Magic. I also want to recognize the incredible job that was done by every department in the City of Orlando. City employees not only worked on the building, but on every aspect of how the Amway Center blends into downtown Orlando.

City family members, thank you for your hard work on this project and the work you do every day to serve our residents. Would all our City staff, everyone involved with the development, design and construction, and the Magic please stand up and be recognized.

I want to offer a special thank you to our residents; the people who proudly call Orlando and Central Florida home. You stepped up and said in one powerful voice, we must invest in our future. Today we celebrate the benefit of that investment. Today, we have the most technologically-advanced, most environmentally-friendly sports and entertainment venue in America! That’s something to Celebrate!!

My wife Karen is here today, as well as my mother Nancy. I want to thank them and our two sons for their love and support. There are so many more people I would like to thank individually. In fact, if we put a person in each of these seats who deserved a thank-you, we would easily run out of room! So let me just say to everyone who worked to make this day possible, thank you!

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As we saw in the video, securing funding for construction of the Amway Center was just the beginning of this story. No one could have predicted the economic catastrophe that struck our nation beginning in 2008, at about the same time we broke ground on this building. Yet, in the face of tough times, I have been amazed at the strength of our City.

The best part of being Mayor is listening to residents. Every day I hear stories about the negative effects of this recession. I also hear about pride and determination, a belief that if we can hang on, if we can keep going despite these economic challenges, better days are ahead. This is the same spirit that fueled the construction of this building.

When we planned the Amway Center we also created “The Blueprint,” to ensure that our residents benefited from its construction in the form of jobs and career training. We had no idea just how important the Blueprint would become. Through this effort more than 1400 Central Floridians have found jobs. 430 are Parramore Residents. More than 120 local firms participated in the project. 170 firms owned by women and minorities performed 94 million dollars worth of work on the building. Overall, the Amway Center achieved one of the largest minority and women owned business participation rates of any project in Florida’s history.

For companies struggling in a crippling recession, work on the Amway Center literally saved their business and kept people working. In this way, the Amway Center has become a critical part of our economic recovery. Nearly 25-hundred people built the Amway Center. As we open this building I want to thank everyone involved in the Blueprint and all the men and women who helped build the Amway Center. I want to thank Orlando City Commissioner Daisy Lynum for her leadership in the Blueprint effort. This building wasn’t just made to be the home of champions. It was also built by champions.

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The Amway Center has given us another kind of Blueprint. When our community created the shared vision for this building… we also established a unique formula for collaboration and partnership. This game plan for enhanced partnership wasn’t a one-time deal. Over the last few years we have been able to use this model to move our community forward in many different ways. Despite the recession, collaboration has allowed us to secure a string of “game changing” projects not found anywhere else in the United States.

  • The Medical City at Lake Nona with the Sanford Burnham Institute, UCF Medical School, Nemours Children’s Hospital, the VA Hospital and the University of Florida Research Institute.
  • America’s first High Speed Rail line.
  • The SunRail Commuter Rail system… which will have a stop right next door.
  • Our vision for Downtown Orlando’s Creative Village in partnership with OUC, Lynx and many of our local development partners.

I spoke earlier this summer before hundreds of America’s Mayors. I was asked to talk about our rail projects and how Orlando was able to get these done. I was proud to answer. Our success with rail and every major accomplishment we’ve experienced is because of partnership. Governments working together. Civic entities, the business community and residents becoming critical stakeholders. Sharing the credit. Sharing the challenges. It sounds so simple. But, the new spirit of collaboration that is fueling our City does not exist everywhere else. Our model for partnership is not business as usual. It’s not government as usual. Now, other cities are learning from us how they can better harness the power of partnership. In this way, the legacy of the Amway Center will have impacts far beyond these walls and well beyond today.

I believe that when we look back 30 years from now, the model for partnership that paved the way for this building will be as meaningful as the facility itself. The lasting benefits of our partnership are even more important when you look at how all our projects are interconnected. Nothing illustrates this point better than the words of Sanford Burnham Institute President Dr. John Reed. He made it clear that Orlando was the choice to become the east coast home of the Burnham for two reasons: 1 – Our commitment to partnership. 2 – Our willingness to build venues like the Amway Center that enhance the quality of life for the top notch employees they must attract to be successful. Today, Orlando is in a better position to grow and attract jobs and investment in our community because of the Amway Center!

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We’ve been hearing all morning about the incredible fan amenities inside this building. We know about the environmental benefits. We are seeing the technology in action right now. Some out there might say, “I’m not going to a concert or ballgame, so what’s in it for me?” Even if you never step foot inside the Amway Center this building is going to have a positive impact on your community and on your Downtown. The Amway Center is going to play a key role in the ongoing revitalization of Central Florida’s urban core.

Yes, the recession has slowed progress Downtown, but signs of recovery are everywhere. We are seeing a surge in commercial and residential leases, particularly in the Church Street Entertainment District.

Since January, 22 new retail establishments have opened Downtown. In the next 90 days, 15 more will open, many designed to serve Amway Center visitors. Every day more people are choosing to live, work and play in our Downtown. The Amway Center is a one-of-a-kind destination which will draw visitors from throughout Central Florida and even from Tampa, Jacksonville and south Florida. We are rolling out the line-up of shows and sporting events for the Amway Center’s inaugural year. Already, we are securing artists who would not likely have performed in our old building, like Lady Gaga. This morning, I am excited to announce that BON JOVI will play two dates this spring! New artists mean new visitors to Downtown Orlando. More importantly, these high end shows mean our residents will no longer have to leave town to see these acts. That means our money is spent in our community.

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In closing, I want everyone to know that today is much more than an opening celebration. Today Orlando, WE MAKE HISTORY! We celebrate what can be accomplished when we come together to realize a dream. We give our residents world class sports and entertainment options. We move our community toward a better, more prosperous future! There’s a saying that a house doesn’t truly become a home until a family moves in. For more than two years we have watched the Amway Center become part of our skyline. Up to this point, this once-in-a-generation project has been just a building. Concrete and Steel. Glass and Beams. Until today. Today, this house becomes a home. Today, our community brings the Amway Center to life. With that life, a new chapter for Downtown Orlando begins. With that life, the Amway Center becomes an icon of civic pride and identity.

With that life, the Amway Center becomes a vehicle to create shared memories with friends and loved ones.

Orlando, Let’s start making those memories right now! We need your help to officially bring this building to life. Get on your feet. Get ready. You are about to witness the Amway Center being powered-up publicly for the very first time. Remember this moment. This will be the first of many great moments inside this building.

In the Amway Center only three words matter. Look at the screen above us. I want everyone to say these three words with me.

I. WAS. THERE!

October 15, 2009
Plaza Cinema Cafe
View the video

Good Afternoon! Welcome to Downtown Orlando. Welcome to the Plaza Cinema Cafe and welcome to you, the cast of the next great blockbuster; the story of Downtown Orlando!

I’m fond of saying the difference between Orlando and most other cities is that their histories have already been written. We’re different. Here in Orlando, we are writing our story, our own movie script, if you will, every day. Every member of our community has a part to play in this story.

So, it’s fitting that we’ve gathered here to celebrate how far we’ve come focus on the unique challenges our downtown faces because of the national recession and renew our shared commitment to reshaping and revitalizing Central Florida’s urban core.

If you were there for my first State of Downtown address in 2004 you’ll recognize the excerpt I read from the Orlando Sentinel:

“Homeless people, termites and rats the size of small dogs have taken over downtown Orlando’s most coveted piece of real estate.

The block along Orange Avenue between Pine and Church Streets has sat mostly vacant for more than a decade while plan after plan for high-rises, a Movie Theater, shops and restaurants have fallen by the wayside.

The City’s most recent hope of attracting a movie theater to the block appears to have collapsed”

They are, of course, talking about this very spot. You’ll recall that same day we celebrated the groundbreaking for this building. We were supposed to open that movie theater when we opened the building two years later! Unfortunately, it took just a little bit longer. After a few bumps in the road here we are at Downtown’s movie theater. If there are any of you that still have one of these movie tickets we gave out at the first celebration, I’ve got some good news. That ticket, it’s still good!

When you think about it this theater and the perseverance it took to make it a reality is the embodiment of our effort to shape Downtown Orlando into a world class urban core. We started out with a bold vision to build a downtown that would be the 24 hour cultural and economic hub of Central Florida. An urban core that would be the engine of prosperity for our region for generations to come. This enormous, transformational journey has not been easy. It hasn’t always gone according to plan. True progress never does. But, we have learned from our setbacks and found ways to succeed.

