Orlando’s Appearance Review Board praised the latest set of renderings for Acram Group’s proposed 20-story mixed-use tower in the city’s North Quarter District at the corner of N. Magnolia Avenue and Weber Street during a courtesy review Thursday.
Acram paid $6.7 million last August for a pair of 50-year-old, low-rise office buildings at 924 and 934 N. Magnolia Ave., just north of Orlando’s senior recreation center. Those office buildings would be razed to clear the way for a trio of towers and parking garage that would add 386 residential units nearly 35,000 square feet of retail and commercial space to the downtown market.
Baker Barrios Creative Director Wayne Dunkelberger told the ARB the project is designed to take advantage of its location directly on the city’s Urban Trail and serve as a hub for activity between the Central Business District and Ivanhoe Village neighborhood. Shops and restaurants will line Magnolia and Weber, but the feature that sets this project apart from other downtown buildings is the elevated plaza courtyard that will be open to the public.
“The plaza really will define the project,” Dunkelberger said. “The feeling that there’s something going on at all levels, at all heights, and it’s activated on all sides and corners was really important for us to really set the bar and tone for this area.”
Acram’s Director of Acquisitions Aaron Lazovik told GrowthSpotter that even though the firm is based in New York, one of their team members is an Orlando native who brought his expertise to the project. “The thing that we liked about this opportunity is that currently there was an existing cash flowing asset, and then that allowed us to kind of come in, become engaged with the market, start doing some plans, and really have an option in terms of when we would go vertical,” Lazovik said.
They see the corner of Magnolia and Weber as an opportunity to create a signature restaurant with outdoor seating at the perimeter and in the plaza. “We think that corner is going to offer a very interesting, compelling kind of F&B opportunity, as well, something that’ll add to the location and connect to the rest of the retail along that strip,” he said.
Members of the development team toured The Julien, another Baker Barrios-designed tower in Creative Village, to get an idea of how the plaza could function as a public space and amenity for the residents. “The design intent for sure is for it to be open and welcoming to the public,” Managing Director Chriss Deppoliti added.
On the upper floors, the developer will offer a “robust amenity package” for residents that will include a pool deck on the roof of the parking garage, recessed outdoor plazas on the east and north towers and a two-story clubhouse with a fitness center and co-working space. “And as you move up to the top of the tower we see kind of a residents’ private club up there, as well as some outdoor space with the trees,” Lazovik said. “That gives you some special views looking back into the CBD.”
ARB Board members complimented the overall design and massing, noting most of the concerns deal with how the building interacts with the senior center, which is a historic building that sits directly on Pasadena Place. The developer intends to use Pasadena as the primary entrance and egress point for the tower’s parking garage, but ARB Director Richard Forbes is recommending the project shift slightly to the north to allow for construction of a sidewalk along the back of the senior center building.
“It is a massive project and so the way that the mass has been distributed, I agree it looks really nice as well,” Clarisse Gates said. “I look forward to seeing more of how things get scaled down to the senior center next door, because right now it does feel very intimidating, but also by working with that front edge, the retail front edge and scaling that down, I think that’ll add more benefits to that senior center and overall area. So I look forward to seeing more.”
Lazovik told GrowthSpotter he appreciates the feedback from the city staff and ARB, calling it a breath of fresh air. Being new to the market, Acram will take its time to refine the designs and get through the permitting process. They don’t have a defined timetable — the goal at this point is to get the project pad-ready.
“It’s a little early to speak to a construction schedule,” he said. “I think we were very conservative in terms of the way we approach projects like this in a newer market, so it’s not like we’re trying to go as quickly as possible as soon as you put a shovel in the ground, especially in the current environment relative to costs.”