The Orlando City Council is set to approve a deal Monday that would deliver $9 million worth of improvements to an area at Universal Orlando Resort, including a $4.5 million pedestrian bridge connecting Universal's new hotel to it's theme parks and City Walk. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says there is more to the deal than just a bridge.
"There's also some transportation storm water improvements that are included in it."
The money will come from a Community Redevelopment Agency set up in the area around the theme park's property. In the paperwork, the city plans to borrow the $9 million, and after debt service the price tag would swell to $12.5 million. A city spokeswoman says they have been able to find a lower interest rate than what is in the city's documents, so the total will only be $10.3 million. Mayor Buddy Dyer says this CRA is only doing exactly what it was designed for.
"The CRA was set up for transportation improvements in that area. It captures tax increments and we'll continue to use it for transportation improvements and things like pedestrian bridges."
We asked the mayor why Universal would not pay for the bridge since it will connect their hotel with their theme park?
"The CRA is generated on property taxes generated by Universal and some of the surrounding properties, and the CRA was set up to use the excess property taxes generated for transportation improvements to benefit the entire area, and that pedestrian bridge actually connects city property with city property."
Universal points out that they pay $20 million dollars in taxes each year, and that the road this bridge will cross has two-thirds of its traffic coming from locals. They and the city paint it as a safety issue for pedestrians. The city assures FOX 35 that once the bridge is built, it will be open to the public at all times.