As we evaluate the State of Downtown Orlando today, I remain as confident as ever in the progress and possibility of our center city. I firmly believe our vision for a world class downtown remains on track, fueled by the determination and relentless optimism of those who share our dream.

Even as I say these hopeful words, the cloud of recession hangs over us. 2009 has not been a banner year for America’s urban centers. The effects of our country’s economic crisis can be seen and felt everywhere. Our residents have lost jobs. A lack of financing has depleted the pipeline of planned construction projects. The mortgage crisis has created huge challenges for our residential market.

But, what we’ve learned is that we have to measure success differently than we did even a few years ago. Gone is some of the rapid pace of progress we once enjoyed. Our mission now is to protect the important gains we have made and make carefully planned advancements where we can so that we might surge ahead once our economy recovers. That’s precisely what we have done.

We have not let Downtown Orlando whither on the vine – like many other emerging urban centers during this recession. In downtown Orlando, we are finding areas where we can succeed despite our country’s ailing economy!

Perhaps, the most visible sign of our enduring progress is our community venues. We’ve had to adapt and adjust our plan to build a Performing Arts center and improve our aging Citrus Bowl. Today I am happy to report we are back on track – thanks to the unwavering support from all our partners including the tourism industry.

The generous support of Dr. Phillips Charities and all the donors have been a critical component to reaching this milestone. Key within those philanthropic gifts is Disney’s commitment to the mission. So much so that the largest theater hall inside the facility will be named by Disney. Currently, the performing arts center has raised over 86 million dollars.

Soon, the Orlando Broadway, Ballet, Festival of Orchestras and Philharmonic will have a new, state-of the-art home. I cannot overstate the enormity of what this facility means to all of Central Florida. For 20 years our community has asked for a world class arts facility. Now, it’s within our reach.

We are moving ahead with the first phase of our planned enhancements to the Citrus Bowl. This initial stage of refurbishment includes aesthetic and structural work. It’s an important first step as we wait for the economy to recover and to maintain our role as host to great college football games and other major events.

A short walk from here you can see the Amway Center is rising into the sky and changing the face of downtown’s Parramore neighborhood. We know it’s much more than just an impressive building - jobs at the site are keeping businesses and families afloat. More than 86 million dollars in contracts to minority and women-owned businesses have been awarded. That’s 35 percent of the total contracts.

The north and south gateways to our downtown, Orlando Health and Florida Hospital, continue to grow and create vital, high paying jobs. Florida Hospital’s new Ginsberg tower is the newest addition to our skyline. Combined with their plans for an expanded “health village,” they have invested more than 300 million dollars into this community. Orlando Health’s downtown campus is growing as well. Their Current and planned projects total more than a billion dollars.

The healthcare industry, once again, ranked Orlando as the number one destination for medical meetings in the country – because of our current medical infrastructure and our budding medical city at Lake Nona. Our medical City would not be possible without the cooperation and partnership of Orange County and Mayor Richard Crotty.

Our plan to create a similar downtown infrastructure for the “creative class” is also forging ahead. A year after UCF opened the doors to its Center for Emerging Media; Forbes Magazine is calling us one of the most wired cities in America. More and more high tech jobs of tomorrow are being born here every day as the House of Moves, IDEAS, The University of Florida School of Architecture’s “City Lab” and TLC Engineering grow their downtown operations.

The economic crisis has put a crunch in our downtown residential real estate market. But, our developers are finding opportunity where some see only setbacks. Converted condos are now seeing an influx of renters, Central Floridians choosing to live in a more urban setting. In fact, Aspire at Dynatech Center and Camden Orange Court now boast occupancy rates of almost 95 percent.

A recent issue of “Retail Traffic” magazine says Orlando has everything in its favor to more quickly overcome the real estate crisis than other American cities. Some of our newest downtown residents are telling the world about their experience. Orlando's “Smile Ambassadors,” are living here in downtown and experiencing all our community has to offer – through the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s 67 Days of Smiles campaign. They are telling the world what it’s like to live, work and play in Orlando!

We know downtowns foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Bringing new businesses and the jobs they create to downtown remains an essential part of our overall plan to diversify and strengthen our City’s economy. This year 100 new businesses opened their doors downtown! Entrepreneur Magazine recently named Orlando as a top ten City to start a business.

Of course, we cannot forget about strengthening those businesses that have already made a commitment to our City. That’s why we launched our Buy Local Orlando program earlier this year, as part of our Strengthen Orlando program. Under Buy Local Orlando, we’ve leveraged the City’s resources to encourage residents and visitors to spend their money with local merchants. These cards entitle the user to a discount or special offer at businesses around our City. Already, more than 200 businesses have signed on to participate. And, 50 thousand cards have been given out to residents.

The Plaza Cinema Café is a great example. With your Buy Local Orlando card a movie here is half off, less than five dollars. You won’t find a cheaper ticket to a first run movie anywhere.

On the subject of finances, our City, much like the families who make up our community, has had to make hard choices about what to spend money on during these tough economic times. Faced with a steep reduction in revenues, Our City Council chose not to raise taxes on residents. Instead, we dramatically reduced the scope of our government in order to preserve the critical services people depend on. Unfortunately, we have had to suspend our Downtown Ambassador pilot program as part of our reduction plan. I want to thank each of our City Commissioners for their leadership during this extremely difficult budget period.

One area that will always be a priority is keeping downtown safe. Overall, homicides are down in our City more than 43 percent. Robbery is down more than 40 percent citywide. Assault – down more than 24 percent. This dramatic decrease in violent crime is more proof that our commitment to safety is working. Our IRIS smart camera initiative, launched last year in downtown has transformed one-time open air drug markets back into peaceful street corners.

Soon, downtown will also boast a new home for the Orlando Fire Department. This state of the art complex will centralize all OFD personnel and allow for quicker response time and keep more fire units available to answer additional 911 calls. The New Fire Headquarters will also be our fifth “Green” Fire Station, the latest step in our effort to lead the way when it comes to protecting our environment. With the help of our utility, OUC, we are encouraging all our residents to lead more environmentally-friendly lifestyles through our GreenWorks Orlando program.

A great downtown must have great neighborhoods. And, we do. Thornton Park, Delaney Park and College Park are all shining examples of the distinct urban neighborhoods that you won’t anywhere else in Central Florida. In June, we celebrated the four year anniversary of our effort to revitalize one of our City’s first neighborhoods, Parramore.

Block by block, we have transformed this neighborhood by helping lifelong renters own their first homes, opening new restaurants and retail establishments and even attracting national companies to headquarter and invest in Parramore. Last week, we broke ground on Wells Landing. Through the aid of more than three million dollars in federal economic stimulus funds, this project will add even more affordable housing to the neighborhood. This brings our total of new or rehabilitated housing units to more than 300.

Nearly all of the 2,000 children living in Parramore have been enrolled in the Parramore Kidz Zone program. There has been a 47 percent decline in juvenile arrests since 2006. Slowly but surely, we are changing the status quo in Parramore. 2009 also saw us claim another major victory in our effort to reshape downtown. This victory, though, is on behalf of those less fortunate. Our City and our partners throughout Central Florida have made ending homelessness in the next ten years a priority.

This year we received more than six million federal dollars, more resources than we have ever had before, to help the homeless and to prevent our residents from becoming homeless. In downtown, the capital funding support will enable the Coalition for the Homeless to construct a new Men's Service Center on West Central Boulevard and to offer much-needed case management and supportive services to the most underserved segment of the homeless population, homeless men. More than just a building that offers a hot meal and a bed. A facility like this one offers vital services that can transition someone from homelessness to self sufficiency.

We’ve accomplished a lot in downtown Orlando, even in the face of the worst economic climate in modern times. But, we still don’t know the depth or duration of this current recession. So, we cannot rest on our accomplishments. Our focus must remain on generating more interest in our center city –and ensuring that downtown businesses thrive. To achieve this goal we are launching an aggressive Downtown campaign.

Our goal is to create a sustainable urban community where your needs for goods and services are met by merchants you’ve told us you want. The most visible part of this plan will be the launch of a new web site, DowntownOrlando.Com. This site will be a “one stop shop” to show Central Florida residents and visitors all downtown has to offer. Where to eat, what to do, how to get there. It will all be in one convenient online home.

“What to do” in downtown Orlando is about to get a lot more exciting, too, if you’re a fan of Arts and Athletics. In February, SAK Comedy Lab will move into its new home at the City Arts Factory. The Orlando Film Festival is moving to this very theater… the Plaza Cinema Café. Through partnerships we are using downtown’s resurgence as a way to create a true “Downtown Arts District.”

