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Xander

A Different Thinking In Downtown Development

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I've always been proud of how far downtown Orlando has come in development, but this continual increase of clubs and bars in the Central Business District has got to be capped and then gradually decreased. If downtown wants to see a bigger mix of culture, it's just got to change. I really hope Mayor Dyer is paying attention to the increase of crime here. I've been here in downtown for three years now, and I can say this from experience- violent crimes from fights in bars will not be getting better unless downtown stops hosting a majority of bars. 
If there's at least any positive signs, some owners are moving to other locations. There have been many new businesses in the area that have moved in, but a lot of them don't seem to last. I don't think a lot of new restaurants want to be known for having a crowd of drunken patrons who are loud, disruptive, and at times, violent. Really starting to bother me. I know it's been this way in downtown for a very long time, but it's just not how we should start off the new era of Orlando. We have SunRail moving in, new residential towers and complexes developing, in places that have sat vacant for decades, and the Lymmo circulator being expanded. Downtown is set to have the highest number of residents EVER and vacancy rates are at all-time lows. 

It's embarassing to walk to an amazing event like the projection event at the Kress building right in front of the plaza, see the mayor there with lots of interested people dressed in business casual attire, FINALLY see some older adults peeking their heads out to check out unique shows like this, only to have a drunken frat boy run through the middle of everyone, screaming "THAT'S F---IN COOL, BRO! WOOOOO!"

I see a lot of positive changes, but I also see a lot of the same mistakes going on. I really wish there was a more defined area of clubs and bars in downtown instead of seemingly the majority being a place for people to get drunk. I think that's really what we need instead of seeing it creep further north of Washington Street like it's starting to do. Just my thoughts.

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Xander, you're of course absolutely right. I've been beating this drum for a while (it tends to be mostly those of us who live downtown who recognize this is a problem.) One can see this as either a market failure or an environmental problem, not to mention a simple lack of political interest (Buddy, God love him, only likes to think BIG and this is a problem likely to be solved incrementally - not to mention his head is in Tallahassee at the moment, not on Church St.; our City Commissioner, Patty Sheehan, lives in the Colonialtown suburbs and also doesn't seem to care much these days) - in both cases, I think we are seeing the results of burnout in their current positions. Let me say I have been supporters of both, but since Publix opened City Hall has been oblivious to our downtown retail problem - if they can't fix it, let's find someone who can.)

 

First, there was the bar explosion. With a lot of falling down buildings, cheap rent because no one wanted to move in, overpriced drinks at CSS and the potential for a funky vibe, a lot of entrepreneurial sorts brought in interesting bars and, before you knew it, that's what downtown was known far. The problem is, for a lot of people, that's ALL it's known for. Now, all those drinkers apparently need smokes, and now 7-Elevens are proliferating. In the environment, this is quite similar to the problems with kudzu, hydrilla and pythons. Non- native species invade and begin to destroy the natural habitat.

 

The market failure comes from the timidity of the retail industry. We know all about this. These are the same people who swore that Orlando could never support upscale retail because, from their Manhattan perches, all Orlando existed for was for mom, pop and the kids to stay at Motel 6 and go to Disney World. Mostly by happenstance, some survivors of Ivey's and BATUS Retail migrated over to Saks and managed to convince them they were missing the boat on the changes in tourism here (international, convention, etc.) Also, they knew about the folks in Dr Phillips who were rapidly making Orange County one of the top 50 counties for millionaires in the US. Even as Millenia was underway, retail "expert" Britt Beemer was insisting Orlando was nothing but a Walmart & Target town. Of course, recently praha posted a link to an article noting that Millenia has one of the higest sales/square foot of any mall. So much for waiting for the market "experts."

 

Let's be clear - I'm not proposing a Nordstrom downtown tomorrow. What I do want is for us to follow the path of any developing area. Four Corners started out with a retail problem also. It took a while, but first you get the grocery store and then the free-standing Walgreens or CVS, then the small shopping center with the barber/beauty/hardware sotre and, lo and behold, before you know it, it's time for a Belk's (no, I don't love Belk, but ANYTHING is progress at this point.) What did not happen was to fill the roadside with a couple of hundred bars and a plethora of 7-Elevens.

 

Buddy was elected as the Savior of Downtown with incentives to bring the grocery and (bonus!) the movie theater downtown (did I mention both have been more successful than expected?). And then it stopped.

Even as the population of downtown has swelled to well beyond what we had in the 50's, 60's and even the 80's when there were department stores(!) still downtown, not a single chain retailer (or any outfit of any size) has seen fit to begin the process of an upward retail spiral familiar to any developing area. When the market refuses to act, it's time for government to figure out the incentives and policies necessary to change that. 

