Challenges still facing downtown Orlando businesses

The City of Orlando says that while 47 businesses have closed downtown since 2023, 58 have opened. 

However, vacant storefronts are everywhere downtown. FOX 35 News spoke with different stakeholders about the problems facing downtown Orlando; each one cited different challenges businesses face.

The first problem was high rents. City Commissioner Patty Sheehan said landlords made things hard for first-floor small businesses. 

"I guess now, with their financing, I don't understand what's happening, but they're trying to get exorbitant rents that small businesses just can't afford."

Workers said another issue seemed to be parking. A convenience store worker who didn't want to give her name said parking spots were hard to find and meter readers were scaring away customers. 

"There's no parking. If it wasn't for these workers tagging us, ticketing us every few minutes, we don't have no parking down here."

Restaurant managers said they were also being hit by high food prices. Jeremy Santiago of Metro Espresso Pizza said that made them raise the prices they had to charge customers, which could drive them away. 

"Food has risen. I just confirmed our trucks. They've I know it's raising every six months. People were getting upset, saying six months ago, it wasn't like this. Three months ago, it wasn't like this. It went up a dollar, two dollars, three dollars."

Commercial real estate expert Zack McNamara with Franklin Street Commercial Real Estate said while there were challenges, more people were moving downtown. 

"So as those folks continue to move in, the cost of construction goes down, some of these other incentive packages the city is putting out, hopefully, pick up some more restaurants in the downtown corridor."

McNamara said we were just starting to see things turning around. 

"At some point, there's going to be a tipping point for residents living downtown who need a place to eat and go and visit at nighttime."

The city said it’s been working to lure more businesses downtown. For example, Travel & Leisure will move its headquarters downtown, bringing nearly a thousand more workers there over the next five years.