On the sports front, this year we welcome our first ever professional indoor lacrosse team, the Titans. The Citrus Bowl will be home to our new UFL Team, the Florida Tuskers. We are also very optimistic that Orlando will be named a host site for World Cup Soccer matches in 2018 or 2022. Downtown Orlando will also see some winter sports. This holiday season you’ll be able to ice skate at Lake Eola Park. Of course, we can’t forget the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Orlando Magic.

This time next year, they will be getting ready to play their first game in a new home. You can already see the excitement for the future. The Magic currently have the highest season ticket sales in the NBA. That season ticket sales mark is the highest in the history of the franchise.

We are also primed to witness the rebirth of Church Street. We are reinventing this historic stretch of Church Street as a mixed-use destination anchored by the Plaza and stretching past Amway Center into a rejuvenated block in Parramore.

Since my first day in office, we have said that expanding transportation options for downtown Orlando is essential to the future of our City and the success of our downtown. With our partners at LYNX we are working on adding to the service area for our downtown circulator, LYMMO. If downtown is to become all it can be we have to have rail transit. We have scrapped and fought to make SunRail a reality. After suffering setbacks in the past two legislative sessions… we are on the cusp of a breakthrough that is going to ensure the creation of Central Florida’s first commuter rail line.

Finally, we could not do a State of Downtown event this year without mentioning one of the iconic symbols of our downtown, the Lake Eola Fountain. I’m sure most of you know our fabled fountain had a slight run-in with Mother Natureand lost. In response to the lighting strike that struck down the fountain, we have seen a wave of emotion from our residents. They’ve written and called. They’ve donated money. Our businesses community jumped in and offered all sorts of help. Disney, Universal, Sea World and other local partners have offered their expertise in repairing or rebuilding our fountain. This much is clear, the Lake Eola Fountain is much more than just a fountain. It’s a symbol of our community and a source of pride for our residents. So we are going to rebuild the Lake Eola Fountain better than before.

I began by comparing our downtown story to that of a movie. The great movies, the epics, kind of follow a certain formula. In the first act everyone is happy and successful. The future is boundless. In the second act everything goes wrong. Confidence is shaken. And, the characters are put to the test. Sound familiar? Well, downtown Orlando has been put to the test. You know what? In those great movies, there’s always a comeback! I’ve got a feeling that the story of downtown Orlando has a great ending, too. I can’t wait to see it!

October 2, 2008

Good afternoon! It’s great to be in Downtown Orlando! State of Downtown is one of my favorite events. If you’ve been here before, you know we do something different every year. We like to loosen our ties… Sometimes, we crank up the music… We try to do away with the stuffy speeches! Although, I’ve probably given a few!

Most importantly, we celebrate our accomplishments and we look to the future. We celebrate our progress in reshaping and revitalizing our Downtown. We look ahead… to the world class Downtown that everyone in this room is helping to build for all of Central Florida.

This year, unfortunately, it’s also vital to recognize that we are in the midst of a crisis on Wall Street and a larger economic slump for our country.

This financial climate means challenges for our families and local businesses. It means challenges for state and local governments. It means challenges for our Downtown. So, the program we have built for you today is designed to address our challenges:

  • How do we sustain our Downtown revitalization through this economic down-turn?
  • Why are America’s downtowns more important than ever?
  • How do we best position Downtown Orlando as the engine that propels our central Florida economy?

We have put together a panel of experts to explore these questions and ideas. But, before we get into the discussion, I want to make a few announcements and acknowledgments:

  • We have representatives from our hometown university, UCF: Provost and Executive Vice President - Terry Hickey, and, the Executive Director of the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy - Ben Noel. UCF President, Doctor John Hitt, could not be here. I want to thank him and everyone from UCF for their willingness invest in our Downtown. Terry and Ben, I know you are as excited as I am to announce that UCF is expanding its presence in Downtown Orlando!In 2005, UCF opened FIEA. Since that time, the school has been successful at graduating students that can go directly into high paying jobs in the growing field of interactive, digital entertainment. FIEA will now be part of a much larger Downtown facility that includes a variety of digital media and film disciplines. It will include UCF’s film school. It will house TV, film and motion capture studios. It will also be home to “Citi-Lab” a partnership between UCF and the University of Florida school of Architecture.Today, I have the pleasure of announcing the birth of the: UCF Center for Emerging Media. Along with the House of Moves, the Center for Emerging Media will anchor our creative village. In the near future, our creative village will be a place where professionals in the emerging media industry can live, work and play… all here Downtown.
  • For many years, we’ve said one of the critical elements of our Downtown’s revitalization would be a superior downtown supermarket. Just last month, Publix at the Paramount opened its doors! Chad Wilson and Paul Bracker from Publix are with us.
  • Another fundamental element is a downtown movie theater. I know… I know. If you were here two years ago, you might still have the tickets we gave out for the premiere. We are close to securing our movie theater and I am excited to tell you those tickets are still good!
  • We are keeping the construction momentum moving Downtown. Yesterday, I helped break ground on Downtown’s newest high rise, the Montage. The Montage will be Downtown’s first environmentally-friendly, LEED certified residential building.
  • Speaking of green buildings, OUC’s new headquarters is set to open on November 11th. It will be Downtown’s first LEED certified commercial building and it will set the standard for all future office buildings in our Downtown.
  • Keeping Downtown, and our entire City safe, is our top priority. I hope all of you got a chance to check out one of our IRIS cameras as you made your way into the ballroom. These are “smart cameras” that can detect movement and alert police to crimes as they are happening. In the next few months, we will be launching phase two of our IRIS camera program beginning in our Downtown core. We’re doing this through a unique public-private partnership lead by Darden Restaurants and the Target Corporation.
  • Many of our Downtown small business owners are here today. From Church Street… to Vendor’s Way. From Thornton Park… to Ivanhoe Village. From the SODO project where a new Target store will open as the anchor of an exciting mixed-use prototype… to Mills Park.I want to personally salute each and every one of you. You have made a commitment to Downtown and to the future of this community.I know challenges remain. I want to ensure our small business owners that our City is doing everything possible to set the stage for you to succeed. To further that effort, today, we launch a newly-enhanced “Business Assistance Team.” Whether it’s a helping hand in explaining the permitting process… A connection to business counseling… Or simply access to City services… The B.A.T. will offer a “one stop shop” designed to give our business owners help during tough economic times.
  • Another project we are excited about is the Renaissance at Carver Square which will go up where the historic Carver Theater once stood. This mixed-use project includes a community theater and commercial space, along with a small business incubator, providing education and networking components.I am pleased to announce the anchor tenant for the Renaissance at Carver Square will be the Urban Trust Bank. Founded by Robert Johnson, owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats and founder of B-E-T, the Urban Trust Bank will not only serve as a Downtown branch, but as the home office for the entire company. It’s exciting to have Mr. Johnson play a part in the revitalization of Parramore and Downtown Orlando.I want to recognize the CEO of the Urban Trust who is with us today, Dan Fisher. This public-private partnership is another important advance for Parramore that will ensure the neighborhood’s future as a thriving downtown residential and business district. We have made an unprecedented investment in the neighborhood: Through this project… Through the Pathways for Parramore initiative… And now, through Community Venues… We have laid the foundation to change the future for downtown residents both east and west of I-4.
  • A year ago we made history when we committed to building our Community venues. Today, I’m happy to report we are on course to bring world class arts and entertainment options to Downtown Orlando. We’ve broken ground on our Events Center. We are well into the design stages of our performing arts center.On Monday, we will award the architectural contract for the Citrus Bowl renovation. This week, the contract for the steel to build the events center was awarded to a local company, Schuff Steel. With a steel fabrication facility in our own backyard, this means almost 300 jobs for local workers. We are extending education and job opportunities through our Community Blueprint. Like FDR did in the 1930’s, we will use our public projects to provide jobs and job training during tough economic times.
  • Our Community Venues will propel our Downtown toward a brighter future. But, we still need more transportation options if we are going to rival the great downtowns of the world. That’s where commuter rail fits in. I’m sure most of you have followed our collective effort to make commuter rail a reality. The local, state and federal funding is in place. The only piece of the puzzle remaining is legislative approval of some legal language. Many of you have asked, “What can I do to help?” My friends, we are going to get this done! And, you can play an important part.In your bags, you’ll find some information about the project. You’ll also find a blank post card. Right now, the governor, Florida’s CFO and many new legislators are forming their priorities for the coming year. We need to tell Tallahassee that Commuter Rail isn’t just vital to Central Florida. It’s vital to the transportation future of the entire state. So, it should be their priority. I’m asking that each of you write a personal note, asking our state leaders to make Central Florida’s Commuter Rail a priority. And, put your name and address on it. If you do it today, you can drop it off in the back of the room and it will be mailed for you.
  • Commuter rail is just another great example of a shared dream that we are turning into reality because of partnership and cooperation. Everything we have accomplished and all that we aim to achieve for Downtown comes from our ability to work together. I have no better partners than our City commissioners. I would like to thank each of them for their commitment to Downtown and the residents of our City. I also want to recognize and thank our CRA Advisory Board and our Downtown Development Board. Thank you, to our friends on the Orange County Commission represented here today by Commissioner Mildred Fernandez. I also want to thank my wife Karen, for all you do for our community and our family.

