The Black Business Investment Fund has scored one of the most desirable pieces of real estate in downtown Orlando for its new office overlooking Lake Eola.
The minority non-profit lender purchased the 9,500-square-foot building at 421 E. Robinson St. Wednesday for $5.4 million.
BBIF is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), that specializes in providing loans and financial technical assistance services to Black, minority & underserved small businesses throughout Florida. The firm currently leases office space on the other side of Lake Eola in the Capital Plaza II office tower.
The sale encompasses a .68-acre lot at the corner of East Robinson Street and Hillman Avenue, next door to the 8-story Reeves House condominium tower. The property is currently home to a single-story office building that dates to 1965.
The land was previously owned by the Diocese of Orlando and sits across Hillman Avenue from the St. James Cathedral School. It was sold in 2006 for $2.5 million and currently houses a business incubator that has a month-to-month lease. It has been under contract twice before in recent years, once in 2015 when it was rezoned to allow an 8-story residential tower for seniors.
In early 2020, Orlando-based MMI Development put it under contract with plans for a 150-room luxury hotel, but those plans fizzled during COVID. In both cases, the proposed plan included a row of townhomes along Ridgewood Street to provide a height transition between the taller building and the homes to the north. The plans also complied with the site’s split zoning districts of O-2/T and R-3B/T/HP.
Susan Morris, founding broker of RDIP Florida, represented the seller, Eola 421 LLC. “This is an ideal location for either residential or office,” Morris said. “It will be exciting to have something new going into that location. I’ve worked with the Black Business Investment Fund for 30 years, and I could see some new synergies created between them and the current tenant.”
She noted the split zoning and parking requirements have been a challenge for potential buyers, as were the design guidelines for the Lake Eola Heights Historic District, which extends to the back half of the property. “The height restrictions made it difficult for people to make the financials work,” Morris said.
BBIF has not filed any plans with the city that indicate it has plans to redevelop the site, so those obstacles may not come into play. The buyer could not be reached for comment.
Morris said the 421 Eola closing marks a strong start to 2023 for the RDIP, which closed nearly $26 million in transactions last year, including multiple seven-figure deals in Central Florida: the $8.4 million sale of Mosby Citrus Ridge in Four Corners, the $4.5 million sale of land next to Disney’s Flamingo Crossings in November, and finally the $3.5 million sale of land on Lake Bryan to Azur Group just before Christmas.
“The development community is still moving forward because of the strong migration to Florida yet slowed by both high construction costs and high debt costs,” Morris said.