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Crescent preps construction start after buying Lucerne site in Downtown Orlando

Crescent preps construction start after buying Lucerne site in Downtown Orlando
Highlighted in blue are three parcels totaling roughly 5.5 acres, of which 4.6 acres were bought on Wednesday by the Crescent Communities affiliate. The site is based at W. Gore Street and S. Orange Avenue, just south of Lake Lucerne and the Central Business District. (Orange County Property Appraiser)

Crescent Communities will break ground this month with Brasfield & Gorrie on a two-year construction timeline for its Crescent Lucerne mixed-use project in south Downtown Orlando, and is actively seeking more sites after selling two local apartment assets within the past year, a lead executive with the company told GrowthSpotter.

A Crescent affiliate paid $8.865 million on Wednesday for 4.6 acres on the northwest corner of S. Orange Avenue and Gore Street, which it has been preparing over the past year to redevelop as a mixed-use project with seller Orlando Health

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"Brasfield & Gorrie will be mobilizing over the next few weeks, ... so we'll be full bore on construction this month and are excited," said Jay Curran, vice president of multifamily for Crescent. "We anticipate opening the apartments in late 2018. The timeline for the grocer will be finalized more in the future."

Crescent Lucerne will be a mixed-use development featuring 375 apartment units across two four- and five-story buildings, and 31,000 square feet of retail space that includes 24,000 square feet for an organic grocer, and 7,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Building permit plans filed with the city in early November confirmed North Carolina-based organic grocery chain Earth Fare as the 23,900-square-foot anchor tenant of the project at 9 W. Gore St.

Earth Fare was previously named in April on architectural plans provided to the city as anchor for the ground floor, an agreement that neither the grocer or Crescent have affirmed until now.

"There were a lot of good conversations up front on what Crescent and Orlando Health as the seller wanted to see happen at this location," Curran said. "Orlando Health was very excited about bringing an organic grocer to the downtown market, Delaney Park and to its Orlando Health campus employee base.

"So we pursued a few different potential grocers for this site," he continued. "This will be Earth Fare's first store in Orlando, but they're actively pursuing additional locations."

Crescent Lucerne is a joint venture between Crescent and Foundry Commercial (formerly CNL Commercial Real Estate) to redevelop the site of the former Lucerne Pavilion medical building that was demolished in 2015. Foundry played a key role in bringing Earth Fare on board, and will market the remaining retail space, Curran said.

The Crescent Lucerne project includes a Promenade Street designed with brick pavers, shade trees and fountains. City planners love the "vibrant" design but say the developer needs to maintain the streetscape.
The Crescent Lucerne project includes a Promenade Street designed with brick pavers, shade trees and fountains. City planners love the "vibrant" design but say the developer needs to maintain the streetscape. (City of Orlando ARB)

The buyer, CRP/Crescent Lucerne LLC, sourced a loan of $60.425 million on Wednesday from U.S. Bank National Association, which partnered on the financing with Synovus Bank.

The project includes 695 parking spaces in an integrated parking garage on the east parcel, an elevated bridge connecting the third floors of the garage to one of the apartment buildings, and significant amenities for the residents, including a dog park.

Of the 375 apartments (all market rate), 65 percent will be studios and one-bedrooms, 28 percent as two-bedrooms, and 7 percent as three-bedrooms, Curran said.

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The developer will hire a third-party property manager for the multifamily segment, he added.

About half of the property is reserved for future development, including a high-rise building on the northern end that would face Lake Lucerne.

The developer has the potential to recoup up to $500,000 in costs over the next five years through an agreement with Downtown Orlando's community redevelopment agency.

The incentives deal requires the company to buy the property before Dec. 31, which it has now done. It must also secure a lease of 20 years or more with a reputable grocery store, donate $1,500 annually over five years to downtown special event funding, include a public art component worth at least $50,000 in the project, and encourage the grocer to employ and offer career training to residents of Parramore and senior citizens.

"The city has been supportive, and very interested in holding us to a high quality standard, which is an absolute goal of Crescent," Curran said. "We have a concept for the public art being developed that we're very excited about."

Looking forward, Crescent's multifamily division will be actively seeking more land opportunities in Greater Orlando next year, after selling its Crescent Central Station last December, and the newly-built Crescent Gateway apartments in Altamonte Springs earlier this week.

"We're seeking primarily the ability to deliver a product lifestyle and location. We're always looking for proximity to employment, walkability to amenities and high visibility," Curran said. "That can be a 10-plus acre parcel in the suburbs, or 2-plus acres in an urban location."

Crescent filed for permits in mid-October with the St. Johns River Water Management District. The project made its way through plan and permit approvals with the City of Orlando's Appearance Review Board and City Council earlier this year.

GAI Consultants has contributed design engineering on the project.

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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