Just a few years ago there was no North Quarter neighborhood in Orlando. The five-block area along Orange Avenue north of Colonial Drive and south of Lake Ivanhoe was just a nondescript stretch of street.
Now it's growing fast into a neighborhood.
Thursday morning a group of developers, politicians and assorted other interested parties met in the sleek lobby overlooking the resort-style pool of NORA, a new apartment complex in the area by GDC Properties. NORA, which had its grand opening in late January, is already 86 percent rented, the Downtown Development Board crowd was told.
NORA is just one piece of $200 million in real estate investments emerging over a three-year period in the North Quarter neighborhood. Soon NORA will have another apartment development neighbor, The Sevens, by Pizzuti Companies, with 325 market-rate apartments, plus retail on its first floor. Six out of the nine floors at 777 N Orange Avenue are up.
The Sevens apartments will have a ninth floor clubhouse and rooftop pool and deck with 9,500 square feet of ground floor retail and integrated parking. It will also have outdoor space, including a garden and a dog park, as well as a place to grill. It is expected to be ready for occupancy in June 2016.
During the meeting Developer Craig Ustler of Ustler Development, a principal force along with Pizzuti in developing the North Quarter neighborhood, said a 138-room Residence Inn at 680 Orange Ave., is close to being finished. The hotel has ground-floor restaurant space.
Ustler also reported that a restaurant called North Quarter Tavern, in retail space on NORA's first floor, is a few weeks from opening. He described it as "clubby," "chef driven" and a price point below the Citrus Restaurant in the neighborhood. At the meeting he mentioned plans to add a bar called Sidecar to the North Quarter scene but later declined to discuss it.
And then there's a four-story, $5.1 million, 17,000-square-feet professional office building at 800 N. Orange Ave. planned for opening in the fall. The office building is fully pre-leased to R.D Keene Trust, the Ustler Group of Companies and Moss & Associates. It is developed by Ustler Development, Inc., according to Ustler.net.
North Quarter also recently got a new transportation link with Lynx's Lymmo extending its route into the area.
But Ustler is not done fiddling with transportation issues in North Quarter. He is campaigning to have both Orange Avenue and Magnolia made two-way streets, creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment for the stretch because tighter two-way streets slow down cars and enhance safety.
Robert F. Stuart, Orlando District 3 Councilman, reminded Ustler that those streets are state, not city, owned.
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