9 Investigates as City of Orlando continues to buy up land in Parramore

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Some longtime residents of Orlando's Parramore community are concerned they'll be pushed out by plans for a new sports and entertainment district.

The City of Orlando just bought several pieces of land for a new soccer stadium between the Amway Center and the Citrus Bowl on West Church Street, but that's not all the city owns.

9 Investigates' Lori Brown went through every parcel of land in Parramore and found the city has accumulated nearly 8 million square feet of the community.

Nathaniel Scarbourgh grew up in Parramore and he remembers when the neighborhood had 18,000 residents and a thriving business community.

Today, his neighborhood has only 6,000 residents and the business district is a ghost town.

"It's gone. They tore it all down," said Scarbourgh, adding that the changes started when the city put in the old Amway Arena.

"Some people I knew all my life that stayed where the arena at on South and Brice Street, where the police station is, that was all homes and businesses in there. They took all of that," he said.

Since then, Scarbourgh said he has watched the government gobble up more and more land. He and his wife are worried about gentrification, the rebuilding of deteriorating areas that displaces poorer residents.

Brown went through every parcel in Parramore and found the city now owns about one-third of the community and approximately one-fifth of the government-owned land remains vacant.

Brown asked Mayor Buddy Dyer why the city took land worth millions of dollars off the tax rolls.

"We have a couple of areas that we wanted to do major single-family developments," Dyer said. "It just didn't happen during the course of the recession."

The city's latest expenditure was roughly $10 million for the soccer stadium land. And not everyone in Parramore sees this as a benefit to the residents.

"This is a private venue, for a private owner to make millions of dollars off of the community," said Lawanna Gelzer, a Parramore neighborhood advocate.

Scarbourgh believes if the city would invest more in public safety than land, then more people would want to buy homes in Parramore.

"They did have a camera on that post, and they did clean it up quite a bit," Scarbourgh said. "I wish they'd put another camera up there again. Cameras are a deterrent."

Dyer said the city has worked diligently to improve the neighborhood.

"We're doing everything we can to make it the best neighborhood in the whole city of Orlando," Dyer said.

But Scarbourgh wonders, the best neighborhood for whom?

"They're slowly moving people out," he said. "Eventually, it's going to all be business."

Dyer maintains that the city is also protecting Parramore's residential section.