Our Downtown has faced challenges over the past five years. We have overcome every one in order to lay the foundation for a world class urban center. This is a credit to every single person in this room. I want to thank all of you for believing in Downtown Orlando. Yes, there are new challenges ahead. But, the state of our Downtown remains filled with potential and ready to meet any obstacle!

State of Downtown Discussion Panelists:

David Feehan, president of the International Downtown Association. David has devoted more than 35 years to rebuilding and revitalizing cities. He has directed downtown programs across the country.

Doctor Jerry Mitchell, professor of public affairs at Baruch College at the City University of New York. His research focuses on downtown development both here in the US and in Europe.

John Thomas, Director of Policy and Political Affairs for the Florida League of Cities. He represents the interests of more than 400 cities. He also serves as Executive Director of Florida’s Urban Partnership.

October 4, 2007

I wake up every day energized by the opportunity, not just to serve as the Mayor of Orlando, but to serve as your Mayor at this time in Orlando’s history.

I truly believe we are headed toward a future as the next great American City of this new century.

And, downtown is fueling our region’s future.

Together, we have come so far … so fast, in our effort to realize our vision of a world-class downtown for everyone who lives, works, plays, learns and raises a family in Central Florida.

Four years ago, we stood up and challenged the status quo. We ignored the notion that Orlando could never compete with the great cities of the world.

We dreamed big, we acted boldly and today, I’m here to tell you, Orlando is the envy of those cities.

Brick by brick … and block by block …We laid the foundation for a downtown that defines us and binds us. But a city, like a home, is not just about bricks and mortar, it’s about spirit … the spirit of this community.

We diversified our economy and strengthened our neighborhoods.

We attracted businesses, restaurants and residents like never before.

We are seeing the results of our hard work.

  • We have transformed our skyline.
  • We’ve bolstered our bottom line.
  • And soon… we’ll have a commuter rail line.

This is the state of our downtown – surging forward and accomplishing our goals by leaps and bounds.

Now, this is one of my favorite events every year.

I enjoy it because there’s no talk of “baby steps.” No … our downtown renaissance is about giant strides.

Our success is the result of the hard work of so many people.

  • My partner and friend, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty.
  • The president of our hometown university, Dr. John Hitt
  • Our dedicated City Council.
  • Our downtown development board chaired by Jennifer Quigley.

And, my biggest supporter, my wife Karen … thank you for all you do for our family and for this community.

The accomplishments of the past year alone are nothing short of extraordinary.

We saw progress across the board - from government to residential to commercial and retail. Projects like: The new federal court house, The Vue, Star Tower, 801 North Orange.

Recently, we had the topping off ceremony for Dynetech Centre. 55 West is only two stories away. And soon, we will have our first downtown supermarket, Publix at the Paramount.

But our success is about “smart growth” and bringing quality jobs to our downtown core … jobs for the entire region.

We’ve seen a “ripple effect” that’s expanded what we call downtown. Our vibrant urban core now spans from Florida Hospital in the North to Orlando Regional in the South. We are extending these anchors, adding mixed use projects like Mills Park and SODO.

We are building a downtown for everyone in Central Florida. Soon, our downtown core will be a destination for world class sports, arts and entertainment. This summer, with the help and cooperation of Mayor Crotty, the Orlando City Council, the Orange County board of commissioners, our venue partners, the tourism industry our EDC and Chamber of Commerce, and a host of other community and business leaders we turned the dream of three community venues into a reality. These venues will serve as the cultural cornerstone for our region for generations to come.

And remember, these public projects are more than just buildings, they are catalysts of economic opportunity for local businesses and workers, providing a sustainable foundation for local business growth and jobs.

We are also ensuring our downtown renaissance means opportunity for the next generation … our children. A little over a year ago we started the Parramore Kidz zone in downtown’s Parramore neighborhood - where 73 percent of our children live in poverty. This innovative program connects the neediest of our youth with services and educational opportunities. Today, 1-in-4 kids have been helped.

Our downtown renaissance is about opportunity for everyone.

With an influx of people, we’re acting now to make sure it’s easy to get around our urban core. A more walkable, liveable center city is on the horizon. The hallmark of a downtown is multi-modal transit. We’re on the way to having a commuter rail system to link our downtown with the rest of central Florida. And, with our partner Lynx, we’ll see expanded service of LYMMO, our free downtown circulator.

Though our accomplishments are many, we will not rest on our laurels. We are headed full steam ahead toward a future for downtown that remains brimming with promise and progress.

As downtown grows, our unwavering commitment to keeping people safe remains stronger than ever. Crime will not be tolerated anywhere in our City and that certainly includes downtown Orlando. That’s why we’re continuing to strengthen our safety infrastructure.

Beginning this week, we’re implementing an aggressive plan to keep our downtown core safe. We have created a “downtown patrol district” to focus our resources on the community policing that a vibrant city center must have.

This means more officers during the day and at night. We’re also re-activating a bike unit exclusively for the Parramore neighborhood. These are police on the street who will make a personal connection with those who live, work and visit downtown.

Wheels of a different variety are part of another effort that we’re rolling out this fall, our downtown ambassadors. Programs like this have been a staple of resurging downtowns across the country like San Diego, Nashville and Charlotte. In November, Orlando joins the club.

Our ambassadors will offer information, directions and assistance. They’ll provide police with extra sets of eyes and ears atop Segway electric vehicles. We’re opening a downtown information center on Orange Avenue as part of this program. It will serve as home base for our mobile ambassadors.

We are also moving forward with plans to relocate “the big house, fire station 1” into a new, a state-of-the-art, fire complex that will also house all of our special operations units.

This weekend, you may notice paramedics on bikes … OFD will launch its Downtown Bike team to respond to emergency medical calls in our city core on weekends, holidays and during special events. This effort will allow for quicker response time and keep more fire units available to answer additional 911 calls.

We will not falter in our commitment to keep people safe.

We also have a duty to protect the environment and our downtown plays a vital role in this effort to “go green.” Just a few days ago, we launched “Green Works Orlando,” our comprehensive plan to make Orlando a more environmentally-responsible city.

Our effort begins with the buildings downtown that are driving our renaissance and growth. Because we realize buildings impact our environment just as much as cars do, all new municipal buildings will be “green” like our new fire stations.

Our green program includes more trees, more green spaces and a push to partner with downtown businesses and residents who want to focus on sustainability.

That partnership also extends to our relationships with Orange County and OUC. Construction is underway at OUC’s new administration building to make it the greenest building in our urban core.

Today’s event presenter, the Downtown Orlando Partnership, has agreed to expand their popular “Golden Brick Award of Excellence” program. A new Green Bricks category has been added to recognize those who make a positive environmental impact.

From green innovation… to cutting edge animation… downtown Orlando aims to be the “high tech home” for film and digital media. Not too long ago, we unveiled a vision for a downtown “Creative Village.”

House of Moves, the world’s largest motion capture studio, is almost ready to open its new east coast facility and will serve as a another cornerstone to the Creative Village.

Nearby, UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy is already producing the graduates that will fuel this growing industry in our City.

Technology is literally everywhere downtown. SmartCity has turned up free, outdoor, wireless Internet service for mobile users creating WIFI SmartZones throughout downtown.

As we advance towards the future, we do so with a focus on restoring one of the most historic areas in our downtown.

Church Street Station was once a destination for visitors and residents, and now, Church Street is returning to its past glory. As you read in the paper this morning, just outside our doors will sit a new Hilton Hotel connected to this very ballroom. A host of new restaurants will be opening like a new pizza restaurant, a new steakhouse and a dessert cafe. You will also be able to see the guy who started it all on Church Street Bob Snow as he reopens the Cheyenne Saloon early next year.

And the best news of all is that Church Street Station will once again be a hub for restaurants, entertainment and transportation for our downtown.

Finally, last week, Orlando was accepted into the renowned national “Main Street” program. This initiative provides small, neighborhood businesses with tools and training so they can work together to make their local business districts stronger.

When approved by our City Council, we will be the first “big city” urban main street program in the Southeast.

The “main street” philosophy is simple: A city can only be great if it has a great downtown … A City can only have a great downtown if it has great neighborhoods.

