Denton: City Council Unanimously Approves Magic's Downtown Revitalization Plan

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

By John Denton Nov. 4, 2013

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic’s already-impressive footprint in downtown Orlando will soon be expanding after The City Council agreed on Monday to sell land next to the Amway Center where the Magic will build a multi-purpose entertainment complex.
By a unanimous 7-0 vote, Orlando City Council approved a plan where SED Development LLC — a sister company of the Magic — will pay the city $12.7 million for land across the street from the Amway Center to build a 650,000-square-foot development.

The land, which is currently home to the Orlando Police Headquarters and a city-owned parking garage, will be used to build a corporate headquarters for the Magic and later a full-service hotel and conference center and residential and retail facilities.

``We thank City Council and all of the City staff that we negotiated with on this very complex agreement, but today is really just the first step,’’ Magic CEO Alex Martins said. ``It’s going to be a great opportunity for downtown and for the redevelopment of Parramore. We believe now through our estimates that the development could be a $200 million investment into downtown. It going to create hundreds, if not a thousand jobs overall, when you include the people who will be working in the facilities and constructing the facilities. So we’re really confident that this is going to be a great investment for downtown.’’

The Magic were the developers of the city-owned Amway Center, which opened three years ago to rave reviews and has become what Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called ``the envy of everyone in the NBA and the envy of everyone around the country.’’

When the City Council and Orange County approved to 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 recent downturn in the economy stunted some of that revitalization, but Martins said the Magic’s investment into downtown should spur growth in the area.

``When we started the Amway Center process we talked a lot about how we had studied major downtowns throughout our country. And a lot of these new facilities helped to spur economic development and revitalization to areas that needed it in places like Nashville, Columbus and Charlotte,’’ Martins said. ``Unfortunately due to the economic recession we haven’t seen that kind of development spurred by the Amway Center. This is our opportunity to light the spark. And hopefully this is just the first of many developments that will take place in that immediate area and provide for the redevelopment of Parramore similar to what has occurred around the country.’’

Now, the Magic and other investors are planning to spend more than $200 million in Orlando’s bustling downtown. The project, which will come in two phases and could span over five years, represents a significant investment by the Magic and their partners that would create jobs and provide dining, hotel and entertainment options.

District 1 City Commissioner Jim Gray spoke out on the city’s sale of the land to the Magic, saying that the Magic are the ``logical developers’’ of and he added that, ``if they are willing to invest their money in this property, they deserve the upside’’ of potential profits.

District 2 City Commissioner Tony Ortiz defended the Magic against critics, saying that the organization has long been a leader in community projects to benefit at-risk youth in Central Florida. In its 25-year history, the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation has donated more than $18 million to non-profit organizations that serve at-risk children and needy families.

``I’m tired of (critics) pointing the finger at the Magic,’’ an impassioned Ortiz said. ``The magic organization has helped this city in many, many, many ways. One of the most important ways that they have helped is with our kids. … When I see the kids being taken care of – especially the kids who cannot afford to pay for programs – and the Magic come up to the plate and they say, `Here we are to help you guys.’ Stop pointing the fingers if you don’t know what’s going on in the City of Orlando. Enough of that.’’

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,’’ said Allie Braswell, CEO of the Central Florida Urban League. ``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.’’

Jay Henry, owner of J. Henry’s Barber Shop, said that the Magic have long been supportive of the at-risk youth and the businesses in the Parramore community. He said he has total confidence that the Magic are serious about commitment to making a difference in the Parramore region.

``The Magic have always been a great asset to my barber shop over the years, dating all the way back to when they first got started with Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and Shaq (O’Neal) from back in the day. They just have great people over there with the Magic,’’ Henry said. ``With the Parramore Kidz Zone, I can think about guys like (Magic Community Ambassadors) Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw being over there and helping those kids. I’ve witnessed the Magic guys come down and donate their time to the New Image Youth Center. The Magic have always done great things for the people in our community and it makes me happy knowing that they care about the people over here. I grew up in the area and I’m 49 years old, and the Magic have always been hands on with the community over here. They’ve made a great difference over here.’’

Martins said the Magic’s commitment to helping make a difference in the community and working to better the lives of those in the Parramore region is something the organization has focused on throughout its 25-year history. That, he stressed, will always be a focus of the franchise.

``It’s part of what we do. Kids have always been a big part of what we do in Central Florida. And it’s not just now or since the Amway Center has been opened – it’s been throughout our 25-year history,’’ Martins said. ``All of our philanthropy and all of our community work has always focused on at-risk children in Central Florida. That has been the case for 25 years and we’re going to continue to do that.’’

Following Monday’s unanimous approval by the City Council for the Magic to buy the land near the Amway Center, the Magic will now go through a 120-day investigation period and a 60-day closing process. The land is located north of Church Street, East of Division Street, South of Central and west of Hughey.

``We still have a development agreement that we have to come to with the city and a lease agreement on the police station site and then a number of other agreements before we actually take control of the land and ultimately close on the land,’’ Martins said. ``Our team and the City’s team will continue to work on all of those elements and hopefully by this summer we’ll be ready to do some work on the land.’’

The first step in the transformation of the land will be the demolition of the 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 in Maitland and the organization is planning to consolidate its entire operation in one facility.

``That’s important to us. One thing that has been a challenge to us since we moved into the Amway Center has been having the staff separated,’’ Martins said. ``Most of our staff spends a good portion of their time up and down I-4 between Maitland and the Amway Center. It has created some challenges for us in terms of efficiency. And we’re looking forward to getting everybody back onto the same location.’’





Follow John Denton on Twitter here