Mayor Dyer: ‘We are on the verge of the most exciting year in Downtown Orlando’s history’

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer presented the State of the City address on Thursday with the SunRail train as his backdrop. Hundreds gathered near the Church Street station to hear his announcements regarding the economy, quality of life and challenges ahead for the region. Here’s a breakdown of his major announcements:

The economy:

  • Small businesses along Orlando’s main streets — Ivanhoe Village, College Park, Audubon Park, Church Street, Downtown South, Mills 50, Semoran and Thornton Park — have generated more than 3,000 jobs and $500 million in economic impact in the past five years.
  • The Orlando Main Street program will expand. A Digital Main Street — the Orlando Tech Association — will be created to attract technology companies and entrepreneurs to Orlando.
  • Smart meters that are debit- and credit-card friendly, and that are able to direct drivers to open parking spaces, will be installed this year.

Quality of life:

  • This year, a bike park and a dog park will open.
  • A federal grant will bring 22 miles of new sidewalks this year.
  • There has been a 10 percent decrease in residential burglaries.
  • Through green initiatives and partnerships, the city of Orlando saved taxpayers $1 million a year. That number is expected to triple by 2016.
  • A new grant will allow the city to train 20,000 people per year in hands-only CPR. The goal is to train every resident.

Challenges ahead:

  • Keeping up with the growing demands of public safety and other city services among continual budget cuts.
  • Rethinking the strategy to battle homelessness. “We must accept that across the board, we have not had the kind of success we envisioned,” Dyer said.

Dyer also said public workshops will be offered to bring the community together to battle these issues. “This is going to involve some difficult, but important, conversations for our community.”

Verna Ohara, owner of Transformation Beauty Salon in Parramore, attended to hear how small businesses will be affected as Orlando grows. “My business has been in Parramore for 25 years, so I’ve seen a lot of transformations. I believe we’re going in a positive direction,” she said.

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