ORLANDO, Fla. – Safety and creating storefronts and public spaces are pivotal to transforming downtown Orlando into a “neighborhood that belongs to everyone,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said at the annual State of Downtown address Wednesday.
“It’s no longer about a downtown that revolves around office space. It’s about building a downtown that appeals directly to the workers themselves,” the mayor said. “Whether you live along Orange Ave, in College Park, Lake Mary, Kissimmee or Lake Nona, we want you to think of Downtown Orlando as your neighborhood.”
Dyer used the speech to address recent concerns about the downtown area and what is being done to revitalize it and make it safer.
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The downtown planning initiative is called “DTO 2.0.” It’s considered the next step following 2015′s initiative “Project DTO,” aimed at downtown development.
“While we’re in a strong position, there’s still much work to do and meaningful challenges to overcome,” Dyer said.
Downtown business and security came under scrutiny following several violent incidents, including a shooting that injured seven along Orange Avenue on July 31, 2022. By the following weekend, the city implemented security checkpoints for visitors to the downtown bar area.
“We have a robust nightlife scene that is unfortunately also attracting individuals who are coming here with the intent of engaging in illegal activity,” he said.
Then almost one year later on Aug. 4, 2023, Orlando police said that two of their officers were shot near a downtown substation after they attempted to approach a murder suspect.
Dyer said OPD has more than 70 officers in different units involved in downtown safety as part of these efforts.
“Knowing that we’ve invested in as many as 70 police officers downtown, primarily on Friday and Saturday night, has made it a much safer environment,” the mayor said.
He said they created a new specialized patrol unit and added a DUI squad downtown. He also touted the midnight permit program for bars and nightclubs, which required these venues to take certain security measures. He said they’ve also created a graffiti removal program to help businesses repair any vandalism.
Dyer also addressed concerns about increased panhandling, saying they’ve enhanced the downtown ambassador program to provide assistance and are working to expand housing for low-income residents to reduce homelessness.
When it comes to downtown businesses, Dyer said the city wants to work to expand telecommuting opportunities, saying Orlando was recently named the top city in America for remote workers, according to Rent.com.
Dyer said the city is also going to look into taking the historic Bob Carr Performing Arts Center by Creative Village and turn it into a “physical square for Orlando’s digital community.”
“To have a gathering spot to nurture small business, we think that’ll be a centerpiece for Creative Village,” he said.
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