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spenser1058

Branding Orlando

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This will be a tad wonkish for some - please feel free to ignore the thread if you're not into the more theoretical side of urban development.

Richard Florida has posted an interesting column on The Atlantic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2011/02/grammys-big-city-winner/71341/

It notes that Nashville (among others) has moved to the head of the pack in the music business during the last couple of decades, eclipsing major cities like LA and NYC on a per capita basis.

The tie to Orlando that interested me is that I lived in Nashville back in the early 80's when the debate was raging as to whether Nashville should embrace its music business (at the time, although the rest of the world knew it as "Music City," the old guard and Chamber officials still insisted on referring to the city as "The Athens of the South" and pretty much ignored the country music business whenever possible.)

In Nashville, the ultimate decision was to embrace "Music City," but not just country - ALL forms of music. If it had to do with the music business, it was welcome, even going so far as making sure the city's symphony had a first-class auditorium and all the support it might need. (What many didn't realize when the move first started was that many of the studio musicians who worked on country projects during the day, let loose and got into all sorts of styles in the bars after dark, so it was quite easy to diversify.)

The kicker, though, was that in trying to move forward, they used Orlando as the prime example of a city that embraced what it was known for (Disney - at that point, just one park and no Universal) and did whatever was necessary to embrace its #1 industry, tourism. Ironically, Nashville had (and, so far as I know), still has a much more diversified economy than we do (including - egad! - manufacturing).

Anyway, here we are, 30 years later, and what a success story for Middle Tennessee.

Meanwhile, we see a similar debate going on locally with Teresa representing the soutwest quadrant of the area vs. the downtown crowd, most notably in the battle going on over DPAC. Although that's the one making the headlines, it's a dichotomy that has existed for years (it can also be seen to the east as it was after Dick Nunis took over the UCF Board of Trustees that decisions were made to centralize all university functions (including the football stadium and arts programs) on campus and to withdraw from integration with the rest of the community; Dick's background, of course was as a former President of WDW.)

That leads me to the question - are we making all the decisions we should be in Orlando to support the brand? As people interested in Orlando's success, do we even know what the brand is? Does the city's leadership embrace the brand and do what's necessary to support it? If we don't have something that we're known for and virtually own that quality, are we just another nameless city? (Nashville, after all, before all this got under way, was indistinguishable to most from Memphis, Birmingham, Louisville and a slough of other second-tier Southern cities). If we do, is it still Disney, theme parks, or are things like biotech now on the radar screen of the outside world?

I'd love to hear your thoughts as I undertake a dialogue with some local elected folks who want to know where Orlando goes from here, as tourism moves from its high-growth phase into a "cash cow" period (it has been suggested that most theme park growth in the future will take place internationally rather than in the US).

One note of caution: like most UP folks, yes, I'd love for all the community's activities to be headquartered in the core city (can you imagine if UCF had been placed in Parramore as an urban institution like UAB and the community had voted in 1978 to put the convention center next to the old arena?), but we must keep in mind that our major employment centers, schools, convention facilities, etc., are already spread around the community. That is something that can't be undone at this point so what do we do, given the facts on the ground, to tie things back together to make us marketable to the outside world?

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Well, I think you need to first try and figure out if Orlando is about tourism, entertainment, or creativity. Or in fact Are you all about a couple of big theme park companies? Of course that then brings in the whole question about are you selling Orlando, or are you selling Central Florida? I understand where you are going with this, but I think you need to realize you are not selling an image but a culture and economy. Orlando is not successful because it is based on tourism, but rather its success is overshadowed by tourism.

In Nashville's case they created tourism by selling itself as a music center. Orlando area already has the tourism - it doesn't need to sell that. What Orlando needs to sell is its lifestyle and creativity. But who exactly are you selling to/ And what are you selling in the first place? Are you trying to build business? Get more people to relocate? Improve rankings in places to live? Or expand tourism?

