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Mayor seeks developer to redo area near arena

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Mayor seeks developer to redo area near arena

He envisions a mixture of housing, retail and offices.

By Mark Schlueb | Sentinel Staff Writer

Posted March 8, 2005

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is hunting for a developer to remake more than 60 acres of prime downtown real estate, a project he sees as key to the future of the Orlando Magic.

Magic officials said Monday that they are still reviewing a Toronto architect's proposal to renovate TD Waterhouse Centre and have not decided whether a renovation would meet the team's needs or whether nothing short of a brand-new building will do.

But Dyer said the city shouldn't wait for that decision to begin making plans for the district around the arena. That property, known as the city's Centroplex, includes about 64 acres of city-owned land bounded by Hughey Avenue to the east, Parramore Avenue to the west, Concord Street to the north and almost to Robinson Street on the south.

"We feel like it's imperative to get the other part of the process going," Dyer said Monday. "I'm very hopeful we can come up with a plan that can accommodate both the Magic and the neighborhood around the arena."

The land is home to a handful of buildings, including a Marriott hotel, the Expo Centre, Nap Ford Charter School, the Downtown Recreation Complex and the Orlando Tennis Center. It sits between the city's growing downtown and Parramore, a neighborhood long troubled by crime and poverty.

Dyer wants developers and architects to come up with plans to redevelop the whole tract into housing, retail shops, a hotel, offices and other features. The revitalization project, he says, would generate development fees that would help pay to renovate the 16-year-old TD Waterhouse Centre, which Magic officials say lacks moneymaking features such as midlevel suites and wide club seats.

"This part is as important as the arena redevelopment," said David Dix, the mayor's point person on the project.

The Dyer administration has asked attorney C. David Brown of the downtown law firm Broad & Cassel to solicit proposals from developers who could finance, design and build a new Centroplex. The city will begin soliciting ideas in early April, with an eye toward picking a firm in about six months.

City officials won't tell developers what to include in their plans. But Dyer already has committed to giving the city-supported Nap Ford Charter School, now in modular classrooms, a permanent building elsewhere. And the city recently leased the Expo Centre to the University of Central Florida, which is turning the building into Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, part of its School of Film and Digital Media.

City officials hope to expand that focus into a "digital media village" that would cater to students at the UCF school and also attract a software company interested in relocating.

If Dyer's plans are successful, it would be the largest city redevelopment project in Orlando history.

But smack in the center is TD Waterhouse Centre, and Magic officials remain mum about their plans.

In the past, team executives have said a renovation would be only a temporary fix. Among other things, they worry that the team would have to play elsewhere during construction.

Still, the mayor has asked team executives to give renovation another look. Murray Beynon, a Toronto architect whose firm is overseeing the renovation of Madison Square Garden in New York, is drawing up plans for the team's review.

On Monday, Dyer said the building can be renovated during the team's off-season. It's too late for it to happen this summer, he said, but it still could happen next year.

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I got to be honest, I think this idea is more of a hope and a prayer. I support Buddy in almost everything downtown but I don't think a developer will come into this area and build some mega huge development. As soon as you go on the other side of I-4, I think there is little to no interest among developers. This will take huge tax breaks and incentives to get off the ground......... Plus the tourist tax to redo the arena....I would not buy a condo on that side of the interstate....I think the best type of idea over there would be an AJAX stadium or Minor League Baseball stadium next door to a new/redeveloped arena............I hope I am wrong on this one and some developer does come in and overhaul everything...........Good Luck........

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I think if the condos are affordable, they will sell

however the concept of affordable downtown livign is pracitcally non-exsistant.

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I got to be honest, I think this idea is more of a hope and a prayer. I support Buddy in almost everything downtown but I don't think a developer will come into this area and build some mega huge development. As soon as you go on the other side of I-4, I think there is little to no interest among developers. This will take huge tax breaks and incentives to get off the ground......... Plus the tourist tax to redo the arena....I would not buy a condo on that side of the interstate....I think the best type of idea over there would be an AJAX stadium or Minor League Baseball stadium next door to a new/redeveloped arena............I hope I am wrong on this one and some developer does come in and overhaul everything...........Good Luck........

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I disagee I think a sports bar or restaurant close to the arena would do very well as 1 example.

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I got to be honest, I think this idea is more of a hope and a prayer. I support Buddy in almost everything downtown but I don't think a developer will come into this area and build some mega huge development. As soon as you go on the other side of I-4, I think there is little to no interest among developers. This will take huge tax breaks and incentives to get off the ground......... Plus the tourist tax to redo the arena....I would not buy a condo on that side of the interstate....I think the best type of idea over there would be an AJAX stadium or Minor League Baseball stadium next door to a new/redeveloped arena............I hope I am wrong on this one and some developer does come in and overhaul everything...........Good Luck........

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with the right incentives, a developer will do it. after all, look at Hughes, that is succesful and has mixed price ranges for the residential portion.