Orlando is already blessed with distinct, vibrant neighborhoods. This “big city” plan will establish programs in each of our six City districts to foster healthier, stronger commercial corridors.

Over the years, I’ve used a lot of numbers to chronicle our downtown renaissance. I certainly used a few today.

However, ultimately, our downtown success story isn’t all about square footage or dollar signs. Our accomplishments cannot only be measured in facts and figures.

To truly see where we’ve come from and where we’re headed... you have to realize that success is also measured in the faces and places that make up our downtown.

Our downtown success story is in this room.

It’s with each and every one of you and our entire community.

Each of you has a story, a reason why you chose to be involved in reshaping and reinventing what downtown Orlando could be. Each of you has worked to create a downtown that belongs to everyone… a downtown that acts as “Central Florida’s front porch”…

A place where people from across the region come to be with each other, celebrate with one another, be entertained together. It’s a place where we build community bonds and lasting memories.

In the spirit of this thought, I’d like to welcome all of you to Orlando’s front porch – right here in the room.

October 4, 2006

It is working now!

Starting with a man named Walt Disney … who dared to imagine that vast orange groves could become the world’s top travel destination … our region has been defined by our ability to dream BIG.

For the past several years, we’ve gathered at this event and discussed our big dreams. We’ve imagined and talked about how to create a world-class urban core for our residents.

I submit to you that while laying out our vision was important … more important was our commitment to act on that vision … to push beyond a possibility and create reality.

In fact, just two years ago almost to the day, at this very State of the Downtown address, we announced our City Council’s vision for building three new community venues – a performing arts center, an events center and a renovated citrus bowl. On that day two years ago, I pledged that we together, would have the new performing arts center out of the ground within four years and we’re right on schedule.

And I joked, and even got a little grief for it, that little ole Jacksonville was hosting the Super Bowl that year. Well, this year Miami is hosting the Super Bowl, but the important difference is that now, Orlando could host the Super Bowl in years to come.

Mayor Crotty, my friend and partner, is here with us today. Last week, he and I stood together with our city council and county commission to unveil a plan that builds on our amazing residential, retail and commercial renaissance - and delivers us at the doorstep of becoming the greatest city, not just in Florida, but in the entire country.

I called the plan a “Triple Crown for Downtown” and that is just what it is. In the midst of one of the nation’s most successful revitalizations of a downtown we will build three world-class community venues … venues that will make us proud and show the world that Orlando is no longer a second tier city. We will stand head-to-head and shoulder-to-shoulder with any region in the world.

Today, we celebrate this most recent success, but first let’s talk about the path that we forged together and that brought us to this pinnacle.

It began with a simple statement from our Downtown Strategic Transition Team three years ago … we will create “A dynamic downtown model for the 21st century. A safe, sustainable, livable and vibrant city center. A welcome and desirable place for all people, especially the citizens of Orlando.” And, that is exactly what we are doing.

Ongoing Development:

As you leave today and look down Church Street, you will see two mixed-use projects that ignited our renaissance and began the live, work and play movement in our downtown.

Now, I will concede there was some speculation whether 55 West would ever get underway, but today, it’s going up … it’s going up in a big way. Once completed, this 34-story complex will be one of several projects that rival our City’s tallest building, the SunTrust tower.

And as we speak, the finishing touches are being put on the Premiere Trade Plaza. In fact … if you reach into the bag that was on your seat you’ll find a pair of movie vouchers, courtesy of Kuhn Management, for our City’s first downtown movie theater in decades opening early next year.

We’ve promised to make Downtown a place for everyone, and these two catalytic projects sparked a surge of activity that is making it happen … with retail, entertainment and restaurant choices, along with residential units, all within walking distance.

In April, we announced the new Capital Plaza III complex, a true “mixed-use” project that includes a 150-room hotel and 9,000 square feet of retail space.

The new City Arts Factory became the anchor for the City’s Downtown arts district … with five art galleries, a classroom, an artist’s studio and 8,000 square feet of event and performance space.

Last month the longest concrete pour in the history of our City took place in Downtown. Crews spent 27 hours pouring the foundation of The Paramount … which will house the first urban grocery store in our Downtown core in decades. And in mid-September we celebrated the completion of the top floor of the 18-story, Star Tower on East Jackson Street.

Yesterday, I attended the grand opening of The Lexington, Downtown’s newest luxury hotel. And, tonight I will attend an event to celebrate the construction of a new 23-story condominium project called The Monarch. In the next year or so, two more important downtown projects will be complete, the VUE and the Dynetech building. And, next week, ground will break on a new downtown apartment complex … Camden Orange Court.

New restaurants have also begun to pop up all over downtown... Pearl Steakhouse and the Exchange Lounge, which recently opened on Church Street, as well as The Beacon, Fifi's and Graze, which are all opening on the ground floor of The Sanctuary.

Unimaginable three years ago … residents and visitors alike will now be able to stroll down to Church Street for dinner, head back to Orange Avenue to catch a movie then across the street to the Arts Factory for the opening of a new exhibit. That’s a lifestyle our residents deserve.

And just imagine what that experience will be like in three more years with the vibrancy of community venues… broadways shows, conference championships and cultural opportunities.

Parramore:

Our commitment to revitalizing Downtown remains focused on both the eastside and the west side of I-4. We are delivering on that commitment with a host of projects aimed at revitalizing Parramore while preserving the neighborhood’s heritage.

We are crossing man-made barriers with sustainable bridges such as the five Pathways for Parramore – housing, public safety, quality of life, children education and business development. Since Commissioner Lynum and I launched the Pathways for Parramore initiative last year, a host of organizations such as the Orlando Housing Authority, Black Business Investment Fund, Bank of America, and the Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation have joined us.

Through our recently appointed Attainable Housing Task Force, and projects like Otey Place, Parramore Village and Carver Park, which are going to provide housing for people of all income levels, we will strengthen and protect our neighborhoods.

Soon, as residents and visitors head west down Church Street, they will not stop at I-4. They will continue on down the newly renovated $17 million grand entertainment boulevard, West Church street, and head over to Parramore Heritage Park … offering new open space for gatherings and celebrations.

Residents of Parramore, as they visit their new Heritage Park will feel safe. We are taking the deliberate steps today to focus on the immediate needs and create public safety solutions for the future.

OPD officers are connecting with residents, walking the streets and meeting the specific needs of the neighborhood, and we’ve opened a brand new police sub-station in the City View development on West Church Street to make those officers more accessible to the neighborhood.

This commitment has been made to the entire city. In fact, this week marks the official start of our new fiscal year, and the beginning of a $110 million public safety initiative. I can tell you that this administration and our City Council remain committed to Public Safety.

In August, we also formed the Safe Orlando Task Force. This group of community representatives will work in tandem with the OPD to tackle crime-related issues and develop a strategic action plan that taps into every available resource.

I will make a promise to all of you. We will take every step necessary to ensure that residents and visitors feel safe and secure while visiting, working or living in our Downtown and anywhere in our city.

As we’ve focused on improving public safety and residential options, there has been a surge of new business activity in Parramore, including the relocation and expansion of Johnson’s Diner, the establishment of the City View Pharmacy and Flavor Fashion clothing store, as well as the opening of new restaurants like Quiznos Subs and Piattini’s Pizzeria. We have even seen the revival of a Parramore Merchants Association.

I mentioned earlier the term “sustainable bridges.” None of the successes we’ve just mentioned are sustainable without our next generation … our children. This year, the City of Orlando applied for and received a $500,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that will help launch the Parramore Kidz Zone.

This grant is being matched with another $1.5 million from local philanthropic organizations like the Dr. Phillips, Edyth Bush, Universal and Winter Park Foundations as well as the Kiwanis Club.

The Kidz Zone program will ensure that all of our children, starting with every single child in Parramore, will have access to the critical programs they need to grow and prosper … health care, after school programs, mentoring, and many more opportunities that will help them succeed and sustain productive lives. I can’t think of anything more important.

Creative Village

Diversifying our economy, and creating high-value jobs is key to ensuring our children are successful in building their lives right here in Orlando. Last year, at this very luncheon, I announced we would work on a plan to redevelop the Centroplex into an urban, creative village. This is an opportunity to build on our partnership with the UCF School of Film and Digital Media, and to make Downtown the heart of our creative industry.

Much like neighborhoods such as SoHo in New York, we envision a place where artists, computer programmers, video game designers and musicians gather to live, share ideas, create and learn, together.

In August, I asked Ben Noel, executive director of the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, and Suzy Allen, Director of Film and Digital Media Development for the EDC, two of the most creative people I know, to head up the Creative Village Concept Team. This extremely talented group of volunteers are developing recommendations on the key success factors needed to bring this vision to reality.

