Friday, July 29, 2005

A sucker deal?

The ongoing physical transformation of Orlando's Parramore neighborhood is apparent with City View, a new apartment complex which stands in stark contrast to old buildings along Church Street. Photo from the Orlando Sentinel.

Community economic development plans got a black eye with the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. New London decision a few weeks ago.

Now the Orlando Weekly scores another solid punch with its look at the efforts to revitalize the long-blighted Parramore neighborhood on Orlando’s west side.

This is a look at a different side of community economic development. People here aren’t shouting in outrage about the government seizing homes and businesses with the power of eminent domain, because that’s not what’s happening. But they’re also not watching -- although they should -- how the city is spending tax dollars in an attempt to rekindle what was once a vibrant African-American community.

The cornerstone of the redevelopment project is a six-story development that will include condos, office space and first-floor retail on the edge of Parramore Heritage Central Park, with its planned lake and green space.

A quarter of the condos will be “affordable,” meaning a buyer must make less than 120 percent of the city’s median income -- $55,100 a year for a family of four. A developer can sell units as “affordable” so long as they are priced at or below about $189,000. (The market-rate condos, overlooking a lake in the middle of a newly revived Parramore, will undoubtedly cost much more.)

The Weekly scrutinizes a process that has been much less transparent than a government land grab and concludes that it is equally ugly: a land deal conceived behind closed doors, orchestrated in large part by a city official working both sides at once which resulted in city property sold at a loss to an inefficient, top-heavy nonprofit corporation.

Yes, of course, we should be paying attention to how business is done in Parramore -- and in other neighborhoods, too. Is what’s happening in Parramore really much different from the story of Baldwin Park, an upscale community built on the old Navy base, which the city essentially gave away to developers? From all appearances, Baldwin Park is now a beautiful, thriving community.

Read the Weekly’s article “A Sucker Deal” here.

See the City of Orlando’s “Pathways for Parramore” presentation here.


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