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I think it will be an ideal place for a big scale "town center" kind of development. Transform it into a large shopping district with shops and restaurant like Lincoln Road Mall.

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I think the best spot in downtown for a Lincoln Mall type atmosphere is Orange Avenue. It would be hard to get heavy traffic (pedestrian or vehicular), needed for retail, for it to survive on the west side of I-4.

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^ I agree.  No one is going to go strolling down a "Parramore" mall.

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They'd allready be there for the Magic game.

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41 nights out of 365?

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Build a large retail and entertainment district on the 60 acres surrounding the arena, and people will come. Was there heavy pedestrian traffic where Waterford Lakes now stands? Put the right development in, and it'll draw people to it. Having an arena next door just fuels the thought that this location could actually be a desirable destination for locals and tourists alike. It's visible, accessible, and there's plenty of land to develop. Remember, there will be a law school and digital media school right there, placing thousands of students down there every day. Put in condos, apartments, restaurants and trendy shops, in addition to the sports and concerts at the arena, and you've got a pretty lively development. This isn't way west of I-4 -- it's mainly in the area where parking lots now sit on the south side of the arena. It's ripe for redevelopment, and would actually give the land a much more urban feel. It's ambitious, but I personally don't think it's a pipe dream at all.

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41 nights out of 365?

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Now add in Predators games(ok i know not much) but concerts, the circus...etc. & if the PAC is attached to the arena who knows how many feet that will bring to the street....

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2 commissioners reject hotel tax funding arena

Orange officials make it clear they want to see what Orlando does for the Magic before acting.

By Jason Garcia | Sentinel Staff Writer

Posted March 16, 2005

If the Orlando Magic want some of Orange County's hotel-tax money to help build a better arena, they'll have to walk a tightrope to get it.

That became clear Tuesday when a pair of county commissioners assailed the idea of using public money to subsidize a professional sports team, with one even declaring that she has "big-time problems" with the prospect.

While Commissioners Mildred Fernandez and Bob Sindler are just two votes on the seven-member County Commission, five commissioners would have to sign off on any plan to spend tourist taxes on the arena.

That means three votes against would doom any proposal.

"It certainly sends a strong message to the Magic that they have to come to the table in a major way," said Commissioner Teresa Jacobs, who said she was willing to consider an arena proposal. "There's no margin for error."

The comments came as commissioners -- the seven people who decide how to use hotel taxes -- sat down to figure out what they might spend the money on for the first time since the tax soared to record levels. The 5 percent charge on hotel guests raised $111 million during the last fiscal year.

Sindler and Fernandez made it clear they weren't interested in paying for an arena under any circumstances.

Sindler said the county should spend its hotel taxes on projects that generate even more money by luring more people into hotels. He pointed to the county's convention center, which supporters say pumps billions into the local economy by bringing in conventioneers and their corporate credit cards.

An Orlando Magic arena, Sindler said, doesn't attract hotel guests.

"I can't see that being worthy of funding," he said.

Fernandez agreed, and added that she was tired of hearing about sports teams threatening to abandon cities unless taxpayers build them new homes. She compared the tactic to a husband threatening to walk out on his wife.

"You need to move on," Fernandez said. "I have big-time problems with the Magic and the arena."

A Magic spokesman declined to comment.

While County Mayor Rich Crotty and the remaining four commissioners have all said they would consider an arena proposal, they agreed that there are still too many unanswered questions -- including a formal price tag -- right now.

Instead, commissioners said they would rather wait until Orlando irons out a specific plan. City officials have already begun talks with Magic executives about renovations, and they are preparing to seek private companies to redevelop surrounding properties.

"I wish the city of Orlando well in their discussions," Commissioner Bill Segal said.

City officials hope the revitalization work could generate enough development fees to pay for arena work -- without any of Orange County's hotel taxes, said David Dix, a top aide to suspended Mayor Buddy Dyer who is working on the project.

Dix put the price tag at between $50 million and $70 million.

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I've come to the conclusion if the Magic want to build interest for a new/refurbished arena they need to hire Phil Jackson as the head coach.

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I've come to the conclusion if the Magic want to build interest for a new/refurbished arena they need to hire Phil Jackson as the head coach.

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That's a great idea!

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Fixing arena ranks 3rd in poll

Even if Rich DeVos pays half the bill, 47% reject using hotel taxes

By Jason Garcia | Sentinel Staff Writer

Posted March 30, 2005

Even if Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos offered to pay half the cost of renovating TD Waterhouse Centre, slightly more city voters would still oppose contributing hotel taxes toward the project than would support such a deal, according to a new survey.

A new or renovated arena rated a distant third behind a new performing-arts center and a renovated Florida Citrus Bowl -- with 60 percent of voters willing to spend hotel taxes on those projects, according to the Orlando Sentinel/WESH-NewsChannel 2 poll.

"Building something for the Magic is far down the food chain," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the poll.