Imagine the Centroplex being transformed from a sea of asphalt parking spaces into an urban village that is home to multiple digital media and technology companies, one-of-a-kind retailers, students and a creative mix of residents.

Transportation:

As we imagine this future, think of having choices of how to get from point A to point B. We can leave the car at home, we can jump on the Commuter rail, we can transfer to Lymmo routes that crisscross downtown, connecting Lake Eola with Parramore, hospital with hospital and venue to venue.

I announced, last year, that the City developed the most comprehensive downtown transportation plan in our history and today, the results of that study are in.

Successful downtowns place an equal importance on people, as they do on cars. As a result of our planning, we will have a stronger focus on pedestrian places and amenities and, strengthen our city grid network for vehicles – connecting streets for easier traffic flow – reducing the time we spend in traffic.

Our residents also deserve transportation options, and the plan identifies, in partnership with Lynx, how to accomplish mass-transit for our community. The plan also calls for a network of electronic signage that will direct people to the closest available parking or away from traffic jams, or to special events – like the ones that will be held in our new community venues.

The bottom line is, in the future, whether you’re walking, driving or using transit, it will be easier to get around downtown.

Community Venues

Now, let’s stop for a minute and think about all of this…a skyline that has doubled in size; the revitalization of Parramore; enhanced transportation infrastructure; additional resources for public safety; a new “creative village” … you start to wonder how many more great announcements are possible.

But, I will tell you, we’re just getting started.

Many of you were with Mayor Crotty and me on Friday when we announced that the City and County are moving forward on the single biggest community investment ever made in this region.

To get these projects done required us to put aside the short-sighted goals of the politics of the day and move toward compromise and coalition building with our county government. Perhaps at another time this goal would not be achieved. That is not the case today and our region is the better for it.

So, I want to thank Mayor Crotty once again for making this a true partnership. I also want to thank our City Council Members and the Orange County Commissioners for their leadership throughout this process. There is much more to do … together … and I want to take a minute to recognize all of you. City and County Commissioners, could you all please stand so that we can recognize your leadership?

These kinds of projects can’t just be done by government leaders. They require the support and leadership of citizens, the business community and staff. We’ve had that support.

  • From leaders of the tourism industry that supported this vision, especially Al Weiss, Bob Gault and Rich Maledecki,
  • From community initiatives such as the EDC and Chamber’s Project Hometown led by Carmen Dominguez, Dean Kurtz and Jim Lewis,
  • From leaders of each of the venue partners, Jim Pugh of OPAC, Alex Martins of the Magic and Bill Diamond of Florida Citrus sports
  • From members of the City and County committee of four, Jay Berlinsky and Dykes Everett, Tom Drage and Ajit Lalchandani
  • From dedicated County and City staff, especially Cheryl Henry, Rebecca Sutton, Byron Brooks, Frank Billingsley, and Allen Johnson,
  • And, from all the residents, business owners, community leaders … you all should be congratulated for your many contributions.
  • I also want to recognize and thank the woman who is my inspiration … my wife, Karen.

It’s an exciting time for our region. It’s truly a Triple Crown for Downtown. Later today we will be putting-up “Future Home” signs on each of the sites of the new venues. However, there is still a lot of work ahead for us to get these projects up and out of the ground, so we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and keep moving ahead.

There has never been a project to more significantly enhance our resident’s quality of life while providing new education opportunities, unprecedented economic impact and the transformation of our region’s urban core.

So on this beautiful day in October, in beautiful downtown Orlando, I think we should all agree that we are poised for greatness and that Orlando will be a better place to live … because of our BIG Dreams.

So, let’s get excited people … we’re doing them all, we’re doing them now and we’re doing them right! LET’S CELEBRATE!

September 20, 2005

Thank you, Frank, for that excellent recap and for all of the great work you, your Board and staff deliver for downtown and the City of Orlando each and every day. I would also like to thank the Downtown Orlando Partnership for hosting this meeting, and especially our Orlando City Commissioners who share our vision for downtown.

Before I begin, I want to take a moment and reflect on our fellow American citizens along the Gulf Coast. As we see the images of the devastation in so many communities, we realize just how blessed we are to be here today, meeting in our downtown with all the growth and prosperity around us. From our experiences with Charley, Frances, and Jeanne, I know the dedication and resolve of the people in this room to restore communities. And I know that you have given selflessly to rebuild the cities of the Gulf Coast. Last Friday’s Tri-County League of Cities food drive for the Second Harvest Food Bank, was a prime example of our community’s commitment… our citizens made the most donations ever at a single site for Second Harvest with more than 75,000 pounds of food… your compassion is commendable.

As I was thinking about how best to describe the state of our downtown … something occurred to me. Each of you, as you made your way here today, experienced a part of what has become our downtown’s exciting renaissance… projects and programs that did not exist 2 years ago.

Arriving from the North on I-4, you passed the sites of the new Federal Court House Building and the new Florida AM college of Law, which will open in a few short months and serve as home to 750 law school students in the heart of our City.

Arriving from the South on I-4, you witnessed the excitement of our growing downtown skyline and the new CNL tower, which will be completed by year-end.

If you came from the East, through downtown; you may have passed one of many projects underway, including the new residential units at the Sanctuary and the Jackson, the new construction site for the 35-story VUE project … or the soon-to-break-ground Paramount project, which will include our first full-service downtown grocery store in decades.

If you came from the West, you may have seen the new Carver Park or Parramore Village residential sites, or our new Parramore Heritage Park. You probably noticed students from the inaugural class of UCF’s state-of-the-art School of Film and Digital Media.

If you simply walked here or rode the Lymmo circulator, you most likely witnessed the dramatic construction of Premier Trade Plaza rising out of the ground at our City’s cornerstone block, or perhaps, you passed 55 West… these two projects will forever change the flavor of our central core.

If you arrived from the North or South on Orange Avenue, you passed through our City Gateways, anchored by Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Healthcare. We are fortunate to have two of Florida’s largest and fastest growing medical centers downtown, and expanding under the visionary leadership of Don Jernigan and John Hillenmeyer.

Florida Hospital will begin construction on October 25th, on a new fifteen-floor 660,000 square foot building that is twice the size of the existing hospital tower. And next Spring, Orlando Regional will open their new 400,000 square foot Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.

I think all of us here today agree that in just a few short years, and in many cases just during the past year, our downtown has truly turned around … and we’re not done yet. Just today, a new residential project, Thornton Commons, went before the Municipal Planning Board. When City Council approves the board action, this development will include 510 residential condominiums, approximately 37,000 square feet of retail space, and over 1,000 parking spaces. On the corner of Eola Drive and Church Streets, is a proposed 12-story multi-family residential property with 133 apartment units and ground floor retail and parking components. And in October, the Monarch at the northeast corner of Liberty and South Street, will go before the MPB for approval on a 23-story condominium project with ground floor retail space and parking. HOW ABOUT THAT!

Since I became Mayor I have shared my vision for our downtown … in fact, I’ve shared it so many times most of you should be able to recite it by now. Let me see … who here today can recite my vision? How about Kimbra Hennessey? (“Your vision is for a Center City with multi-modal transportation, world-class destinations and venues, vibrant neighborhoods, a diversified economy with high-quality, high-wage jobs… an urban core where citizens and visitors alike, want to live, work, play and learn.”) That’s right! And ladies and gentlemen, with the commitment from every stakeholder in this room, we are turning that vision into action!

With all the new development and a rapidly growing urban population, improved transportation will be critical to our downtown’s success. That is why I created the City’s first cabinet level Transportation Department, which recently launched the most comprehensive downtown transportation plan in the City’s history. Upon completion, the plan will show that improving transportation in our City’s core benefits not only those living here, but also visitors to our downtown.

The keystone of our transportation system is transit circulators... like the Lymmo. Joanie Schirm leads our new “Get Around Team” that is advocating transit circulators to link all parts of our downtown: from Florida Hospital in the North to Orlando Regional Hospital in the South; from the Citrus Bowl in the West to Thornton Park in the East. This effort will allow our citizens to access areas downtown quickly and safely… without ever using a car.

Our transportation systems extend beyond the City limits. Thanks to our Congressional Delegation, and specifically Congressman Mica, we have secured the federal funding share to begin commuter rail in 2009. Commuter rail can reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and you know what? Even if you you’re not a frequent rider, commuter rail will finally rid the frustration associated with regular freight train interruptions.

As I stood before you last year, I said that if we are to succeed, we must bridge our core with Thornton Park on the east and Parramore on the West … and we are building that bridge with our bold Pathways for Parramore initiative. Working hand-in-hand with Commissioner Lynum, we are getting it done. Building off the recommendations of our Parramore Task Force, which was lead by Brian Butler, we are unveiling for the first time a vision plan for this important part of our City.