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Orlando, The City Beautiful

I think that we should become more artsy and make a push for film-making. Yet with the way DPAC is going and the lack of a renowned art museum, no disrespect to OMA, Orlando is an after-thought of a city when one thinks of this place as the home of Disney and the Orlando Magic.

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The City Beautiful has plenty of potential - and really hasn't ever been pushed.

That said - if you wanted to copy Nashville, "The Magical City" would work - paying homage to both the theme park industry and our NBA team and can really be applied to anything in the city limits as well as outside.

The Parthenon in Nashville is pretty cool.

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I agree with cloudship. Orlando is in a very transitional phase at the moment. Will it successfully become a serious medical hub or a hotbed of tech jobs? Will UCF continue its explosive growth and broaden its reach? Will tourism continue its grip on the region or slowly fall to the wayside? It really is hard to say which aspect will be the most prominent in 10, 15, 20 years. Do the city's leaders want people to continue to see the area as a fun vacation spot or would they rather lead a city that business leaders want to be a part of?

I believe the area is taking the proper first steps with the Medical City and the Creative Village. Orlando's future should be that of a city that fosters high paying tech and medical jobs. I have felt for a while now that the powers that be are wanting to create more of a separation between the city and Disney and I think they should. Orlando, in my opinion, isn't taken as serious as it should, and being under the mouse's shadow is a big factor in that.

As far as branding Orlando as an artistic city.....there is a lot that needs to be done on that front. There is potential, it just needs to be tapped. First, the city really needs to commission much more sculptures, murals, and just generally funky little spots for the public to enjoy. The more people are immersed with art on a daily basis the more they come to appreciate it. Second, much of the area's population is somewhat transient. That makes it even harder to build up a home grown artistic style. I'm not saying that there isn't any art in Orlando at all, it's just that you have to actively look for it.

Personally, I think any branding should start with touting the livability of the neighborhoods, the beautiful tree canopy, and the great location. As the Medical City grows and the Creative Village blossoms then an image of a fun, active city where serious business goes down would be possible.

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Embrace tourism. It is the reason most of us live here. We should continue efforts for diversification understanding that it will benefit everyone. The City Beautiful is a name that should be promoted more. When I first moved here from the north east, I was amazed how clean and beautiful everything was.

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Orlando is very corporate friendly. Not so much small business or innovation friendly - you either have to work for a big corporation, or have aspirations that you are going to become one.

I think for anything in the creative, technology, or innovation areas, that will need to be addressed. Medical is decent business, but every other city also has a medical city - that does not make Orlando any different. I think tourism does have a part - tourism does not have to be just theme parks. And in reality we are all tourists, even in our own back yard. We dont have to attract people from other states.

I still think you need to figure out if you are trying to attract new residents, new companies or business, or just build image. All three are different. The city beautiful is great to build image, but really doesn't bring anything to the city. And it's all in the eye of the beholder - many people would NOT consider Orlando as a beautiful city.

Personally,I think the first thing Orlando, and all of Florida for that matter, needs to do is get out of developer control. Until that is resolved, and until people wan to realize that innovation requires an innovative environment, nothing is going to change.

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I'd like Orlando to rebrand itself for it's quality of life and emerging urban mindset. Orlando can easily showcase "the other side" to tourism without blatantly rejecting it by offering a glimpse into Orlando's natural history, it's downtown scene, sports scene, arts, etc. For a long time Orlando residents have touted "the real Orlando" as a rejection of anything tourism. I still find it an amazing failure that 45 million people visit Orlando each year and the majority of them are blindfully unaware that Orlando has a downtown (one of Florida's best) and string of historic districts that support it.

The preference to urban vacation destinations continues to rise. Orlando can be that urban alternative.

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On a similar note, I'd say Amway Center has significantly rebranded Orlando's image to the NBA world. Not once has a home game gone by where there's been no mention of Orlando's amazing new home for the Orlando Magic. Those cut away aerial images are spectacular.

