Disney to control retail land at Flamingo Crossings, eyes Phase 1 start in 2018

The Walt Disney Company expects to maintain ownership of and develop roughly 237,000 square feet of retail space planned for the center of its Flamingo Crossings district west of S.R. 429, a lead executive with the company told GrowthSpotter.

Unlike Disney Springs where "experiential" and higher-end retailers are favored, retail brands planned for Flamingo Crossings will be value-oriented and the dining options mostly fast-casual, said Henry Thrash, Disney's senior real estate manager, from the floor of ICSC Florida Conference & Deal Making on Monday. 

The concept plan shown to ICSC attendees depicted 29 retail and restaurant buildings across approximately 45 upland acres to be developed in three phases, bounded by Flamingo Crossings Boulevard and Flagler Avenue, with about 12 acres of it south of Western Way. 

Disney may offer land leases or develop building shells and lease the space, Thrash said. No development plans have been produced yet for the retail segments, which will go through the Reedy Creek Improvement District for governmental review, not Orange County.

Thrash said he expects to see the first phase of retail under construction by this time next year. 

This plan does not include the 154 acres south of Western Way (121.32 net developable) where Disney is planning 1,300 student apartments for its college intern program and another 150,000 square feet of commercial. 

Construction on the four-lane extension of Western Way from the Flamingo Crossings area westward to Avalon Road (1.6 miles) through Disney-owned property is now underway by RCID.

The Flamingo Crossings retail center is meant to support the two existing hotels and five future ones planned around it in the coming years. 

Developer JL Properties bought the first two hotel sites in Flamingo Crossings in December 2013 and built a SpringHill Suites by Marriott (248 rooms) and TownePlace Suites by Marriott (250 rooms), which opened in early 2016. 

JL bought the third hotel site (4.03 acres) in September 2015 and plans a 250-key Hampton Inn & Suites there as the third hotel.

Four other hotel sites totaling 15.7 acres were bought in June and July 2016 by Orlando Hotel Group LLC with an expectation of four more select-service hotels carrying Marriott and Hilton flags, Thrash said. 

Huntsville, Ala.-based Yedla Management Company is the management contact for that buyer entity, and is expected to manage those future hotels. Its affiliate Revolutionary Road Hospitality Group is also managing the hotels at Flamingo Crossings for JL Properties. 

The flags for those four other hotel sites have been openly marketed since ICSC 2015 as Hyatt House, Hyatt Place, Residence Inn by Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn. Thrash said Monday those flags aren't confirmed, and marketing materials may be outdated. 

Development plans for those hotel sites are expected to follow Disney's development of the central retail, or be staggered with phases of the retail. 

Disney first announced the 450-acre Flamingo Crossings project in 2007, which was then put on hold during the economic recession.

Located half a mile from Walt Disney World's western entrance, Flamingo Crossings' hotels are meant to draw budget tourists and teams participating in events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

In addition to Flamingo Crossings, Disney has a prominent 12 acres in Horizon West's Village F village center area that it's looking to sell to a developer, set at the northwest corner of Seidel Road and Seton Creek Boulevard, directly south of the 340-unit Sonoma Hills apartments now under construction by Celebration-based RockHarbor Investments.

The property is entitled for up to 200,000 square feet of potential retail. Thrash said its layout could be similar to Lakeside Village in Windermere, and had a mock layout on Monday showing up to seven small outparcels around a large grocery anchor. 

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