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6/7/2007

News > Council Watch

COUNCIL WATCH

 

Following last session’s wash of boredom and boosterism for venue-fication, it came as no surprise that this week’s perfunctory walk-through registered lower on the excite-o-meter. Mayor Buddy Dyer presented a “brief” mayor’s update alchemized with homeownership (which now has its own month … this one!), property-tax reform (still uncertain) and hurricanes (comin’ right for us!). It was a toxic soup to be stirring around in, but our fearless leaders – fed by a convocation noting that “too often we focus on the negative” – managed to pull everything together with a hearty, if cautious, smile.

Item: The city approves a business assistance agreement between Del Piero’s Pizzeria & Restaurant Inc. and the city of Orlando.

Translation: Does it get any more mafia than this? “Big Boy” Buddy and Co. finally roll over into the pizza biz by way of the city’s Business Assistance Program (a grant-matching endeavor launched in 2001). Assurances that Del Piero’s will be a “full-service Italian restaurant” were touted, which this reporter took to include cinder blocks tied to the ankles of some unlucky snitches destined for the bottom of Lake Eola. According to the item, the BAP will pay $7,871.33 for “sewer benefit fees.” (Waste management!) Altogether more interesting is the future renovation site at 21 S. Orange Ave.: It used to be a wig shop! But don’t complain about the hair in your manicotti, lest you be politely asked to leave the gun and take the cannoli.

Item: The city approves the Verde project downtown residential incentive agreement.

Translation: Sometimes the Community Redevelopment Agency makes sense (like when property taxes aren’t on Tallahassee’s chopping block, heh) and sometimes its terms of community redevelopment are as transparent as the arena deal. This case appears to fall in the former category, proposing a 20-year tax increment recapture (basically a tax break) for GDC Properties’ giant 484-unit residential idea, the Verde Project. The mixed-use, certified green development will agree to keep 20 percent of its units affordable to folks in households operating at or below 50 percent of the median income of the area ($40,000 for a single person, meaning a studio will rent for $502 a month) and another 40 percent of units for those in the 51 to 150 percent income range, leaving the remaining 40 percent for the upper-crusties. On the ground floor, 13,500 square feet of retail space is planned that will, with luck, “stimulate street-level activity in this key block of Orange Avenue.” Hookers would be nice. Green ones!

Item: The city approves an extension agreement amending an existing extension agreement and ground lease between the city, Orlando Utilities Commission and the Lake Highland Preparatory High School for real property located near Lake Highland.

Translation: Or “how to buy time when dealing with an EPA investigation.” Back in January the news broke that this contentious plot of downtown land – six acres of which is presently used by Lake Highland Prep for athletics, with a lease-to-buy option in consideration – was contaminated by a 40-year-old mess of trichloroethene. The city, OUC and Lake Highland’s agreement that the school would buy the land expired last October, leaving the whole mess in the red-tape limbo of heated price negotiations. This extension adds 360 more days to sort things out, or at least “continue discussions concerning the future clean-up, sale, and redevelopment of the property.” Aren’t the rich kids already scabbing their knees there? Dirty!

Item: The city approves a funding agreement with the Downtown Arts District for the Orlando Arts Business Institute.

Translation: More insipid quantification of Orlando’s lazy arts over-perception as the city agrees to drop $24,560 on the shiny new concept of the Arts Business Institute. Founded by the Rosen Group – who apparently publish AmericanStyle and NICHE magazines – the ABI seeks to ensure the “furthering of artists’ careers through business education.” Left brain, say hello to right brain, or something, while Orlando holds its breath for more bad zebra-skin hotel art (price: $10,000). A conference is set for Sept. 6-10, meaning cash will be needed for facility rental, marketing and nosh. Wouldn’t it be better just to give a starving artist the 25 grand? Maybe then he or she could afford an apartment at the Verde!

bmanes@orlandoweekly.com
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