 

Some market purists (the same ones who keep saying austerity is the way out of our troubles in our global macroeconomy despite all evidence to the contrary) say we have to keep waiting. The problem? The longer we wait, the more the attitude that downtown is only for college kids and a few hipsters takes hold and the remainder look elsewhere. There is a local Ace owner who can sell hammers and picture frame nails to all the young folks living in the apartments and condos (not to mention can openers and blenders if they want to use the Miller's model), there's Orange Cycle that could open a branch downtown for all of us riding bikes on the new trail, there's Don Sexton, longtime scion of Park Avenue, who could  open a store to sell Duck Heads, underwear and other moderately-priced clothing (not to mention Bealls, another Florida-based chain.) As dicussed before, the city could determine a "retail district" in the empty space along I4 or, if that's cost prohibitive, then in Midtown/Uptown/North Quarter/Whatever, and incentivize actual retail experts like Simon to do something downtown (heck, Simon even managed to get H&M into a dying mall in Sanford - that's the ability of the powers that be in retail.) But someone at City Hall has to start the process or downtown will have a seedy reputation that stops further growth in its tracks. I already know people who have crossed downtown off their list for just that reason. 

Edited by spenser1058

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Boy, you two sound like my grandma. (I kid, I kid.)

 

My bar hopping days are long since over. So for me, there's not a lot of reason to venture to the downtown core after dark besides the movies and few restaurants (like Patty Sheehan, I live waaaaaay out in the Colonialtown 'burbs :rolleyes: ). It can indeed be a deterrent to getting different types of folks downtown after dark.

 

It's the worst problem to have, though. No bars at all would mean no one downtown after dark (much like downtown Tampa).

 

I like the idea of finding affordable spaces for retail. I agree that when retail moves in the bar scene (and the restaurant scene, which keeps growing like kudzu. How do any of them succeed?) will be diluted, and for the better.

 

I know people on the board are griping about the latest 7-11, but I personally welcome the chain presence in the downtown core.

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The market purists aren't the problem - they are academics who are not in the business of opening retail any more than you or I seemingly are when we post on this board.

 

So putting them aside - why isn't the CVS, Ace Hardware, or Orange Cycle opening up downtown?  I don't think hipsters and bars are to blame. 

 

I have to side with the market on this one.  I am encouraged that we are seeing national brands starting to move in downtown, especially on Church Street and that some of the more...whimsical....bars are going away to make room for more reserved entertainment options that don't infringe on people there for other purposes.

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Actually it's not just the academics, it's often just getting out of a comfort zone. With CVS it may well be a matter of someone hundreds of miles away not having accurate information (again, it took someone with local focus to finally get the upscale retail into town.) As for the others you mentioned, I am aware anecdotally that some of the local owners have drunk the margarita-flavored KoolAid about downtown just being a bunch of drunken college kids, even though we know that's not the case. The problem is that Buddy has place a political type in charge of the DDB instead of  finding someone who can actually relate to retailers. We need someone aggressively selling downtown and working with planners to develop effective incentives to attract the retail trade and, as of today, we don't have that. Retail is a herd industry and we're doing nothing to lead the herd at the moment to Orange Avenue. This is not a problem unique to Orlando, of course, it's a problem for most of the Sun Belt Cities. As many have mentioned here, though, Orlando has made enough progress with its downtown that we could move forward with the right type of retail leadership. As of today, we don't have that, and delay could be deadly to the core.

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I somewhat agree. But downtown has never had a squeaky clean image to begin with and from what I understand, the Lake Eola area was a drug & prostitute haven back in the day. So while a few bad apples seem to ruin everything, I classify that small group of troublemakers as the outliers. I chose Downtown Orlando because of it's "grunginess" otherwise I might as well just pack up and move to Winter Park if I wanted to be surrounded by "olde money" or people dressed in suits. WP's image is just too pristine and bland for me... I think dt Orlando has the potential to become a mix of old & new, seedy & classy, etc. We're still growing and our identity is still forming. But you're right, that's not to say that we shouldn't keep problem establishments in check.

 

"kudzu, hydrilla and pythons..." <- LOL. The majority of our species of kudzu, hydrilla, and pythons don't take root & begin to recede when the clock strikes 2AM.

 

And please no Ace Hardware - I think a lot of their items are lower than average quality with a high mark up. Ace isn't even on my radar anymore. I'd rather make the 15 minute drive to Millennia or E Colonial Home Depot if I need something. Who knows, maybe Home Depot will look into introducing smaller neighborhood hardware stores in the future. Just anything but Ace.

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I somewhat agree. But downtown has never had a squeaky clean image to begin with and from what I understand, the Lake Eola area was a drug & prostitute haven back in the day. So while a few bad apples seem to ruin everything, I classify that small group of troublemakers as the outliers. I chose Downtown Orlando because of it's "grunginess" otherwise I might as well just pack up and move to Winter Park if I wanted to be surrounded by "olde money" or people dressed in suits. WP's image is just too pristine and bland for me... I think dt Orlando has the potential to become a mix of old & new, seedy & classy, etc. We're still growing and our identity is still forming. But you're right, that's not to say that we shouldn't keep problem establishments in check.