This plan directs block-by-block development, ensuring mixed-use development similar to City View and Hughes Supply in the area east of Parramore Avenue, a largely undeveloped commercial area. The “Town Center” in Parramore will include a mixture of office, residential and retail development, and we will work to ensure business opportunities that reflects the diversity of our community.

The key to the vision plan is our first pathway … housing. Already, we have three projects that will deliver on our commitment to provide affordable quality housing. Carver Park, Parramore Village, and Federal Otey Place will bring approximately 330 new units of housing to Parramore . . . increasing not just homeowners . . . but stakeholders . . . the foundation of any healthy neighborhood. And we will not stop there. I’ve directed staff to identify programs to assist existing Parramore residents with home ownership opportunities in both Parramore Village and Federal Otey Place.

We are also focused on enhancing the quality of life within the Parramore neighborhood. I want to thank Congresswoman Corrine Brown and Senator Bill Nelson for their efforts to secure $17 million in federal funding for the City to completely transform West Church Street from Terry Avenue, past the new Parramore Heritage Park, to the Citrus Bowl. This comprehensive revitalization will return Church Street to a grand boulevard connecting Parramore and Downtown.

You heard my educational priorities many times before… especially for the children of Parramore. What you may not have heard is that I’ve asked a group of our partners, led by Florida Hospital’s Rich Morrison, to plan for a new children’s education campus that will combine the Nap Ford School, a Boy’s and Girl’s Club, and the Orange County Early Learning Coalition. This campus will serve children from infancy through eighth grade, and will offer after school services for children through 12th grade. This is an important commitment and it is one of the most significant investments we can make!

I want to shift gears… I want to return to a conversation that I started last year about upgrading the cultural, sporting and entertainment facilities that serve our entire region. Their improvement will require long-term commitment from the City of Orlando, Orange County, and our many regional partners.

I want to improve the community venues because doing so is directly tied to the region's ability to thrive. We are in competition with other cities and other regions throughout the country for jobs, commercial investment, and economic development. Modern facilities and rich cultural opportunities attract positive growth in Central Florida. I want to make sure that the next time a company like Scripps short-lists Orlando; we have the world-class facilities that ensure our place at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, Orlando now lags behind other southeastern cities including Memphis, Charlotte, Nashville, Tampa, and even Jacksonville. In fact, over the last 15 years, Orlando is the only major City in the southeastern United States that hasn't invested in or modernized community facilities. Our citizens deserve better.

Think about it, many of our fondest memories are centered around activities and events that happen at ball parks, at concert halls and in stadiums. They are the icons of civic identity and pride … Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Denver’s Mile High Stadium and New York’s Lincoln Center all help define the soul of their cities. No matter where you’re from, Orlando is your home and we deserve to build new memories with our children, friends and family in facilities we can be proud of. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s our turn.

A year ago, at this very event, we started the discussion of the need to invest in community facilities, including our aging Florida Citrus Bowl, TD Waterhouse Centre, and a new Performing Arts Center. Last Friday, our hard work and efforts delivered news that will bring our vision to fruition.

Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty confirmed to me in writing that he supports using the tourist development tax to fund community projects for the most deserving population … the people that live here!

In seeking the funding for the quality community facilities, we all realize the answer lies in supporting a vision that does not short-change our citizens. I applaud Mayor Crotty for his willingness to push for the level of resources for our downtown facilities that we dedicated to our mission to build a world-class convention center that is key in supporting our tourism industry. And, let me be extremely clear, we support our hospitality industry partners and will include them in any tourist tax and community facility discussions.

We have made great strides in the decades old plan for a new world-class Performing Arts Center. Just last year, I announced the formation of the Orlando Performing Arts Center Board of Directors chaired by Jim Pugh and comprised of key community leaders, including Dick Nunis and Jim Seneff, to create the framework for this much needed facility. On September 1st, they reached a major milestone by selecting Houston-based developer Hines to define a plan for submittal to Dr. Hitt, Mayor Crotty and me in early 2006.

With an economic impact of more than $42 million from the 2005 Capital One Bowl game alone and as host of the largest Black College Football Classic in the Country, Florida Citrus Sports has harnessed a group of community stakeholders chaired by Ford Kiene and Harvey Massey to recommend upgrades needed to increase the number and quality of Citrus Bowl events. Our downtown stadium’s benefits reach well beyond our downtown businesses … the events impact all of our partners including our theme parks, our arts and our hospitality industry. Citrus Bowl events have become a model of how joint commitment results in joint benefit.

Citizens have also begun to realize that our hometown arena should offer more. While our facility is booked for 152 events this year, including Arena Football, religious convocations, graduations, concerts, not to mention 45 Magic home games, Orlando is being passed over for newer facilities; forcing our citizens to drive to Tampa, Melbourne and beyond for quality entertainment.

Since the beginning of this discussion, I’ve been overwhelmed by the ground swell of support from groups and individuals in our community that care about our future. For the first time, business, government, community and private groups are in dialogue about bringing a vision for multiple world-class facilities to reality. We must harness and coordinate this energy and enthusiasm so that plans for each facility compliment rather than compete with one another.

To that end, I have asked Mayor Bill Frederick to assist me in encouraging the critical stakeholders to work together toward a unified facilities vision.

We cannot afford to shy away from making this investment. Ask our Economic Development partners like Jacob Stuart Ray Gilley and they will tell you that these facilities are critical to attracting the high-wage jobs that we need to provide opportunities for our citizens and grow our economy. I believe the timing is right … by investing in these facilities; we are investing in our economy, in our people and in our future.

One of our best opportunities to define that future and diversify our economy is our 70-acre Centroplex. In the past few months our aging and under-utilized Expo Centre has been transformed to a new home for the UCF School of Film and Digital Media as well as the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, which will soon grow to a hot bed of activity, and home to over 3,000 students.

The new downtown UCF facility is just the start . . . Dr. John Hitt and University staff have become valuable and dedicated partners in diversifying our economy and growing high-wage high-value jobs, and I thank Dr. Hitt for his friendship and vision. We are already hearing from Digital Media firms that are interested in locating close to the UCF facility. Imagine the Centroplex transformed into an urban creative village comprised with a mixture of residential, retail, office and education uses. Well, we’re making it happen!

For the past six months staff has been working on a thorough analysis to develop an RFQ to transform the Centroplex into a district attractive to high-tech and Digital Media firms and support services. In the coming decades, Orlando will be known worldwide for its Digital Media Village.

Orlando is a City with a great downtown. However, Orlando can be a city with a spectacular downtown . . . Central Floridians throughout the Region all gain when downtown is flourishing. Time and time again, studies show that a prosperous downtown influences property values in neighborhoods throughout the City and beyond. Our downtown serves as the central neighborhood for the entire region and defines us as a community and it’s where we come together for culture, entertainment, business, government services and more.

My goal is to create a downtown that is one of the best in America, one that is the envy of other cities. One that appeals to citizens and visitors alike. I could not be more optimistic about our future.

In closing, I want to again thank our City Council members who have embraced much of what we have done and have always been there to move our City forward. Now, I challenge each and every one of you to think BOLD, think BIG and remember our vision, as we continue building opportunities for our citizens and future generations.

This is your City! This is your Downtown!

It’s our turn!

October 27, 2004

On August 31, 2003, the Orlando Sentinel reported and I quote, “Homeless people, termites and rats the size of small dogs have taken over downtown Orlando’s most coveted piece of real estate.

Heralded by Mayor Buddy Dyer as the “keystone block”… the buildings are the city’s latest code enforcement nightmare. The block along Orange Avenue between Pine and Church Streets has sat mostly vacant for more than a decade while plan after plan for high-rises, a movie theater, shops and restaurants have fallen by the wayside. The city’s most recent hope of attracting a movie theater to the block appears to have collapsed” End quote.

Less than 14 months after that story was written we will break ground tonight on a construction project with high-rises, a movie theater, shops and restaurants and we will do so on our “cornerstone block” on Orange between Pine and Church streets. And I can promise you there will be few termites and all of you can decide if there are any rats in attendance at tonight’s event.

As Frank {Billingsley, Executive Director of the Downtown Development Board} has illuminated in his presentation, what a difference eighteen months can make. For those of you who attended this luncheon, not last year, but two years ago, stop and ask yourself if you really envisioned the rebirth and rebound of our downtown as it ebbs and flows with construction traffic and cranes.

As I sought this office for the first time 18 months ago I talked about transformational change vs. incremental change. I asked all of you to imagine a great city with a downtown that has restaurants and retail, a vibrant performing arts center, and professional sports drawing in citizens from not just our city or Orange County, but throughout the entire Central Florida region.