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Great topic! I think there are a ton of factors to consider, which makes branding Orlando in just one image very difficult. You have to remember:

  • Tourism: We're the most visited destination in the US, and one of the most popular vacation spots in the World. Even if it's true that most theme parks will be developed outside the US, it'll always be the primary reason people come to Orlando.
  • Education: We should focus on our education. Our area has some really good schools. UCF is not just the largest university in the state and the second largest in the country, it also ranks high as a best-value school. Valencia Community College, soon to be Valencia College, is also considered a very good school (and Obama recently called community colleges the "unsung heroes" of education). And let's not forget the high-ranking Rollins College, repeatedly voted best college in the Southeast.
  • High-Tech: Along with education, we should stress Orlando as a great place for high-tech workers. Florida is the third most popular state for shooting movies (after CA and NY), and institutions like UCF's film program, Full Sail, the Florida Film Festival at the Enzian, and of course the theme park movie studios have a lot to offer. Full Sail, EA games, and others are at the center of digital media and game design. Along with that is UCF's IST, which has made Orlando a hot spot for modeling and simulation.
  • Health: Orlando has a lot of good hospitals.
  • Arts and Culture: For a relatively small town, we have a lot of theaters, music venues, and art galleries.
  • Sports: Orlando has been getting a lot of attention for the Magic, of course, but don't forget about the Predators and the new Orlando City Soccer, as well as all the golf courses and water sports close by. And UCF. Something for every taste.
  • History and Nature: Most people think Orlando is brand new, but a good chunk of downtown and obviously Winter Park, Eatonville, etc. would give people a chance to see the real Orlando. Instead of cutting state park budgets, we should have made a better effort to get tourists to go there. For some people, walking through a "jungle," seeing manatees, going to the beach, or swimming in a spring is almost more novel than a theme park.
Especially because Orlando is so spread out, it would be worth branding different parts of the city:
  • Tourism: Try and make International Drive more pedestrian friendly to give more people without cars access to the touristy stuff. At the same time, provide them with a quick access to downtown to explore the "real" Orlando. Although there is a bus route in place, access to something like a rail connection to the airport and to downtown would be invaluable. We can't completely ignore tourism, but we should make the best of what we can out of what's already there.
  • Education: Although Rollins falls more into the history category and Valencia isn't really something you would put on your must-see list, East Orlando and UCF could develop into a really cool University Town type neighborhood. It could be a better place for students, teachers, and researchers at Research Park to live, but I could also see it as a fun place to go out at night or a place for students to walk around with their parents.
  • High-Tech: In terms of high-tech, the first thing that comes to mind is the Creative Village. I still don't like the name (sounds a little too Disney to me, like imagineers) but the idea is awesome. It would definitely attract a lot of educated workers which would hopefully spawn a lot of interesting (i.e. independent) stores and restaurants.
  • Health: While the hospitals north and south of downtown are already integrated into the city, the new Medical City with hospitals and UCF medical school, among others, will definitely put Orlando on the map as a place for medical education and research.
  • Arts and Culture: The best thing would be to have the Performing Arts Center built, but we shouldn't forget about all the other culture that goes on in Orlando. Loch Haven Park is already a great example of branding, but it should be brought to the public's attention. Last week I asked my coworkers (educated, upper middle class people in their late 20s/early 30s) which Orlando museums they've been to, and they replied with "What museums?" If we can't get these types of people into museums, we can't expect students or tourists to know about them either. Same thing goes for things like the United Arts Festival. Orange Avenue/Church Street/Wall Street have already established themselves as a party district, but again tourists don't seem to know about it. We should also market our more unexpected areas. People coming from small towns would probably be impressed by areas like Little Vietnam, and people from bigger cities or abroad would most likely enjoy Lake Ivanhoe/North Orange.

