From Orlando Business Journal July 16, 2010 – by Richard Bilbao Staff Writer
The city of Orlando is seeking $70 million in federal funds for transit infrastructure. It would connect the downtown public bus station on Amelia Street with the planned 68-acre, $800 million-plus Creative Village project, about a mile away.
Creative Village is the city’s proposed zone that would be home to a cluster of creative and educational industries and their employees. It would be built on the site of the old Amway Arena as an urban, mixed-use development with residential, as well as educational and commercial uses. Construction on the village may begin in late 2011 at the earliest and take at least 10 years to complete.
The city applied for funds from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II Discretionary Grant program, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The final deadline for TIGER grant applications is Aug. 23, and a decision for the grants is expected to be made in October. If chosen, the city could get the funds by early 2011. If the city doesn’t get the funds, it will reapply next year.
Orlando wants to use the money for right-of-way improvements for the proposed Creative Village, including bus stations, traffic signals and hybrid electric vehicles, as well as new pedestrian and bike paths, greenways and open spaces.
Construction for the road improvements may begin as early as fall 2011, but it has yet to be determined when the project bid information will go out, said city officials. Industry experts estimate the project would create up to 700 temporary construction jobs. The road improvement phase of the project is expected to create hundreds of jobs.
“This infrastructure work is much more intensive than one might think,” said Brooke Bonnet, deputy director of economic development for the city of Orlando.
Besides connecting the bus station to the Creative Village, the infrastructure project also would tie the planned mixed-use development into SunRail, she said. SunRail is a 61-mile,
$615 million commuter rail project slated to connect Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties.
The idea of creating more efficient transportation between the Creative Village and Lynx, Orlando’s public bus service, makes sense, said a number of downtown Orlando businesses.
“It’s absolutely critical to put the necessary ligaments and tendons in place that will hold [the Creative Village] together,” so businesses can travel to do business with each other easily, said Bob Allen, principal executive for IDEAS, an Orlando-based marketing, entertainment and intellectual property developer. The firm’s 15,000-square-foot office is within walking distance of the proposed Creative Village.
Improved transportation infrastructure also has businesses in the ailing Church Street Station entertainment complex feeling upbeat.
Take John Paonessa, owner of Hamburger Mary’s restaurant. He’s game for any improvement to downtown Orlando’s transportation that could provide him with more business. “A transportation system people would take advantage of is a good thing.”
Patti Schmidt, owner of Dessert Lady, an upscale bakery at Church Street Station, agreed: “I love the idea of anything else that can further connect us to other places.”
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