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Project DTO: Changes to expect in Downtown Orlando in 2023

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik

Nearly a decade ago, the city of Orlando launched a vision plan as part of an effort to improve the downtown area. That resulted in the Downtown Action Plan, also known as Project DTO 2.0. WMFE' Talia Blake caught up with
Tim Giuliani, CEO of Orlando Economic Partnership,
at his office downtown to talk about the first part of the plan that gets underway this year.

Listen to the full conversation in the player above.

Tim Giuliani is the CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership. (photo via Orlando Economic Partnership)
Tim Giuliani is the CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership. (photo via Orlando Economic Partnership)

Changes Coming To Downtown

Project DTO 2.0 is focused on “driving actionable changes to the streets, civic spaces, mobility options, and neighborhoods to promote a thriving downtown.”

During Mayor Buddy Dyer's State of Downtown address back in December, he referred to the project as, "an action plan for enacting dozens of small steps that add up to one big evolution of downtown Orlando as its own urban neighborhood.”

Those small steps will get underway this year, like changes to the landscape of downtown.

"Streets that are one way, that a lot of people just traverse the city without ever stopping, are going to turn it into two way," said Giuliani.

He said the city is focusing on one square mile at a time. "Largely to the east side of I4, coming down from Lake Ivanhoe down to Lake Lucerne."

He said you can also expect changes to sidewalks and better lighting downtown.

These changes are vital as Giuliani said residents need a downtown that's more like a neighborhood with different dining options and other businesses that can attract workers back into downtown.

"Because if we can continue at very moderate occupancy levels in buildings, the building value decreases the property tax receipts decrease," said Giuliani.

He said having a more vibrant downtown at all hours of the day, and not just at late night is going to entice more users of downtown.

Moratorium, Permits, and the Plan

In January, the Orlando City Council postponed its vote on a proposed six-month moratorium on new downtown nightclubs until March 1st.

They will also wait until that date to vote on an ordinance to create required special permits for nightclubs downtown that want to stay open between midnight and 2 a.m.

These ordinances and Project DTO go hand-in-hand as the city looks to diversify the downtown area.

Giuliani said downtown should be a place where everyone wants to come.

"People that live here wanting to have their grocery stores here, and their dry cleaning here and dog walking services or whatever is required there," he said. "Making sure downtown kind of works for everybody."

He says right now there is a lack of harmony downtown.

"There's so many bars and the conditions the police chief went over, there's just a spike in crime between 12 and four in the morning," he said. "And so they have to staff that with a whole bunch of extra officers, which takes them away from other parts of the city."

He said that creates an unsustainable funding issue due to the surge in police.

But, if these ordnances were to pass, could the cost to stay safe trickle down on to visitors or paying customers? Or cause pay cuts for workers potentially?

Giuliani said it's unclear, but currently the cost is falling on residents and the city.

"I think it's like $40,000 per weekend because of the surge in police."

He said there's not much room to cut the pay for a bar worker. "Does it take away some of the dollar drink nights? Maybe."

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to WMFE, the station that grew her love for public radio. She graduated with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). While at UCF, she was an intern for WMFE’s public affairs show, Intersection. In her spare time, Talia is an avid foodie and enjoys working out.
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