Magic Continuing Church Street Re-Development

AmwayDowntownAmway Center had a number of goals when the city agreed to build it. First was to keep the team in Orlando. There was no threat for the team to leave, but no doubt the team was hurting without the access to the luxury suites in the Amway Center.

The new arena also came with a promise from civic leaders too.

The arena would bring in bigger events and more people downtown. It would transform downtown Orlando into more of an entertainment district and help boost the local economy. You could see the impact pretty shortly after the new stadium opened. Businesses opened across the street from the arena providing food and places to go for those attending events. On the other side of I-4, Church Street saw new restaurants open and new hot spots come into place.

It was the centerpiece of a complete transformation of Downtown Orlando. And it has been impressive.

The Magic and the city of Orlando always had big plans for the area surrounding downtown Orlando. When they were looking into building the arena they visited stadiums around the country for models. They fell in love with what the FedEx Forum did for Beale Street in Memphis. There were visions of doing the same to Church Street in Orlando.

Downtown businesses were ecstatic for the new influx of business. But a new plan has them worried about their future. The concern of pushing out local businesses and local residents from the area surrounding the arena is becoming something of a reality as the team and the city move ahead with their arena redevelopment plan.

From the Magic’s release on the plan:

“In coordination with the City of Orlando, the Magic are undertaking a year-long feasibility study to examine a sports and entertainment complex adjacent to the Amway Center. The study was green lighted Monday by the City Council.  The project represents a potential $100 million investment by the Magic and their partners. The complex, that is estimated to bring 1,000 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs to downtown and also move the Magic’s team headquarters, would also provide dining, hotel and entertainment options to residents and visitors. The construction, which would likely be completed in three years time, would also continue the revitalization of downtown Orlando and the Parramore neighborhood.

“‘With the research that we’ve done, the majority of these developments that have been placed next to downtown arenas have been quite successful and have spurred other development over time,” [the Magic's Alex] Martins said. “Now, it doesn’t happen overnight. Typically, it takes a decade. But study Columbus and Nashville and those are two great examples of how it starts with one development and blossoms out into an entire district being born. It starts with a downtown arena and is spread out from there. It usually starts with these sports and entertainment districts that bring other forms of entertainment, bring other restaurants, retail and some office space. 

“‘Our goal for these (existing) merchants (located adjacent to the Amway Center) here now is to take a step ahead of where they are now. We’re going to draw more people into this corridor and this will become a 365 (day) portion of downtown,’ Martins continued. ‘Right now there might be 150 events at the arena a year that are drawing people into this section of downtown. But this development will draw people here every day with 300 full-time employees and would include the headquarters of the Magic.’”

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The Magic presented this plan to the city to invest in a $100 million entertainment complex adjacent to the Amway Center. There will be no public money spent on this project… at least as of now. No one is quite sure what this facility would be. But the business owners located across from the arena are worried that they might be displaced after waiting the nearly two years to reap the benefits they thought the new arena would give them.

Martins’ quote above promises that these local businesses will be taken care of. Many of the vendors across from Amway Center sense that they will be priced out of their location and will lose their businesses because of this plan.

This plan is all about the stadium’s promise to redevelop Downtown Orlando, Church Street and the Parramore neighborhood. Of course, you can argue that stadiums have very little effect on local economies. Rather, it sometimes appear that the arena pushes local businesses and the neighborhood further to the margins.

The city needs to make sure this does not happen in this development project and take care of the local businesses who moved in to take advantage of the arena and its visitors. The business owners in the proposed location for this entertainment district have legitimate concerns.

But this is the logical next step for the arena development plan. Businesses have to radiate out from the arena and provide Orlando with an opportunity to really grow and to make Downtown Orlando a hub. It would be nice to see a lot of this developed by the All Star Game (if that happens) to take advantage of the influx from that major event.

This is a very tricky issue. One that was seriously considered and debated when the city and county approved the arena deal. We will see who really benefits from the arena plan when all is said and done.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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