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COLUMN

Happytown

DPAC looks for some Disney magic, Semoran is just another brick in Tony Ortiz's mustache wall and life is a pizza contest!

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Byron Brooks, the city's chief administrative officer, sheepishly responded that the May/June date was really just a decoy to see how prospective contractors might respond in haste, but then admitted that the city wanted to "make sure that it didn't lose that urgency."

Why so urgent? Well, according to city spokeswoman Cassandra Lafser, all of the construction bids already received by champagne-drenched construction executives at Balfour Beatty - a not-so-small amount of $110 million - will expire on May 11 without an extension; new bids will probably be a bit more expensive. Also, all of this talk about DPAC not happening has probably not been helping out on the donor side. Even if it's not going to be quick, it needs to look quick.

But as it stood Thursday, the board hadn't even figured out how to weigh the criteria with which it would choose its shortlist for the RFQ. Experience? Minority representation? Nobody had a clue, but board member and Walt Disney World Resort President Meg Crofton said she probably knew a couple of construction types who could give the board a fair idea because Disney has built a few things. Lalchandani, showing his real deck, deferred fawningly to Crofton's expertise.

"I have a suggestion: Let's go with Meg," he said. And this is how magic happens in Central Florida. Stay tuned.

If you find South Semoran
Boulevardutterly unbearable due to inconsistent street-side fencing - chain-link here, wooden picket there - then your OCD is in luck. A quarter-mile stretch of residential fencing along the west side of Semoran Boulevard between Andora Street and Casablanca Lane is being demolished as you read this, to be replaced within three months by a 1,300-foot-long, 8-foot-tall, $235,000 chalky-red concrete wall.

Boring, we know. It's just the first phase of a plan, you see, a plan so transformational and profound that Commissioner Tony Ortiz decided it was worth a press conference. On Mar. 18 at the sun-drenched, motor-oil-spackled corner of Andora Street and Solandra Drive, Ortiz bellowed from behind a plastic podium to reporters and city employees about his "vision" to transform the South Semoran corridor. The wall, he barked, "is a very important step into protecting our families, especially our seniors and children, from the dangers of a busy state road, while providing for noise reduction from the ongoing traffic of the boulevard."

It's all nonsense, of course. The real reason for the wall is Ortiz's and the city's embarrassment at the slovenly state of the main thoroughfare between the airport and downtown, a feeling mentioned in passing by Ortiz in the phrase "improve the way our community will look to the outside world." And though the wall may be part of Ortiz's "vision," the idea actually came from Bruce Hossfield, senior city planner, who presented Photoshop renderings of the wall to residents at a nearby Denny's two years ago. Hossfield is also the one who did the grunt work of negotiating building easements with each of the owners of the 18 homes having fences replaced. "We literally had to go door to door and talk to everybody," he says.

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