In Creative Village and the metaverse, Mayor Buddy Dyer touts downtown Orlando – Orlando Sentinel
From the real world and the virtual metaverse, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer invited tech companies and employees to plant their roots in the city he said is poised to become the nation’s “MetaCenter.”
The virtual space, which tech developers say could play a critical role in a futuristic economy, combines technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence — all of which are being actively developed in the region, the mayor said at his annual State of Downtown speech.
“The metaverse is going to be for the next three decades what the internet was for the previous three decades,” Dyer told an audience of area business, government and education leaders. “Consider this your personal invitation from the Mayor of Orlando. We want you to share what we’re building here in the metaverse.”
Dyer spoke Wednesday at Luminary Green, the 2.3-acre park that opened in August in the middle of Creative Village. The Park is surrounded by apartments, the UCF and Valencia College downtown campus and Electronic Arts’ new state-of-the-art studio. The annual speech is a fundraiser for the Downtown Orlando Partnership.
As the mayor addressed the physical audience, a digitized avatar of Dyer was projected onto the screen at EA’s headquarters and to 10 select viewers in the metaverse who were able to view him as well. He called it the first mayoral speech in the virtual world.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer stands in front of his avatar in the metaverse on the side of the Electronic Arts building after giving his annual State of Downtown speech at the newly opened Luminary Green Park in the Creative Village area of downtown Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel)
In his speech, the mayor said there are about 2,500 high-way tech jobs open in the region.
“If you think about it, all the different components of the metaverse, other than cryptocurrency, we have right here in Orlando,” Dyer told reporters following the speech. “We have the talent, we have the companies here… the MetaCenter, I would say, in a few years could be what was equivalent to California creating the Silicon Valley.”
One real-world example is a “digital twin” of about 800 square miles of metro Orlando, which can be used for everything from urban planning to video games. It was unveiled, along with the MetaCenter moniker for the city, by the Orlando Economic Partnership earlier this year, which at the time was said to be a step toward the metaverse.
In the physical realm, Dyer said downtown is on the verge of a major shift to becoming a neighborhood. The population has more than doubled since the early 2000s, and the needs of companies and their employees have changed.
Much of the speech touched on Project DTO 2.0, which officials say will transform downtown block-by-block, from remaking one-way streets for two-way traffic, building new public spaces at areas like Lake Lucerne and upgrading the Lymmo bus service to better serve residents and workers.
Ensuring the downtown is safe, a key focus of city leadership over the past year, was also highlighted.
High profiles acts of violence surrounding the city’s robust nightlife — including the murder of an Army veteran last year and, more recently, a July mass shooting that wounded seven people and a September shooting that injured two — prompted a review of downtown’s rules, regulations and environment.
“We don’t want to have any more of that, so we’ve been working with some of the people who own those businesses to make our city more safe and more secure after midnight. They’ll probably be some more things coming,” Dyer told reporters following the speech. “If you’re trying to attract people somewhere, it’s doubly important that it’s safe.”
Now revelers see more police on the streets at night, they pass through security checkpoints with gun-sniffing dogs, and walk under brighter lighting with more camera surveillance. New regulations are in place requiring private parking lots and garages to have security and be staffed when cars are parked.
Dyer said downtown Orlando is on the verge of “reinvention.”
“It shouldn’t be a surprise that coming out of a global pandemic, Orlando is primed for another cycle of reinvention,” he said.
Copyright © 2022, Orlando Sentinel
Copyright © 2022, Orlando Sentinel
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