 

"kudzu, hydrilla and pythons..." <- LOL. The majority of our species of kudzu, hydrilla, and pythons don't take root & begin to recede when the clock strikes 2AM.

 

And please no Ace Hardware - I think a lot of their items are lower than average quality with a high mark up. Ace isn't even on my radar anymore. I'd rather make the 15 minute drive to Millennia or E Colonial Home Depot if I need something. Who knows, maybe Home Depot will look into introducing smaller neighborhood hardware stores in the future. Just anything but Ace.

 

 

I agree that I have never wanted downtown to be a faux Winter Park. But, just as Nashville has Lower Broadway which is authentic honkytonk and Printers' Alley which steps it up a bit for the conventioneers, I see downtown as being the one place in the region that covers ALL the bases. We've stalled at one extreme and it's time to move back in the other direction, imho. With all the bars along Orange, Church, Pine, Central and Wall St. Plaza, there is no danger of not having enough party options (although the grownups mostly have to migrate to TP, but that's OK, too.) We also have plenty of restaurants, churches, a great library and the venues. Not to mention all sorts of employers. The only thing totally conspicuous by its absence is retail. Once it's covered, we're pretty much all-purpose. 

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And let's not forget that up until the late 90s, retail and bar culture existed harmoniously in downtown Orlando.  In a time when downtown retail was completely out of fashion and virtually non-existent in most American downtowns, Orlando had an impressive list of retailers lined up at Church Street Market / Station. 

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And let's not forget that up until the late 90s, retail and bar culture existed harmoniously in downtown Orlando.  In a time when downtown retail was completely out of fashion and virtually non-existent in most American downtowns, Orlando had an impressive list of retailers lined up at Church Street Market / Station. 

 

That's exactly right and I think there's a whole generation of folks that simply cannot imagine that we know downtown can support retail because we've seen it. And it's not just ancient history: it's MONDAY night and i just walked over to Publix to pick up a prescription. The store was jammed - not just the deli (which has pretty much been busy since day one) but the grocery aisles, the registers, and don't get me started on the poor folks at the pharmacy (which only makes sense given all the highrise senior towers, but it took a while for them to change their habits.) At virtually every restaurant I passed along the way, the outside tables were full and traffic along Central and Eola was still busy beyond the time the pod-dwellers leave to head for the 'burbs. Folks, we have seen the future and it works but, when it comes to the final piece of the puzzle, we're still Waiting For Godot. And there's no good reason why - WE WANT TO SPEND MONEY downtown if you'll just let us. And we're a loyal bunch - as much as I loathe Walmart, open one downtown and I'll shop there. In that, I'm not alone.

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Boy, you two sound like my grandma. (I kid, I kid.)

 

My bar hopping days are long since over. So for me, there's not a lot of reason to venture to the downtown core after dark besides the movies and few restaurants (like Patty Sheehan, I live waaaaaay out in the Colonialtown 'burbs :rolleyes: ). It can indeed be a deterrent to getting different types of folks downtown after dark.

 

It's the worst problem to have, though. No bars at all would mean no one downtown after dark (much like downtown Tampa).

 

I like the idea of finding affordable spaces for retail. I agree that when retail moves in the bar scene (and the restaurant scene, which keeps growing like kudzu. How do any of them succeed?) will be diluted, and for the better.

 

I know people on the board are griping about the latest 7-11, but I personally welcome the chain presence in the downtown core.

Well, i'm definitely not suggesting to not have any bars at all. I believe you should be able to drink, get drunk, meet strangers, or have a few drinks with co-workers after your shift, watch some sports and go home. I just think that there are too many places to do it in downtown, and its become a vast majority of what exists down there. 

  Regarding there being a retail district, I think that's an absolutely needed idea, and I know i'm not the only one who feels that way. It is beyond me how the downtown area has next to nowhere to shop. It bugs me to no end. I have believed for a while now that the land adjacent to the courthouse was the most crucial piece of land in all of downtown to help change that, and if Central Station isn't designed with a ground floor consisting of retail space, i'm afraid this won't change for a very long time, so I hope the plans for this project call for a strong commitment to filling those floors with retail outlets. 

  I was at least encouraged to know that GDC Properties, which is building NORA Apartments in Uptown, seems to have their heads on straight and aware that in order for retail to be successful, there has to be a strong resident base to meet the demand, and specifically referenced Camden failing with their retail when they built at 50 and Orange. Within the next 2 years, Uptown alone will have approximately 888 new apartments and 20,000 square feet of new retail. I think it's definitely potential for things to start changing in a different direction. 

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Let the bars proliferate. The market will sort out what sort of retail we get. It may not be fast but it will happen.

 

We can support two types of retail, destination and cursory. We do not have the bodies to support basic services beyond what we have. 

 

Walgreens and CVS have locals guys that have looked at different sites. But they don't see demand to support a new store. They like the CBD during the week and Eola on the weekends. 

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