ORLANDO, Fla. — Poems, speeches, and dogs dressed to the nines could all be witnessed at the unveiling of a new mural at the corner of Orange Avenue and Pine Street Friday during the annual 407 Day celebration.
The event began in 2020 to help struggling small businesses during the pandemic and continued ever since.
The mural’s location, next to a vacant lot, signified there were few plans to develop the adjacent property in a downtown still trying to overcome the effects of the pandemic and the loss of office workers.
“We looked at a lot of different locations in the downtown and this seemed to have the most exposure and the easiest stability for people to gather in front of it,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
By and large, though, officials described the downtown area as reaching a turning point. Leaders now appear to have a good grasp on the pandemic’s permanent effects on the downtown area and are forming a plan to diversify Orange Avenue away from simply offices and nightclubs.
“Downtown has got to work for everybody,” Orlando Economic Partnership President & CEO Tim Guliani said. “We now have over 20,000 people living in downtown Orlando, and so that dynamic has changed too over the years, and I think now we need to catch up.”
Guliani and others hinted at plans in the works throughout downtown to assist in that transformation, such as upgrading sidewalks to increase walkability and transit options.
One of those plans appeared to include the vacant lot next to the mural.
“Looking at the hidden jewels that we can activate, like the space we’re standing in,” Visit Orlando President Casandra Matej said. “There is an idea to make this a central downtown park.”
Matej also noted the need for more restaurants and retail.
Dyer said the transformation would take years, but it was an effort the city was focusing on. He described a future with smaller businesses with fewer employees, but more businesses overall.
“It’s a neighborhood that’s made up of residents, it’s made up of office workers, it’s made up of small businesses and a vibrant nighttime economy that we think we’ve made much safer,” he said.
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