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City Council Plans Church Street Comeback

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        -New hope for historic Orlando block   

        “Reintroducing locals to downtown.” That’s the new theme after the Orlando City Council announced its plans to revive Church Street. Bob Snow purchased the block of historic downtown back in the early 1970’s. He went on to build the region into a grouping of themed bars and restaurants that mirrored the historic Church Street Station. Tourism in the area peaked in the 1980’s as millions of people visited the block to experience Orlando nightlife. However, the construction of similar ventures at Universal Studios CityWalk  and Disney World led to a downturn. Visitors suddenly had less of a reason to make the trip from the parks to downtown. Now nearly two decades later, The Orlando City Council has a plan they hope is going to change that trend. In an agreement with a local merchants group the city council is planning a strong comeback for Church Street, one that looks to attract bigger crowds to a place already known for its parties.

        Business in the area is improving ever since the creation of the state of the art Amway Center. Local entrepreneurs responded with a number of new locations opening for service nearby. Undoubtedly, the local economy has improved with consistent gameday crowds for Orlando Magic home games. But city officials want more. Currently there are close to 60 businesses operating in the Church Street area.  The city’s new goal is not only to keep business flowing during and after Magic games, but also to find ways to keep people in town even when the team is on the road. The city is looking to attract young people looking for nightly events and give families a reason to come downtown as well.   

The New Amway Center has helped business on Church Street

            The city’s new plan centers around a schedule that will shut down Church Street roads from traffic on a nightly basis. The regular  street closings will take place from 6:30 pm to 3 am on weeknights and 5 pm to 3 am on weekends. The hopeful result is a shift in the way bars and restaurants are able to conduct business. Restaurants will now have the ability to expand capacity and allow outside dining on a much wider scale. The increased capacity may be lead to increased business for these local venues.  The new plan will also include an increase in the number of vendors and merchants on Church Street. The agreement between the city council and local merchants will allow for up to ten carts at one time to be on a block of downtown.  While the area is known mainly for its places to drink and eat, officials say the addition of new merchants may fill a retail gap in the area as well. The hope is that visitors will have another opportunity to pour money into the local area by purchasing  souvenirs and art on the street while simultaneously experiencing what district representatives call a “festival atmosphere.”           

            The city will be using its resources by advertising the downtown area in Central Florida hotels, tours, trade shows, and conventions. New ideas are being developed for monthly events that should attract a more diverse crowd. There is the potential for downtown auto shows, and wine and art festivals. While locals are noticing an increase in traffic downtown, conditions are far from perfect. Homeless people still wander the streets looking for handouts amongst those kind enough to give them. While business is getting better, the area still needs a cleanup and security.

Church Street roads are closed to traffic.

       The question remains just how much should the city invest into a reclamation project when district officials admit its not likely that Church Street will return to its best years of the 1980’s? The city is looking to apply a minimal amount of funds by using what they already have. Local bars and restaurants will sell themselves and young audiences continue to come downtown for these venues. The next step is giving families and busy professionals looking for more than a drink a reason to stay. The plan is still in its infancy, but the future looks bright for an area once past its prime.

– Arthur Volpe

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Written by ArthurVolpe

March 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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