DPAC looks for some Disney magic, Semoran is just another brick in Tony Ortiz's mustache wall and life is a pizza contest!
Published: March 24, 2011
If there's anything we've learned from years of scabbing our noses around the dirty corners of city development - specifically unnecessary development that's already proven itself to be a failure in terms of public trust and finance - it's that no matter how hard you try to look away and forget a particularly fraught project, it always pops back up in some other fetid form, throbbing not so much with life as with infection. Such was the case on March 17 when we were summoned to the grand reflective spire of the Amway Center (built!) to pick up the imaginary pieces of the $383 million Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (not built).
Astute followers of this particularly florid saga will already know that due to county scrutiny, DPAC has been in deflection mode for a couple of months, brushing off its Chanel sleeves and pretending that reality is a friend. It is not. Now that the nonprofit has been effectively muzzled by county and city forces that have created another nonprofit - because that's what you do when playing shell games on the boardwalk - it was high time to finally figure out what this Orlando Community Construction Corporation (or OCCC-see-what-we-can-do-to-save-DPAC) parole board was all about. Did the combined prowess of the region's powerbrokers coalesce into a healing salve to make the rash of bad news go away? Would a pin be dropping audibly in an acoustic palace next to City Hall before we knew it?
"Time is not on our side," said noted hair-grease fan Alex Martins, Orlando Magic chief operating officer, at the inaugural meeting's outset. Uh-oh.
Martins has been tapped to chair the OCCC, mostly because he made a $480 million arena appear out of thin air last year; On Thursday he gave off an air of slightly disinterested obligation. Still, there were bylaws to be established, forms to be discussed, suits to be rumpled and realities to be dealt with. He promised a "solutions-based approach" before rattling on about "public trust," "partnership" and "compromise." In short, he had no idea what he was getting himself into.
The meeting was called in seeming haste in order to rush out a request for qualifications (RFQ) for owner's representative services - or restart the process of finding somebody to make this damn thing happen. Within moments of discussion amongst the seven-person board, there were already problems. Specifically, the RFQ includes a "construction milestone" of breaking ground in May/June 2011. Ajit Lalchandani, county administrators, sent as the cruel voice of reason representing Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and County Comptroller Martha Haynie, called foul almost immediately.
"I don't think that that takes into consideration the reality of the funding," he stammered, before suggesting a couple of amendments to the document reflecting some of that reality. The fact remains that the county is going to require a lot more cost-cutting analysis - especially if the city wants the county to reopen the interlocal venues agreement to rush more tourist development taxes to the ailing project - and Lalchandani didn't think it was realistic financially or politically to get any of that done in less than three months. DPAC head Kathy Ramsberger, seated quietly at the back of the room, could be heard chewing on her fingernails.
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