Respondents were told that the county's 5 percent tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals is spent mostly on the Orange County Convention Center, and they are willing to spend it on downtown facilities.

But 47 percent opposed spending the money on a new or renovated arena -- even if the Magic agreed to pick up half the tab, something the team has never been willing to do. About 44 percent of the city residents polled would support spending the money, and 9 percent are undecided.

The telephone survey was conducted Thursday through Saturday among 625 likely city voters. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

The poll results are probably as much public support as a professional sports team seeking a taxpayer subsidy could hope for, Coker said.

"It tells me that a 50-50 split might fly," Coker said. "If he's [DeVos is] not willing to put up half, the voters will never go for it."

The team isn't saying anything publicly about what it is willing to spend -- or what it wants the public to spend -- but four years ago, DeVos offered to contribute just $10.5 million toward a $250 million new arena.

A team spokesman declined to comment on the survey. General Manager John Weisbrod told the Sentinel last week that the team is still evaluating whether a renovation, rather than a new arena, will work.

Magic officials have said they need to add amenities such as luxury boxes and restaurants in an arena to generate more revenue.

Given that state law prohibits spending the hotel tax on roads or schools, Mike Armstrong said he is willing to support spending some of it on the arena -- within limits.

"I would put a cap on what we're willing to spend," said Armstrong, a 48-year-old mortgage broker who has lived in Orlando for most of his life. "I certainly don't want gold faucets in the private boxes."

Others, however, say they can't support subsidizing a professional-sports franchise that Forbes magazine estimates is worth $218 million.

"If they're going to pay those guys $50 million a player, I can't imagine that they don't have enough money to pay for their own basketball venue," said Chris Schilling, who owns a print shop. She has lived in Orlando for 30 years. "I wouldn't spend a penny for a basketball venue."

The other downtown projects -- a long-sought performing-arts center and a renovated football stadium -- proved much more popular in the survey.

Sixty percent of respondents said they would support both helping to build a new performing-arts center and to renovate the Citrus Bowl. Just 26 percent said they would oppose spending money on an arts center, and 14 percent were undecided.

The arts center is appealing because it also serves as an educational tool, said respondent Elizabeth Morrison, a math teacher at Valencia Community College who has been in Orlando since 1972.

"It's so good for the kids. I'm all for putting money into arts," she said. "Otherwise, kids are all just going to play video games."

Only 25 percent of people surveyed opposed using resort taxes on the Citrus Bowl, while 15 percent were undecided. That support, however, is predicated on publicly funded renovations being needed to prevent the loss of the football stadium's annual New Year's Day game, the Capital One Bowl.

In fact, Orlando could lose that game and the Florida Classic -- the long-running rivalry game between a pair of historically black schools, Bethune-Cookman College and Florida A&M University -- said Tom Mickle, executive director of Florida Citrus Sports.

"I think we'll be at serious risk if something's not done by the next negotiating cycle," which is four years away, he said.

Acting Orlando Mayor Ernest Page said he was encouraged by the poll results, calling support for the arts center and Citrus Bowl "outstanding" and for the arena "pretty much even-steven."

Page, who replaced the suspended Buddy Dyer earlier this month, has pledged to continue pushing all three initiatives. City officials are exploring ways to couple the projects with private development of surrounding properties, hoping to generate fees that might help pay for all the work.

"For me, it's confirming that we do have support of all three of these projects that we're working on right now," Page said.

County Mayor Rich Crotty, whose government controls the hotel tax, called the results unsurprising. A poll commissioned by county officials late last year ranked the projects similarly, putting the arts center and the Citrus Bowl ahead of an arena.

Crotty said he remains willing to spend some money on any of the three projects. But he said he won't commit a dime until the city finishes exploring its other options and makes a formal request.

"I am willing to put some resort tax for some downtown projects," Crotty said, though he added that there are still "too many questions" for Orange County to make any decisions yet.

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I theorized elsewhere that the Magic are now paying the price for their absurdly miserly contribution of $10.5 million to a new arena in 2001.

And their consistantly mediocre performance doesn't help either.

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I think the lack of support for renovating or building a new arena for the Magic has less to do with their on court performance and alot to do with their relationship with the community. To me it seems that the Devos and Magic Management are constantly making the fans and city feel as if they are doing us a favor by playing in our city. It's always something along the lines of we aren't doing enough for them. If their counterargument is "well look at everything that the Magic have done for the city and the community" than that's just a continuation of their current attitude. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the Magic for doing outreach in the community, particularly for our underprivileged residents. For that they should applauded, but I'm pretty sure they would continue to do such community involvement wherever they are located. It's not as if they'll move to another city and stop serving turkey or giving away gifts on holidays. If the Magic really want a new arena, they need to stop unilaterally demanding that we bend over backwards to accomodate them and start bringing something to the table, a fresh new attitude and sense of cooperation would be a good start. This is coming from a longtime Magic Believer.

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