A few programs that were launched by our former Nighttime Economy Manager, Dominique Greco, seem to have faded away over the past few months, while the City mulls over her replacement and the next steps for possible civic programs to support the hopeful resurgence of its downtown.
Greco, who served as the City of Orlando’s first “Night Mayor,” was responsible for enacting a number of projects during her time with the City that dealt with fostering a healthier environment for businesses in the downtown core, including the launch of downtown Rideshare Hubs, free outdoor restrooms, and a Downtown Mobile Food Vending Pilot Program. All of which have been phased out since her departure.
The role has been vacant for much of 2021 with the job only being posted earlier in the summer but the City has informed us that the role will be filled “… within 30-45 days.”
While that takes place, however, the aforementioned programs have all but disappeared.
The Rideshare Hub program was established to help ease the mass exodus from downtown that occurred in the wee hours after the bars had closed, establishing designated locations where companies like Uber and Lyft could pick up their riders and be on their way without contributing to the congestion on one-way streets like Orange Avenue. With the decline in bar-goers during the pandemic, the program was allegedly deemed moot.
The restrooms, which were a pilot project put forth by a Nightlife Task Force in 2019, saw the installation of two mobile bathroom stalls in the downtown core, paid for by the CRA, with an estimated cost of roughly $500,000 at the time, and were seen as a stop-gap measure for a lack of publicly accessible restrooms in the Central Business District for people leaving bars and restaurants and people experiencing homelessness but they quietly vanished earlier in the summer. Public Information Officer Samantha Holsten shared that the City of Orlando is looking into other opportunities for public bathrooms at this time but couldn’t elaborate on what those might be.
The Downtown Mobile Food Vending Pilot Program which was launched in 2019, was seen as an extension to the Rideshare Hub initiative and as another possible way to manage late-night crowds leaving the downtown when the bars had closed; by filling them with carbs and street meat. The City set aside three on-street parking spaces to be used only by food trucks on a first-come, first-served basis during specific times of the day, at Gertrude’s Walk, Heritage Square, and by the Sperry Fountain at Lake Eola. The City reports that they had seen a decline in the use of the spaces by food trucks and a decline in food truck activation so they have since decided to discontinue the program.
The city-wide Mobile Food Vending Program will continue to allow food trucks to park on private property in specific zoning districts that allow eating and drinking use, for up to two days a week with proof of a Business Tax Reciept.
One bright spot in public programming in the downtown core is an expected launch of an outdoor busking program facilitated by the Downtown Arts District, but the activations will mostly focus on afternoons and lunch hour crowds. We expect to be able to share more on that initiative in the next week or so.