GreenTree readies plan for $300M infill redevelopment next to Amway Center

Local developer Timothy Green has spent much of the last year assembling nearly two city blocks adjacent to downtown Orlando's Amway Center and will submit plans in October for a $300 million mixed-use entertainment district that highlights the neighborhood's rich cultural heritage.

The filing would coincide with the Oct. 17 opening of Tim's Place, GreenTree Development's first investment in the Amway-Parramore neighborhood. The sports bar at 532 W. Church St. is the first phase of the infill redevelopment that could ultimately add more than 1.5 million square feet of mixed-income housing, retail, an office tower and a hotel across nearly 12 acres in the Parramore neighborhood.

Green has enlisted UrbanAmerica, one of the nation's largest minority-owned real estate investment and development firms, as co-developer. The firm focuses its efforts on bringing quality development to distressed inner city neighborhoods.

The project would involve the demolition and redevelopment of two city-owned apartment communities: Jackson Court and Division Oaks. Green said he has a verbal agreement to acquire Division Oaks, which has 18 studio apartments, pending permit approval.

"I call it the Green District," Green told GrowthSpotter. "I think the city has had a vision for what they want in that area. They were just waiting for the right developer to come in and assemble everything else." 

Green said he's already held a pre-application meeting with city staff and is in negotiations with Orlando Housing Authority, which manages the two properties. Jackson Court has 75 units, 58 of which are designated for low-income seniors. The project is contingent on getting approval from OHA.

"Our goal is to keep all residents in the new development, while providing them with new amenities," Green said.

The plan would be to begin construction on vacant land for Phase 1, which would include 110 apartments and 34,524 square feet split between retail and office uses. The McCoy Apartments, named for UrbanAmerica founder and CEO Richmond McCoy, would include a mix of market-rate and affordable units reserved for the current residents of Division Oaks and Jackson Court. The unit count might expand to 200, if the city approves a density bonus for the project.

"I really applaud the collaboration we've had thus far with city officials," McCoy said. "We're really working hand-in-hand with them to determine what the market would like to see there."

The next phase would involve the demolition and reconstruction of Jackson Court, as a 12- to 18-story apartment tower with structured parking and ground-floor office or retail. 

"Our goal was to do 28 stories, but we're realistic," Green said. "Plus, we want the massing of the buildings to really look good and complement the plan the city already has."

The Orlando Magic last week unveiled an updated conceptual plan for its Sports and Entertainment District on the block north of Amway Center and expect to break ground in 2019.

"We  have reached out to the Magic, and we have meetings in the coming weeks," Green said. "We want to be great neighbors, and obviously we benefit each other."

Green and McCoy engaged VHB, the same planning firm that drafted the Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan, to design the district so it complies with the overall mixed-use vision for the site. Studio 407 and Randy Bumbalough of Arc Design Lab utilized building materials and elevations that reference the historical architecture of the neighborhood while a creating a modern, cohesive district.

The Green District conceptual plan would involve multiple residential and mixed-use buildings, now planned for a total 464 living units. Green said he is under contract to buy multiple parcels on the the 600 block of Church Street, across from the Orlando City Soccer Stadium parking lot. 

A 6-story office tower at the corner of Church Street and Division Avenue is another integral element of the district. Green said the top floor would be a private, members-only club with a roof deck.  The 85,122-square-foot building would also have dedicated spaces for a resource center for community non-profit organizations, as well as classrooms for continuing education, GED classes and law enforcement training. He hopes to secure a bank tenant for the ground floor.

The final piece of the puzzle would be a 15-story, 400-key hotel at the corner of Division Avenue and South Street. Preliminary renderings show a skybridge connecting the hotel to the Amway Center. 

"We think that game goers who stay at the hotel would love to walk across and enter the arena," Green said. "We think the hotel is a plus for the Magic, as it will give their fans additional options when traveling to see a game."

Green said the partners are hoping to name it "Wells' Built Hotel" in honor of the Parramore landmark that was built by Dr. William Monroe Wells in 1921. It was the only hotel in Orlando that was open to African American visitors during segregation. The original hotel at 511 W. South Street is now the Wells' Built Museum, an African American history and cultural museum.

"We would need to get approval from the museum board to use that name," Green said. "We thought it would be a good play to do the historical reference."

If they don't use the Wells name, the hotel would simply be called the Green-McCoy hotel. The duo is considering adding a luxury multifamily component to the tower, in which case they would reduce the hotel room count to 250 keys. McCoy, who previously owned and operated the Doubletree Hilton at Sea World, would operate the hotel.  

Ultimately, Green and McCoy hope to be able to add a performance hall connected to the hotel and museum as an homage to the original South Street Casino, which was built by Wells in 1924. That building, which never actually permitted gambling, was destroyed by fire in the early 1980s. 

"It would be a multipurpose venue that could fit 300 to 600 people with flexible seating," Green said. 

McCoy said the emphasis on preserving Parramore's cultural heritage was an important component, and fits with UrbanAmerica's overall mission.

"It is unique," he said. "Because you have developers who happen to be people of color, we are very sensitive to the heritage of Parramore. Communities do become gentrified, but that doesn't mean they have to be predominantly one race. We want to keep the diversity and excitement of the city here."

So in addition to preserving affordable housing within the district, the developers will also work to ensure there are employment and contracting opportunities for Parramore residents and minority-owned businesses, McCoy said.

Green said he and McCoy have financial backing from multiple lenders, including Security Capital Ventures, a $5 billion hedge fund based in Naples.

The development team will hold a second pre-application meeting with city staff in October before submitting a Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the district. They hope to have all entitlements in place within a year and expect to break ground early 2020. 

"We want to get it built as quickly as possible, so the construction period from beginning to end would be three years," he said.

Green is also currently in construction on a soccer-themed club and sports bar called "Lions Den" at 642 W. Church St, but his development interests have extended beyond Parramore. He has developed affordable housing, single-family developments in Mount Dora and Windermere, and is developing 30,000 square feet of commercial space in Ocoee.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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