There wasn’t a dry eye in the room by the end of a talk I heard recently by Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics and member of the Kennedy family. I was at a gathering of business leaders from all over the country.
The theme of Dr. Shriver’s talk was the idea of building bridges for those more unfortunate. The conversations that then ensued around the room centered around exploring opportunities to be more directly involved with charities abroad, investing more aggressively in social justice efforts in third world countries and daring to take the family on mission trips.
What I desired to say to each and every leader there was that if they really wanted to make a difference, they didn’t have to leave the communities they called home. All they had to do was look out the window of their downtown office high-rise to the other side of the railroad tracks.
Within a mile of many a corporate headquarters there a thousands of families living in the shadows of opportunity while locked in the grip of despair. Even in 21st century America there are millions trapped in a vice of concentrated poverty that is often close to third world standards.
The great injustice of segregation and the unintentional consequence of desegregation left neighborhoods all over the country, abandoned by hope as all those who could afford to leave fled to the suburbs. There is an opportunity to right these wrongs that have made certain neighborhoods in our cities pockets of blight and chronic, generational poverty. This is the spirit of our claim in a recent article by the Orlando Sentinel.
“If none of us do anything, downtown will certainly change eventually and gentrify. But the poor will be kicked out just like people are concerned about. Through Lift Orlando, I believe [we] can build a downtown for all.”
The following video is a panel interview moderated by Paul Ellis, Group President of CNL Commercial Real Estate at the 2015 Trends + Strategies Conference held at the Hyatt Regency Orlando in February of this year and sponsored by University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies.
The panel included our very own LIFT Orlando Founding Chairman and CEO of CNL Financial Group, Tom Sittema, the CEO of Florida Citrus Sports and Founding Board Member of LIFT, Steve Hogan as well as the Downtown Developer behind Creative Village, Craig Ustler.
In it they discuss everything from the importance of mixed-income development to the difficulties of building trust in the inner-city as well as the beliefs that motivate them to do the hard work of revitalizing communities by building bridges of opportunity for all.