Main Street program paves the way for growth

City Commissioner Robert Stuart

Retired Congressman Lee H. Hamilton said, “Our democracy is not a product but a continual process. It is preserved not by monuments but deeds. Sometimes it needs refining; sometimes it needs amending; sometimes it needs defending. Always, it needs improving.”

This sentiment is one I think of often about our City government. It’s not perfect, but we’re continually looking for ways to improve and evolve. One area where we are on the right track is with our Orlando Main Street Districts. Main Street is a national program that assists business districts with developing the necessary market niche and creating a cohesive visual identity unique to the district. This approach gradually builds on existing resources and fosters improved long-term community leadership and support for each district.

It’s hard to believe the impact this program has made on our City, and our College Park community, since its implementation in 2008. As one of the inaugural Main Streets, College Park, under the unparalleled leadership of the late Andrea Kudlacz, has made amazing strides in the past 10 years. It lives up to the moniker: “Come. Enjoy Life Along the Drive.”

In 2016 alone, the College Park Main Street added 119 new jobs, gave $20,000 to more than 20 different nonprofits and hosted 17,500 attendees at College Park Main Street events. This year, they have added their own facade grant program to supplement the City’s program, which further allows dollars invested in College Park to stay in our community.

In nearby Ivanhoe Village, 77 jobs were created in 2016. Last month, I joined Mayor Dyer at the groundbreaking of Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company, a new 4,000 square foot brewery and tasting room being built at 1300 Alden Rd. One main reason owner Glenn Closson chose Ivanhoe Village was the support he received from the Main Street and its executive director, Sandi Thompson.

At our last Orlando City Council meeting, we renewed the agreements for our eight Main Street Districts and one Market Street District. For districts like College Park and Ivanhoe Village, which have been in the program more than five years, the City instituted a new funding mechanism; we recognized needs in each district to improve infrastructure and support their business members. The City will now match $25,000 – $50,000 for each district to help them better serve their communities. With the amazing minds we have in College Park, I can’t wait to see the great things that will be accomplished with these dollars during the coming year.

One area the City has needed to improve and evolve is our permitting for small businesses and projects. I was excited to see the launch of Permitting Express last month, a program for which my constituents have been clamoring and we’ve been working toward for a long time. Through Permitting Express, qualifying projects less than 5,000 square feet will automatically be placed in a queue separate from larger permitting projects and will be reviewed by the dedicated Permitting Express team.

Our small businesses are the backbone of our healthy economy and create new jobs and opportunities for residents. Permitting Express will serve the unique and individualized needs of each project, allowing our small businesses to open in a timelier manner, resulting in job growth and stimulation of the tax base in the City of Orlando. I look forward to continuing to work together to improve our residential permitting process as well.

As always, thank you for your support of our great city. Hope to see you this month at JazzFest and next month at Holiday on the Drive!

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