Downtown Beautification: Orlando

September 17, 2013 26 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Orlando wants to have a "big city" downtown. While not there yet, it's well on its way. Over the last decade, the skyline has doubled in size and the number of downtown residents has increased to 12,000. From Bus Rapid Transit and commuter rail to allowing billboards, sidewalk dining and attracting suburban colleges to invest in the core, the elements of urbanism that Jacksonville continues to struggle to embrace are finding a way to flourish in this urban setting. Nevertheless, what really stands out is the high level of service applied to keeping the streets clean and public spaces well landscaped and maintained. Metro Jacksonville wants you to see for yourself. Here is a brief look at the streets of downtown Orlando.

Tale of the Tape:

Orlando City Population 2012: 249,562 (City); 2,223,674 (Metro 2012) - (incorporated in 1875)

Jacksonville City Population 2012: 836,507 (City); 1,377,850 (Metro 2012) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Orlando (52,367)

City Land Area

Orlando: 102.4 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2012)

Orlando: +4.18%
Jacksonville: +2.40%

Urban Area Population (2010 census)

Orlando: 1,510,516 (ranked 32 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)

Orlando: 2,527.3 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile

City Population Growth from 2010 to 2012

Orlando: +11,262
Jacksonville: +14,723

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Orlando: Orange County Convention Center (1983) - 2,100,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to or across the street from Convention Center:

Orlando: Hyatt Regency Orlando Convention Center - 1,641 rooms, Rosen Centre Hotel - 1,334 rooms
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building/Structure:

Orlando: SunTrust Center - 441 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2013 (City limits only):

Orlando: Darden Restaurants (328)
Jacksonville: CSX (231), Fidelity National Financial (353), Fidelity National Information Services (434)

Urban infill obstacles:

Orlando: The need to balance gentrification with the true revitalization of Parramore.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife District:

Orlando: Downtown Historic District
Jacksonville: The Elbow, The Jacksonville Landing

Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Orlando: 88 out of 100, according to
Jacksonville: 78 out of 100, according to


Completed in 2010, the $380 million, 18,500 seat Amway Center is home to the NBA's Orlando Magic.


The Amway Center includes a built in digital billboard to advertise events to passing Interstate 4 drivers.


The Gentleman Jack Terrace is a roof top bar in the Amway Center with a commanding view of downtown Orlando's skyline.


Manicured streetscaping along Division Avenue. The building on the right is the headquarters of HD Supply. HD Supply is one of the largest, most diversified industrial distributors in North America.


The George C. Young U.S. Courthouse & Federal Building.


Green space at the George C. Young U.S. Courthouse & Federal Building.


Creative Village is one of downtown Orlando's most ambitious projects. When complete, the former site of the Amway Arena will be converted into a 68-acre mixed-use, transit oriented, urban infill neighborhood anchored by higher education institutions, high-tech, digital media and creative companies.


Currently, the University of Central Florida's Center for Emerging Media is located in Creative Village.

The UCF Center for Emerging Media is housed in a building which started life as the Orlando Expo Centre.  Over the years, the Expo Centre hosted conventions, exhibits, trade shows, meetings and banquets in its close-to-everything downtown location.  It also served as the centerpiece of the Orlando Centroplex, which included the original Amway Arena, home to NBA’s Orlando Magic.
As the convention business moved south to the newer and much larger Orlando Convention Center on International Drive, the Expo was ripe for a new mission.  In 2004, video game producer Electronic Arts (EA) came to UCF with a unique challenge. It needed to hire hundreds of first-rate video game programmers, artists and video-game producers to keep pace with the growing demands of the video game industry. Other video game studios and companies around the country were experiencing similar shortages. Could UCF help?
In April 2004, EA, the Economic Development Commission and other industrial partners helped UCF secure funding from the State of Florida to develop a graduate-level video game design program and FIEA (aka the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy) was born. In October 2004, the City of Orlando formed a partnership with the university to provide a home for FIEA in the former Orlando Expo Centre and in August of 2005, the school opened its doors.
Soon after, a variety of production-oriented state university programs began migrating to UCF’s thriving new downtown showplace. Joining FIEA at the Center for Emerging Media were Flying Horse Editions; Citylab Orlando (from the University of Florida)  and a variety of film, art and digital media programs from what would soon become the UCF School of Visual Art and Design.  CEM also hosts Gallery 500, the EA Innovation Lab and Studio 500, a professional facility offering stages for film, video and motion capture projects.
With it’s rapid growth and popularity, the Center for Emerging Media is poised to serve as the educational centerpiece of Orlando’s new Creative Village, which will build upon the success of Orlando’s digital media industry by transforming the original Amway Arena site (now leveled)  into a 68-acre mixed-use, transit oriented, urban infill neighborhood in the heart of downtown Orlando.  When complete, this high quality, sustainable neighborhood development will support a diverse and dynamic mix of uses including up to 1,200,000 square feet of office/creative space, 500,000 square feet of higher education space, 25,000 square feet of K-12 education space, 1,500 residential units, 150,000 square feet of retail/commercial space and 225 hotel rooms.


Creative Village is located one block from LYNX Central Station. Investments in mass transit are a major component of Orlando's plans to transform their downtown into a multimodal friendly atmosphere.  Already served by downtown Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, construction is underway to expand BRT and add commuter rail.


A LYNX LYMMO (BRT) bus approaches LYNX Central Station. Rail platforms for the Sunrail commuter rail system can be seen under construction in the background.  When complete in May 2014, the 31-mile rail line will connect Orlando with Seminole and Volusia Counties, spurring infill Transit Oriented Development (TOD) throughout the region.  A second phase, which will extend the commuter rail line to 61 miles, will open in 2015, tying Orlando with Osceola County.

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