For the first time, as Frank has pointed out, people want to work and live in downtown Orlando and that, as all of you know, is the first step to ensuring the future of any downtown.

Simply look out your windows and you will see the progress we have made in our journey to build the great city I have asked you to imagine.

We have accomplished much, but we have much yet to do. Frank Billingsley has done a great job of telling you what we have done, now I would like to tell you what else we need to do.

And in the process let me just take a minute to say thank you to our city council members who have embraced much of what we have done and have always been there to move our agenda forward these last eighteen months.

We have had great success, in helping along the rebirth of our downtown core. Tonight we celebrate the ground breaking of the Plaza project, which is not only a tremendous success on its own, but is a symbol for what we have managed to do in our downtown.

We need to remember that while 2% of the city’s total land area is considered to be downtown, 14% of the city’s assessed value is downtown and 24% of our city’s employment is downtown.

Focusing our development efforts downtown will help control sprawl as we concentrate development right here in our core where people can walk to work rather than drive. One of best ways to control growth is to increase urban density. Density is an essential economic tool and an essential quality of life factor for people interested in living in an urban core.

Orlando has taken on the positive characteristics that most great cities have. Positive surprises and spontaneous encounters with people. Interesting architecture, arts, culture, shopping and dining.

Great cities in the 21st Century know they must develop partnerships with great Universities in order to develop the high wage economy of the mind that every city now covets. Our relationship with the University of Central Florida has never been better. President Hitt recently used the phrase University of Central Florida Downtown Campus and I can tell you that we at the City of Orlando intend to do everything we can to make that phrase a reality in the coming years.

One example of that new cooperative spirit came just a few weeks ago when we announced the formation of the Orlando Performing Arts Planning Board made up of 25 people from our community with the charge of designing a performing arts center that will include the University of Central Florida’s Arts programs on the performing arts site. UCF President Hitt, Chairman Crotty and I will sit as ex-officio members of the group. Jim Seneff of CNL and Dick Nunis who now is the Chairman of the UCF Foundation are serving as Vice Chairs and Jim Pugh, President of Epoch Properties, will serve as the Chairman. In the past, these efforts have been led by UCF or the Mayor. This group truly represents a collegial effort by the entire community, including UCF, to pull together to get this project out of the ground within the next four years.

Earlier, I used the term ‘Transformational Change.’ Let me elaborate. The times that we live in are evolving daily. The pace that we receive and use information is faster than ever. Your expectations for our City are high, but not higher than mine. When I came into office, I found opportunities to use our healthy real estate market to the City’s advantage. In fact, the City’s own real estate holdings were a valuable asset.

On the north parking lot of City Hall, a new tower is emerging for the expansion of CNL, one of our largest downtown employers. The 55 West project mentioned earlier, will rise from the site of the City’s Pine Street garage. The recently approved UCF Film and Digital Media School will be located in this Expo Center. This past Monday, our City Council approved the selection of Lincoln Property and Dynetech Corporation’s proposal to redevelop the City’s parking lot #2 on Washington St. and Magnolia Avenue.

All four of these projects conceptualized during the past 18 months reflect our aggressive style of pushing forward on an agenda to make our downtown the most livable in America.

Future projects may rise from other City properties. As we are ready to christen the new Lynx Headquarters and hub, we have an ideal opportunity to redevelop the current Lynx location.

The City owned parking lot on West Washington Street, currently under design, is being evaluated for potential expansion and to serve as our next development site in our city center.

Using our own assets to grow our City has been a wonderful choice in our toolbox of change in the downtown. But as we grow, we are still left with some of the goals of the Downtown Development Board unmet. For instance, a full-service grocery store is one of the last pieces of the puzzle in making downtown the 24-hour City we all envision.

I am pleased to announce to you that we have reached tentative agreement with a development group to build the first Publix in our core in decades. This unique project will rise on the south side of Lake Eola and will include a residential condominium above the 29,000 square foot store.

But the measure of our success will not come in just the rebirth of our core. That was yesterday’s measuring stick. Tomorrow brings a barometer of success with far greater challenges than we have faced these past 18 months.

If we are to succeed as a downtown, we must demonstrate our ability to bridge our core downtown with Thornton Park on the east side and Parramore on the west side. To those who have cautioned us that quote “jumping I-4 will be difficult” in our redevelopment efforts, let me say that all of our efforts in building our city will be an abject failure if we are unable to include the Parramore neighborhood in the rebirth of our downtown core.

Working with Commissioner Lynum, it is my hope that I will stand before you next year and will tell you that we have started new housing in Parramore, new restaurants and retail are planned for Parramore and that we are beginning to blend our neighborhoods with new and innovative transportation modes.

On November 11th, work will commence on the Parramore Park Pond project. Two new code enforcement officers have been assigned just to Parramore and in the coming weeks we will announce a new Parramore initiative aimed at the eradication of drugs and prostitution. We are permanently focused on making Parramore a livable neighborhood that is second to none in our city for its residents.

And within the confines and parameters of Parramore and to the west are the sporting venues that are identifiable with our city. These venues have served us well for many years but now are in need of replacement or renovation.

This year not withstanding, I take Coach O’Leary at his word when he says that his goal is to build a top-20 football program at the University of Central Florida and they will need a top twenty facility to play in.

It is clear that we must find, build or renovate the existing home for our anchor tenant at the Orlando Arena, the Orlando Magic.

The present Arena configuration does not lend itself to producing the revenues they need to survive as a franchise. But more importantly, we need to focus our efforts and design a community around the Arena that will support not only those who drive in for concerts and games, but the students who will attend the new University of Central Florida Film and Digital Media School to be located here at the Centroplex. We need to do all of this with sensitivity and involvement by those neighbors who live around the Arena.

This year, the Super Bowl will be held in Jacksonville. Jacksonville!

Here we are with more hotel rooms than any city other than Las Vegas and Jacksonville is hosting a Super Bowl and for one simple reason…they have a stadium that is acceptable to the NFL.

The Citrus Bowl can be an incredible economic engine for our city and the neighborhood surrounding that area, but it desperately needs not a band-aid solution to mollify a bowl game or series but a complete makeover of the facility. Yes cosmetic changes are important, but if we are to succeed in making the Citrus Bowl a destination for championship bowls and professional sports we need to accept the fact that the Citrus Bowl is in need of an overhaul.

Now, the bad news -- that overhaul will cost us about $150 million dollars and today I cannot tell you where the City or the County will find $150 million dollars. But the good news is that if we are able to develop a funding formula, the Citrus Bowl, when we are done, will be one of the pre-eminent facilities for football and soccer and certainly an adequate facility for baseball. The city of Philadelphia spent $400 million just for their football facility. The city of Chicago spent almost $600 million to revitalize Soldiers Field. Renovating the Citrus Bowl is a bargain by stadium standards.

And when we renovate the Citrus Bowl it will be an economic success for one very important reason.

We will improve the neighborhoods around the Citrus Bowl at the same time.

Do not think for a minute that we will ever have a first class sports facility sitting near Orange Blossom Trail if we allow the acronym OBT to continue to be synonymous with drugs and prostitution. We need to be prepared to roll up our sleeves and go to work building not just a sports stadium but a vibrant neighborhood that has many of the characteristics we are trying to build right here in downtown.

Stop and imagine, for just one minute, a first-class sports facility that can host future world cup soccer matches, major, professional or college football events, and, yes, perhaps a weekend or two of major league baseball, and host a AAA baseball team in the summer. And that facility would be connected by the Church Street Trolley running from downtown to Thornton Park.

Sound hard to believe? In a recent news article written by G. Scott Thomas of the American City Business Journal, Orlando was rated as having twice the economic capacity needed for an NFL franchise or a National Hockey League team. And we had the highest rating of any market not already in Major League Baseball, though our income base, Mr. Thomas points out, is 7 percent short of that sports requirement.

Out of 172 markets analyzed for new sports teams Orlando was ranked third overall behind Los Angeles and Philadelphia and ahead of Houston, Portland and Las Vegas.

Many here today will say it can’t be done. There will always be one side of town pitted against another…the haves and the have-nots.

To those of you who share these views, I remind you of the poets words and I say, “Happy are those who dream dreams and have the courage to make them come true.”

My dream is for a city and her neighborhoods connected by a thriving core.

Fourteen months ago and indeed, just a few weeks ago, some of you thought that we would never see the Plaza on Orange rise out of the ground. Tonight we will make that dream a reality. Tomorrow, with your help, we make the dreams I have talked about today a reality, making next year’s lunch an even grander celebration of what we have accomplished together!