Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Off to the Races

As of yesterday, bids are in for the Creative Village with a short list expected as soon as Friday, April 30.  That's fast timing given the complexity of the project.  Yet, by the point we're a couple of years into conversation about the opportunity, bidders should have their stuff organized to the point they can clearly illustrate the necessary details such as a mix of affordable housing and transit-oriented design ... along with the all important financial feasibility.  The City has requested that minimal investment be expected on its part, which is fair given the economy.  The Orlando City Council will review the short list and top ranked team in May.  All of a sudden, we're off to the races!  And this is the contest that matters ... skip all the hoopla about some ponies doing something or other this weekend.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Urban People

I didn't expect to find inspiration about Creative Village while reading an article about HBO's new series Treme.  

But the Time magazine article contained this quote, which is really quite powerful, from Treme creator David Simon (who also made HBO's The Wire and is that guy in the picture).  

In response to references to "small town values" at the 2008 Republican Convention, he says, "There is no alternative to salvaging the city.  We are an urban people.  Eighty percent of us live in metro areas. ... What you've got to be interested in is big-city values. New Orleans is as much a dystopia as any place we've ever depicted.  And yet people won't give up on it."

His comment is so interesting to me.  What fosters that passion of never giving up on a city?  After Hurricane Katrina, the Orlando Sentinel published an op-ed I wrote.  The lead was this: "If America can fail New Orleans, it can sure as shoot fail Orlando. Let's be honest: New Orleans has always been a far sight cooler than Orlando."

There may be 1,000 factors that define a city, that create that sense of place and the identity that others recognize, desire and support.  But, first, we have to create that place for ourselves.  Creative Village - with its place-making, emphasis on supporting emerging industry and new model for economic development - is a step in that direction. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Growing our own money tree

It used to be that the primary method of economic development was to buy jobs, essentially convincing companies with existing jobs elsewhere to move them here in exchange for financial incentives.  And would still be true but for the decreasing state resources to fund those incentives.  

Wait a minute!  Ladies and gentlemen, we may have just found the upside of the recession.  We're gonna - finally - have to rethink our approach to job creation. So, if we can't afford to buy jobs anymore (a practice that has never demonstrated consistently clear return on the investment), what's next?  Glad you asked.  Economic gardening, that's what.  

According to the Kauffman Foundation, "economic gardening is an economic development model that embraces the fundamental idea that entrepreneurs drive economies. The model seeks to create jobs by supporting existing companies in a community."

Revolutionary?  Hardly.  But apparently it's a difficult concept for the State of Florida to grasp as Orlando Sentinel business columnist Beth Kassab noted in her column yesterday.  Despite the fact that economic gardening is showing promise even in its very early stages, the state support for the approach is unclear.  

According to Kassab, "... the state's red tape kept this "emergency" program from getting started until just about five months ago. If lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist are serious about helping Florida businesses then they should give this program more time and money before they pull the plug." 

Amen, Amen, Amen.  And it's worth noting as well that the economic gardening concept was pioneered in 1987 in Littleton, CO ... when the state was in a recession. 

You know what else would help with an economic gardening effort?  

A garden designed just for entrepreneurs.  

A garden with all the components to help smart companies get bigger.

A garden established with the purpose of helping to grow jobs.

A garden called Creative Village Orlando.  

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Innovation through Real Estate Development

At its core, Creative Village is a real estate development, a chance to elevate a parcel of land into a place defined by a cohesive collection of buildings, residences, open spaces and institutions. Were that all Creative Village was about, however, it would hardly be as significant as it has the potential to become.

An article in today’s New York Times, "Innovation by Order of the Kremlin," provides insight into Russia’s attempts to self-generate a scientific city - and interesting juxtaposition to our own Creative Village.

As Russia works to move its center of innovation beyond walled scientific communities, cut off from the rest of the country, there are a number of factors called out as necessary to success. Despite the significant cultural, government and regulatory differences between Orlando’s Creative Village and Russia’s unnamed site near Moscow, we share - or should share - common goals:   
  • Commercialization of work done at local Universities
  • Housing within immediate proximity of employment
  • Streamlined immigration rules
  • Focus on a mix of start-ups, established companies and academic institutions
  • Definition of specific areas for advancement and investment
All of this just illustrates the reality of today’s global economy. Our competitors for jobs – and knowledge workers – aren’t just Charlotte and Atlanta and Denver. We’re in active pursuit for talent with Cyberjaya in Malaysia, China’s tech cluster in Tianjin, and France’s Sophia Antipolis.

For those still wondering if the investment in creativity, technology and innovation are worth it, consider this line from the NYT's article: “Gazprom, a [Russian] company that inherited title to the world’s largest natural gas reserves – is now valued by investors at well below Apple – a company that sprang from a garage.”


We’re back! Excuse the lengthy hiatus please. This moment in time known as the Great Recession necessitated a brief pause in Orlando Mayor Dyer’s big vision that is Creative Village. The good news is that it’s back in play and the original 2006 Task Force recommendations remain largely intact.

As you know, Creative Village is the 56-acre redevelopment site around the existing Amway Arena. Creative Village is a critical component of the downtown landscape, and even more relevant with the recent approval of SunRail. The new Amway Events Center will be completed this fall and, while the City recognizes the current economic reality and real estate market conditions, the Creative Village is aligned with many near-term federal funding priorities and other “hot buttons” of the development industry (e.g., transit-oriented development, mixed-income housing, mixed-use urban infill, education, green building, job creation, brownfield redevelopment, etc.).

The City is looking to the development community to suggest a plan and financing strategy to move the Creative Village forward, create value and offer the innovative, diverse and signature urban place that we all know is critical to our future. Proposals will be due April 26th at 3 pm.

Related media coverage can be found here:

Details about the process and the project can be found here: http://cityoforlando.net/elected/venues/creative.htm

Onward and upward!

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a member of one of the teams bidding on the Creative Village project and also represent the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which is related to this effort as part of the venues package. That said, this blog will not be a platform for promotion of either of those. It is intended to elevate the concept of a Create Village, create greater understanding of its value and help align interested parties in supporting the effort from a grassroots, community standpoint.