Orlando City Council Green Lights Magic Development

By John Denton

June 23, 2014

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ORLANDO -- In an effort to further the revitalization of downtown Orlando and Parramore and centralize their staff, the Orlando Magic got the go-ahead on Monday from City Council to invest $200-plus million into a project that will create jobs and provide dining, hotel, retail and entertainment options.

Following a 120-day investigation period and a study of the Orlando Sports and Entertainment District that is designed to sustain itself year-round, City Council unanimously approved (by a 7-0 vote) SED Development, LLC – a sister company of the Magic – to construct a state-of-the art complex next to the Amway Center. The mixed-used venue will feature a corporate headquarters for the Magic that will bring more than 100 more employees into downtown. Later phases will have a full-service hotel, conference center and residential and retail facilities. The Magic are expected to fully close on the financial aspects of the deal in the coming months.

“Like with the Amway Center, this has been several years of planning and working with the City to find the right avenue to add another great piece that will add to the core of downtown,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “So it’s incredibly exciting to get to the approval stage. Now, the real work begins in planning for construction. It’s going to be a long project and from start to finish we’re probably looking at five-to-six years. But we’re very excited to get started.”

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called the project “extremely exciting” during Monday’s City Council meeting and District 6 Commissioner Samuel B. Ings lauded the Magic for their hard work in coming up with the plans for the mixed-used facility.

The design firm of RTKL helped to formulate the renderings, and that’s significant because RTKL is credited with the visions for L.A. Live next to Staples Center in Los Angeles, Victory Park near American Airlines Arena in Dallas, The Kansas City Power and Light District next to the Sprint Center, Berlin Live and a World Cup venue in Brazil. RTKL’s mission is to make the complex near the Amway Center “uniquely Orlando” and it will likely host music events, cultural events, holiday events, public gatherings, pre- and postgame celebrations and smaller events such as farmers’ markets. Flexibility of the space will be of the utmost importance.

In the spring, City Council unanimously approved the sale of land across the street from the Amway Center to the Magic for $12.7 million. That cleared the way for the Magic to move forward on designing the 650,000-square-foot complex. The land is located north of Church Street, east of Division Street, south of Central and west of Hughey Ave.

Construction of the entertainment complex will further enhance the Magic’s expanding footprint in downtown Orlando. The city-owned, Magic-designed Amway Center, where the Magic have played their home games since 2010, has been widely hailed as one of the finest sports facilities in North America. It was named the 2012 Sports Facility of the Year by theSportsBusiness Journal. The dazzling facility also allowed Orlando to play host to the 2012 NBA All-Star Game. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has taken great pride in the success of the Amway Center, hailing it as “the envy of everyone in the NBA and the envy of everyone around the country.”

When the City Council and Orange County approved the plan to build the Amway Center in 2006, the master plan for the arena and planned surrounding developments was to “create a world-class venue for our community to enjoy” and to “lay the important groundwork for redevelopment of the Church Street corridor and revitalization of downtown.” The downturn in the economy in 2007-08 stunted some of that revitalization, but Martins said the Magic’s $200-plus million investment into downtown should spur growth.

“We’ve been talking for about 10 years now about trying to create a new downtown for Orlando and what these venues can do to create economic development and spur other mixed-use development. Because of the recession, it never happened,” Martins said. “So this is the opportunity to get it really started and be the spark. Hopefully, this is just the beginning. Hopefully there will be other developments that pop up and revitalize downtown so that locals want to live and work and play and eat and be entertained.” 

The first step in the transformation of the land will be the demolition of a city-owned parking garage as early as next summer. That will allow for construction to begin on a new office building that will serve as the corporate headquarters for the Magic. Presently, almost two-thirds of the Magic’s employees work 14 miles to the northeast at the RDV Sportsplex near Maitland, and the organization is planning to consolidate its entire operation in one facility.

Martins said the Magic are still going through studies to determine what impact the loss of a parking garage would have on venues at the Amway Center. Options include demolishing part or all of the garage in the coming months or waiting until after the Magic season.

“We haven’t worked on our construction schedule yet. We are having a lot of discussion about how it impacts the operation of the Amway Center this year, not just for Magic games, but from October to April, that’s the busiest time of the year for the Amway Center,” Martins said. “That parking is utilized, so we are studying it and looking at a number of different options. We may take down part of the garage or we might wait until the end of the season. We’ll determine over the next couple of months what the schedule truly looks like.”

The Magic’s major investment also continues their efforts in the revitalization of downtown Orlando and the Parramore neighborhood. The Magic and the Parramore community have long been partners in helping the citizens of that region. The Magic have given more than $1 million to the Parramore community while also donating more than 3,500 service hours, building nine reading and learning centers and two playgrounds and also providing hundreds of backpacks with school supplies.

“When I specifically think about the Magic’s impact to Parramore, they’ve made donations for playground equipment and they’ve volunteered time with the players and staff to spend time with kids. And with the Parramore Kidz Zone, they’ve made major contributions there and they’ve continued to support that through the years,” Allie Braswell, CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, said recently. “The Magic are so much more than just a basketball team; they are a part of our community. They’re continuously embracing our whole community and looking for ways to give back, whether it’s through donations of money, time, resources or talent. The Magic have been a cornerstone of this community for the 25 years that they have been here.”

Martins is proud that the Magic have been able to broaden their footprint downtown so that they can be catalysts for the area. Martins is also extremely proud that the Magic will continue to be leaders in the growth and development of Parramore.

“It’s our neighborhood and it’s important to us that we continue to help revitalize it,” Martins said of Parramore. “We think this is another step. Hopefully this is a spark for others to invest in that part of downtown. Downtown really stretches from Orange Avenue to the Citrus Bowl. So this is an opportunity to spark the western side of that stretch.”