Happytown 


Hey, downtown dandies! You're about to get yourselves a new catchphrase. Ready? "Do Something."

No, that's it. Yeah, we were underwhelmed too. Seems like it's missing something … maybe adding "jackass" to the end would fix it.

The Downtown Development Board has been throwing around "Everyone's Downtown" for years now, but that slogan is kind of … well … gay. So the Downtown Strategic Transition Team asked business owners to create their own city-aided, mutually beneficial marketing group, and so was born the Downtown Marketing Advisory Group. DMAG's charge was to find a way to use city promotions dollars to bring people downtown.

Given the city's recent budget crunch, promotions dollars are disappearing. Two years ago, the city gave DMAG $270,000; this current fiscal year, only $100,000. But DMAG has been hoarding that money to hire a PR firm.

DMAG put out a request for proposals and received 14 responses. Knight Images got the job. Last week, Knight asked the DDB – which approves DMAG expenditures – for $75,000 in "seed money" for a free quarterly publication and website that would essentially be a "user's guide to downtown." They also came up with "Do Something." (For 75 large we could have come up with something a hell of a lot better, but no one asked us.)

Knight plans to have the first publication out by fall. But isn't there already a free publication that lists pretty much everything going on downtown? Sounds familiar, somehow.

The on-again, off-again Federal-Livingston-Otey Place redevelopment is on again, sort of. Last week, the Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board gave a very tentative approval for city staff to begin accepting proposals to build on the CRA-owned 3.5-acre parcel across the street from the arena.

The issues were the same this month as last, when the advisory board delayed the project, voicing concern about whether or not low-density housing is the best use for the property, or if the whole thing would be a repeat of last year's debacle, when a nonprofit tied to commissioner Daisy Lynum sought a $2.5 million advance to build 36 townhouses.

City staff came back this time with an hour-long presentation by senior planner Bruce Hossfield, who told the advisory board that the city would only allow low-density residential projects west of Parramore Avenue – this land lies just west of it – so any other options the advisory board wanted to explore were nonstarters. The city's plans for the Centroplex's redevelopment, Hossfield said, included residential units that would thin out the further west you go, so no matter what happens with the Magic, staff was dead set against using this land for anything else.

Reluctantly, the board gave staff the go-ahead, reserving the right to pull the plug later.

There hasn't been official word, but it seems the Orlando Magic's quest for a new arena has ground to a halt. Not from the city's end; Mayor Buddy Dyer probably still soils himself at the prospect of giving tax dollars to everyone's favorite billionaire, Rich DeVos. No, it's the Magic themselves who are holding up proceedings. They're still crunching numbers and putting their collective finger in the wind to figure out whether you'll be building them a new stadium.

We know this because the city council on June 27 agreed to pay $893,000 for a new roof for the TD Waterhouse Centre – "normal housekeeping," city spokeswoman Brie Turek explained.

But what would be the point in spending nearly $900,000 if you're going to tear the thing down in six months? What indeed. "It's not going to be six months," Turek told us. "The timeline was backed off a little."

And with a new roof will come a new name.

When we caught the widely reported wind that Ameritrade had bought out Waterhouse last Wednesday for a reported $2.5 billion, our heads spun in relative disinterest. That is, until we realized that the only use for the term "Waterhouse" in local parlance is that of the TD Waterhouse Centre.

Nobody knows what this will mean for the Magic, and few really care. But some speculation about a potential change of name does give pause. It's like naming a baby.

Sure, the obvious choice would be the TD Ameritrade Centre (TD standing for Toronto Dominion, the banking interest, and not "tah-dah" or "touchdown"). But may we suggest something like Shane, or Brie, or Celeste? They're just gonna tear the thing down. Why not call her something cute before she dies?

Heard much about the Orlando Performing Arts Center? Probably not. But here's our sense of the bottom line, based on the June 21 community forum at Orlando Repertory Theatre: If people and businesses in the community can pony up $50 million or so, the project is golden.

"We're dependent upon philanthropy," explained Kathy Ramsberger, OPAC's executive director, before turning the mike over to WKMG-TV Channel 6 anchor Lauren Rowe, which didn't work out so well. Rowe herself kept telling the 75 or so people in the audience that she didn't know why she was there.

But it was Jim Pugh, president and chairman of the board's executive committee, who offered the most instructive commentary when he explained the fix to OPAC's financial woes: Orange County has to increase the tourist tax from 5 percent to 6 percent. Easy.

This year, as in years past, July 4 will be an orgy of flag-waving and patriotic one-upmanship, which is just fine and Yankee Doodle dandy, unless you are one of the Americans (now the majority) who, according to recent polls, think the Iraq war isn't worth it. For you, the Fourth might include a moment or two of reflection on America's foreign policy, and perhaps a twinge of desire for the Bush administration to bring our troops home from Iraq. If so, consider joining CodePink, Women for Peace and Orlando Direct Action at their Bring Home Our Troops Rally, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the intersection of Colonial Drive and Bumby Avenue, for some flag-waving you can feel good about.

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