I guess on a broad level you could brand the "Tourist Mecca" Orlando on one side, and on the other the "Very Livable City Beautiful of the 21st Century" Orlando. The hardest part will be connecting all the areas. Some parts have already done quite well branding themselves (I-Drive, Orange Ave bars, soon Medical City, Creative Village) and some just need to become more cohesive or better advertised (UCF area, Little Vietnam, ViMi, Lake Ivanhoe, College Park). Something as simple as street lamp banners for each area would at to the distinction of each area, similar to how UCF already does along University Blvd. Later, new buildings could add flair to areas by embracing the architecture (a good example could be Little Vietnam -- make it fun, but authentic and not like you're in EPCOT).

I really like this topic because I just finished Makeshift Metropolis - Ideas about Cities*, which makes some good points about branding. The most interesting point it makes about branding is the need for the "Guggenheim effect." Branding and urban renewal can really be jump-started by a unique architectural icon, such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao or the Sydney Opera House. For that reason I think it's a little ironic that Jacobs wants to brand Orlando, but obviously isn't ready to build something that will be an icon (even though I wouldn't call the DPAC design "iconic"). I think we've already made amazing strides with the Amway Center and in 10 years no one will be sorry it was built. However, we can't stop there. Each area should have a notable building. For the downtown party scene, it's Church Street. For Medical City it'll be the UCF medical school. Hopefully Creative Village will have something unique as well. Obviously we can't afford to build a Guggenheim every couple blocks, but even a unique architectural style - like I said above - for each area would do wonders. I think the Renaissance at Carver Square will be a great way to create a focal point for Parramore and the African American community, and Little Vietnam could do something similar.

We're already branded as a tourist destination, and I don't think we should let that go (1. we need the revenue and 2. it's not like we could). The next step will be to brand Orlando as a livable city in order to attract businesses and citizens. We have a great downtown, we have beautiful neighborhoods (even if they sprawl out too much), and we have a lot of areas already branding themselves. The biggest challenge will be to make them accessible not just to tourists and potential businesses and immigrants, but to the citizens of Orlando themselves.

* If you like history of urban planning or the theory behind it, I highly recommend Makeshift Metropolis. It even talks about Baldwin Park as one of the best examples of new urbanism!

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From an image stand point, Orlando should capitalize on the abundance of Southern Live Oak trees with Spanish Moss draping them and the lakes all over. Make it something that is seen is postcards and advertising. Overall, simply embrace the wildlife of the community. The City Beautiful, A Treasure in the Swamp.

AT the same time, I wish they would give some incentives for business to build and expand in the city center especially since there is so many empty lots in Downtown Orlando. For example, if they can find a way to get Big Finance (banking, real estate, investments and venture capital) to make a home in Orlando, that would be a major boon for Orlando. Instead of the long-shot of moving the state capitol to Orlando, I wonder if they can move the Fed Bank branch up in Jacksonville here to Orlando. Same goes for Information Technology. All together, those two would solve a great deal of our problems in terms of high-wage jobs.

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From an image stand point, Orlando should capitalize on the abundance of Southern Live Oak trees with Spanish Moss draping them and the lakes all over. Make it something that is seen is postcards and advertising. Overall, simply embrace the wildlife of the community. The City Beautiful, A Treasure in the Swamp.

AT the same time, I wish they would give some incentives for business to build and expand in the city center especially since there is so many empty lots in Downtown Orlando. For example, if they can find a way to get Big Finance (banking, real estate, investments and venture capital) to make a home in Orlando, that would be a major boon for Orlando. Instead of the long-shot of moving the state capitol to Orlando, I wonder if they can move the Fed Bank branch up in Jacksonville here to Orlando. Same goes for Information Technology. All together, those two would solve a great deal of our problems in terms of high-wage jobs.

DeepEyez, The relocation of the Fed would be brilliant. I had a conversation with my cousin about that this past summer. He's a former Fed employee. I've also read the legislation that created the Fed System and the branch locations can be adjusted periodically. Florida is the largest state in the nation without it's own Fed HQ. I think it's absurd that no politician has made it a bigger issue. If that could happen it would really alter the perception of the city.

