The Miami real estate developer who paid $35 million four years ago for the Orlando Sentinel downtown campus may be gearing up to develop or sell a significant portion of it.
Applications were filed in October for permits seeking to demolish the three remaining buildings on the block between Concord and Amelia streets. Those include a building that once housed the newspaper’s classified advertising offices, the former Central Florida News 13 building at 500 N. Orange Ave. and a one-time AT&T office building at 75 E. Amelia Street. All three are owned by affiliates of Midtown Opportunities, led by developer Alex Vadia.
Vadia declined to comment on his plans for the block, which spans 7.7 acres, and no one from his company has met with anyone in the city’s planning staff for a pre-application meeting. Much of the property on the block was used as overflow parking for the Sentinel.
Assistant Planning Director Jason Burton told GrowthSpotter the city would not process the demolition permit applications because the owner must first secure approvals from the city Appearance Review and Planning staff for the post-demolition condition of the property. Even the fencing used to secure the property must be approved prior to demolition.
RDIP Principal Susan Morris said the 500 block of North Orange is ideally suited for a mixed-use development focused on multifamily residential and retail uses with little, if any, office space. Morris said Vadia wouldn’t have trouble finding a buyer, especially if he were to clear the entire block. “I’ve had several large national companies inquire with me about that property," she said.
The developer’s downtown Orlando holdings encompass an 18.69-acre area from Colonial Drive south to Amelia Street, between N. Orange Avenue and Magnolia Avenue and includes the Orlando Sentinel building at 633 N. Orange Ave. that was vacated earlier this year. The company filed a lawsuit in June against the Sentinel alleging that the newspaper violated the terms of its lease and failed to pay rent after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020. The Sentinel is seeking to dismiss the case.
The two blocks are owned by separate Midtown entities: Midtown Opportunities Vib LLC for the 11.9 acres for north of Concord and Orlando Opportunities South B LLC for the 7.7 acres south of Concord.
Over the last decade Vadia’s company has played lead roles in assembling and redeveloping about 22 acres in downtown Miami as the upscale, mixed-use Midtown Miami district. He also has a successful track record with his downtown Orlando investments. In 2015 he bought the 3.5-acre block across from the Orange County Courthouse for $10 million and sold it in 2019 for $17 million to Property Markets Group (PMG), which recently filed updated plans for its Society Orlando mixed-use tower.