Local developers JV on new plan for Downtown Orlando women's shelter site

Bob Moser
GrowthSpotter

Orlando-based developer Liberty Investment Properties has the former Women's Residential and Counseling Center (WRCC) site in Downtown Orlando under contract, with plans to redevelop as a three-story building with self storage and a pharmacy or other retailer. 

Located at 107 Hillcrest St. on the southeast corner of Colonial Drive and Magnolia Avenue, the 1.41-acre parcel is owned by an affiliate of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. It has three small buildings dating to 1964 that have been operated for years as a lodging and union hall for the women's shelter, which often houses victims of domestic violence. 

Liberty has filed a Specific Parcel Master Plan (SPMP) with the city to redevelop the site with a 10,950-square-foot retailer or pharmacy with drive-thru on the ground floor, and a self storage facility with office across 95,660 square feet on the second and third floors, along with parking and loading areas. 

The retailer's entry would be on the hard corner, to benefit from Colonial Drive's estimated 38,000 annual average daily vehicle trips, according to Orange County. The proposed uses are allowed, per the city's Growth Management Plan. 

While the SPMP specifies a pharmacy as the intended use, Liberty is now negotiating with two different types of retail users for the single-tenant ground space, so a pharmacy is not guaranteed, president Adam Mikkelson told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday. 

The site came to Mikkelson as a joint venture opportunity with Winter Park-based Rock Properties, Inc., which took the lead in negotiating with the Coalition earlier this year to bring the property under contract. 

"Rock and Liberty are aligned in seeing this as an opportunity to bring market-demanded uses through an urban redevelopment," Mikkelson said. "We are pursuing approvals and closing in 2018."  

Mikkelson declined to comment on total project cost or prospective need for a construction loan. A general contractor has not been chosen. 

Liberty has developed in recent years more than 10 self storage facilities around Central Florida, the majority partnered with the brand My Neighborhood Storage Center. It will partner again here with MNSC, serving as developer and operator. 

"This is a great retail location, especially for redevelopment. The only concern I have is the stretch of Colonial between Orange and Mills avenues being more of an office corridor," said John Krzyminski, director of Cite Partners' retail team, who holds no stake in the deal. "That 7-11 on the corner (of Magnolia and Colonial) does very well, but motorists pass by there quickly and it isn't known as a strong retail corridor."

A major pharmacy is the best retail bet for that site, Krzyminksi added. While the nearest CVS at Mills Avenue and Walgreens at W. Church Street-N. Orange Avenue are each one mile from the women's shelter, the property wouldn't cannabalize either of those established locations, and would better serve the North Quarter apartment residents that favor walkability. 

The Coalition signed a sale contract with Liberty and Rock Properties the week of Oct. 18. J. Paul Reynolds of Foundry Commercial marketed the property for the Coalition over the past year, and all the residents at WRCC have been moved to the Coalition's main campus as of earlier this month. 

Liberty's plan for the property is similar to a retail and self storage building proposal it made in July to the city of Winter Park for a 1.51-acre site on Fairbanks Avenue. That plan proposed multi-tenant retail on the ground floor, and Liberty's bid was dismissed by the city in favor of a medical office development

The Coalition will be designating a board committee to establish an endowment-type fund and a plan to reinvest the proceeds of this property sale into future services for women and children, said John Heard, president and CEO of the Coalition.

American Civil Engineering Co. of Winter Springs, and FWH Architects of Holiday have contributed to the project's design thus far. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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