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Many thanks to all who have expressed their thoughts so far, especially alex for his in-depth look at the topic. As Downtown Steve noticed, this did in fact tie in with Mayor Teresa's meeting this week - some local officials I chat with were looking for some ideas to add into the mix as those discussions go on.

Here's something to think about for those who are interested in the thread: have you ever noticed how we rarely consider two of the Orlando area's greatest bits of infrastructure in our discussions; namely, Port Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center/Spaceport Florida/Cape Canaveral AFS.

While Port Canaveral is primarily thought of as a cruise port, in fact a number of types of cargo move through every year (everything from orange juice to petroleum and cement). Think of all the inland cities that would kill for port access and here in Orlando we rarely think of it. Is it the distance? In fact, it's not a lot further from downtown than is the Port of Los Angeles or the Port of Long Beach is from downtown LA (certainly not in terms of traffic). Houston is considered a port (if thanks to the Houston Ship Channel which was designed successfully to steal the thunder from Galveston and move goods for over a century. Is it because of the different counties?

Along those lines, before Disney led to explosive growth of our own, many Orlando residents commuted daily to work on the Gemini and Apollo projects at the Cape. To this day, there are precious few cities that have their very own access to space, and yet we take ours for granted. If President Obama's vision for expansion of the private sector in space takes off, are we poised to take advantage of one of the most unique manmade features of central Florida?

A sidebar is that, if you go back to the 1960's, Martin Andersen, one of Orlando's most influential visionaries (and longtime publisher of the Sentinel), thought access to Brevard so important he helped both bring FL 520 and the Bee Line (now BeachLine) Expressway to fruition. It was the access to the "Space Coast" that helped FTU get funding when originally there were no plans for a state university in Orlando. Any thoughts on this?

Also, while talking of Andersen, it's always interesting to consider what makes some cities jump forward while others languish. It's often about leadership and the "luck" that is made by those who dare to dream (for example, I4 and Florida's Turnpike were never supposed to intersect; when they did, it changed the plans of Walt Disney as to the location of his Florida Project. Advantage: Orlando. What can we do to make sure we continue to have the leadership that moves the area forward instead of just catering to those who say, "it's too expensive," or "we don't need that here." Your thoughts?

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In the same vein as the intersection of I-4 and the turnpike, a HSR intersection in Orlando would do the same thing again.

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In the same vein as the intersection of I-4 and the turnpike, a HSR intersection in Orlando would do the same thing again.

From your mouth to Gov. Voldemort's ear!

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Personally, I have had the vision of people flying into our state by plane and going to space training classes in different areas of the state, getting on HSR to the cape and flying out of here on rockets (or other future devices). This is something that I hoped to see in my lifetime, but perhaps not. At least within a couple generations. It definitely is not going to happen with this yahoo leading us.

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Honestly, I think Canaveral is too far to have a positive impact now. People who are going to wok in those industries are going to live near there, not in a more expensive city with a commute. Mind you the HSR might have fixed that a bit... In any case Space technology is not tied to Florida, that just happened to be the most convenient base to launch rockets from. Florida is unfortunately not very entrepreneur friendly - it works for big companies but space tech is not going ot be made of big companies yet.

Alex - at first I was thinking you had it backwards, that those things were the result. But I am coming to thinking that you are right to sell those ideas - not so much, though, to people looking to locate to Orlando, but to those people who are promoting and making decisions about the city. These amenities are a result of people who are interested in their community, who have new innovative ideas, and who are looking to build new businesses. The county needs to stop trying to make a brochure to mail out to big companies looking for a new headquarters, and start creating communities where entrepreneurs, inventors, creative people, and engineers want to live, work, and build new companies. That means good transportation, individual building, and a focus on local culture versus chain store and McMansion heaven.

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