It Could Take a Creative Village

My misgivings about the project are its west-of-I-4 location and its reliance on grants, which are, after all, taxpayer-funded.



Scott A. Miller

Remember when Mayor Buddy Dyer said the city would get $90 million for the sale of the Centroplex property, site of Amway Arena and Bob Carr auditorium?

You and I knew, and I can only guess that Dyer did, too, that no one would pay anywhere near that price for an arena sitting less than a half-mile from a brand spanking new Taj Mahal of an events center, not to mention a woeful music hall that would be worth even less once the new performing arts center was completed.

The $90 million sale of the Centoplex doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, even though the city borrowed that amount against the property on the assumption (so we were told) that it would pay off the note once the site was sold. The borrowed funds went toward the downtown venues, Orlando’s Jabba the Hutt of debt spending.

OK, so we got played, but I’m going to let this one slide because the so-called Creative Village that downtown developer Craig Ustler and a unit of Bank of America want to build on the site has possibilities. We just might have to wait 10 to 15 years before we know how their plan plays out and if the city makes its $90 million after all—presumably from the sales of developed parcels that would make up Creative Village.

But the potential payoff of the Ustler-BofA plan is worth the wait because the people behind it aren’t shaking down Orlando for city-backed incentives, which seems almost too good to believe. Plus, the University of Central Florida is committed to it, and that all but ensures a level of success.

If UCF builds on it, they will come. The University of Florida and Valencia Community College are other likely educational anchors in the Village, a compact vertical development integrating digital-technology education, tech businesses, retail spaces and parks. The development also would include mid-rise rental apartments positioned to draw mixed-income and mixed-age tenants, so students wouldn’t be the only residents.

Among the details that make the Creative Village enticing is the line in the proposal that says the developers assume all the risk—about $500,000 to them—for pursuing about $100 million in federal and state grants to fund development costs. BofA has a good track record for landing grants to build urban infill projects, so that’s a point in the Creative Village’s favor.

Ustler’s involvement in the concept is a plus, too.

He has a knack for taking calculated risks that pan out, like his developments in Thornton Park, and he’s committed to developing environmentally responsible communities. The Creative Village would be built to become a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Neighborhood Development, a green designation that practically assures federal funding, in large part because of its proximity to mass transit. Just on the east side of I-4 is the Lynx bus depot, where SunRail trains will stop once commuter rail service begins in a couple of years.

My misgivings about the project are its west-of-I-4 location and its reliance on grants, which are, after all, taxpayer-funded.

Lots of money already has been spent on trying to revitalize the predominantly black Parramore district. So here we go again, but this time with a much more ambitious feel-good plan to turn Parramore into a neighborhood that would draw white residents.

And here’s the other thing about grant funding: You might get a lot less than you requested or nothing at all. What happens down the road if federal and state governments cut funding altogether?

Still, the Ustler-BofA proposal makes a strong case for the Creative Village’s success based on similar projects that the bank has worked on in other cities. At the very least, developing the site would create jobs. And, who knows, maybe the Village would spur organic renewal on the west side of I-4.

The Village’s potential payoff to the city’s tax base could be much greater than Dyer’s inflated price tag on the Centroplex. We just won’t know for many years to come.

Edit Module
Want to read the whole issue? Download and read this issue and others on Magzter.

Add your comment:
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

 

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags

Guides & Resources

Orlando's Top Chiropractors of 2014

More than 75 Central Florida chiropractors make our inaugural list.

Fall Getaways

Fall is finally on its way and now is the perfect time to plan your getaway. Check out some of these great deals and special destinations just a short drive from Orlando.

Real Estate's Hot 100

Whether you’re trying to buy or sell real estate, getting the best deal means finding an agent who possesses savvy and know-how and gets results. This list showcases some Central Florida agents who have demonstrated those skills.

Spotlight on Plastic Surgeons 2014

This special advertising section highlights the accomplishments of plastic surgeons, who tell about their commitment to helping people look their best.

Orlando's Best Lawyers of 2014

Get informed with our annual list of more than 400 Orlando-area attorneys, compiled by Best Lawyers in America. The annual selection features lawyers in 78 areas of practice.

Spotlight on Lawyers 2014

Our special advertising section featuring profiles on local lawyers.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

MoreRecent Blog Posts

Parade of Homes: Vote for Your Favorite

It's time to vote for your favorites for the People's Choice Award 2014 Fall Parade of Homes.

More Than a Swimming Hole

A few to-do's for your next trip to Wekiwa Springs.

New Orlando Restaurants Open This Fall

From a rustic restaurant at the Ritz and a cool wine bar on I-Drive to a rooftop steakhouse

Star Billing

Victoria & Albert's, Cask & Larder draw national kudos.