The city of Orlando could launch a new tax incentive program as soon as next week to promote redevelopment of large blighted, abandoned and Brownfield properties that it considers catalysts for change in their neighborhoods.
Dubbed the Targeted Revitalization Site Redevelopment Program, the aim is to draw developer and investor interest to sites that have gone overlooked in recent years despite the boom for local commercial real estate investment.
"There were a couple of key sites we want to see redevelopment occur on, but one of the struggles we've had over the years is how to provide the development community with certainty on the front end so they can put together a redevelopment plan," Orlando's Director of Economic Development Brooke Bonnett told GrowthSpotter.
"(Developers) thrive on certainty, and we want to encourage them to take a look at these sites we think are catalytic sites in our community."
Staff will seek approval for the new pilot program from City Council on March 19, which would take effect immediately if approved.
In order to qualify as an eligible "targeted revitalization site," property must be at least 9 acres in size, and have experienced a lack of investment over many years that can be reflected by declining value on the county tax rolls.
Property can also meet Brownfield Site qualifications, and must eventually have an approved redevelopment plan that incorporates two or more mixed uses, along with potential sustainability features, affordable/workforce housing units, high-quality urban design and dedicated public spaces.
Qualifying projects would be given a 10-year, 50 percent real property tax refund on the city portion of new tax increment generated by the development.
The agreement is transferable if land owners sell the asset over time, though the tax refund would not exceed a 10-year period, even with phased development.
Notable properties Bonnett and her staff hope will draw interest with this program include the vacant former Kmart retail center at 1801 S. Semoran Blvd., which with a 114,180-square-foot building has been marketed for lease or redevelopment by CBRE Orlando for more than two years.
Other ideal targets are the 99,000-square-foot Rosemont Plaza retail center at 5700 N. Orange Blossom Trail, the 141,000-square-foot Magic Mall at 2155 W. Colonial Dr., and the Orlando Fashion Square mall where DeBartolo Development has the long-term leasehold interest under contract for potential redevelopment.
All qualifying projects must go through a Master Plan or Planned Development review process. As part of this, additional land development code regulations may be applied to help the city in meeting its sustainability, affordable housing and urban design goals.
Bonnett encourages land owners or developers interested in taking advantage of this program to meet with Orlando's Business Development Division early to review their proposal.
"They will be moving through that review process in concert with our staff," she said. "So as with any project that is of this size or complicated by several different types of uses, we'd like to work closely with the applicant."
Performance benchmarks based on an approved redevelopment plan will be included as part of that developer's agreement. The proposed redevelopment project's cost must also be 400 percent of the existing taxable value of the property, and a one-year "Push Option" will be allowed due to project delays.
As soon as City Council approves the pilot program, Bonnett said her staff will begin proactively contacting owners of target properties to inform them of the opportunity. They'll also market it on the road at ICSC trade shows.
"This program will allow for properties to be (assembled), so we may see some of that too," she said. "What we're hoping is that quality developers will begin to look at sites they hadn't before."
Properties that would not be eligible for this tax refund program include those in a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) boundary, like the one covering much of downtown Orlando.
Sites that have been acquired or redevelopment plans announced prior to the program's approval this month would be ineligible. Greenfield sites are ineligible, as would projects with "Locally Undesirable Land Uses" listed in city code.
The pilot program would run for a five-year period, with a five-year renewal option that requires City Council approval.
Some notable brownfield sites that have been redeveloped in downtown Orlando in recent years include Creative Village, the Steelhouse Apartments at 750 N. Orange Ave., Orlando City's new soccer stadium and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.