Apartment tower planned on church-owned land in downtown Orlando

Tennessee-based Mid America Apartment Communities (MAA) is eyeing a 2-acre corner lot in downtown Orlando for a new 325-unit apartment tower with ground-floor retail.

MAA filed a Master Plan (MP) with the city for 9-story tower and parking garage at 336 N. Orange Ave., immediately south of the Bank of America tower. 

The land is owned by the Diocese of Orlando, which has been using it as a parking lot for the St. James Catholic Cathedral and chancery offices that lie directly southeast. The church originally bought the property in 2000 for $2.3 million.

In 2017, the church demolished a small office building and unused bank drive-thru structure on the property, prompting speculation that it was positioning the site for a sale. The church authorized Kimley-Horn's Brooks Stickler, MAA's civil engineer, to initiate the permitting process. 

MAA is also working with Finfrock, which submitted the building elevations for the MP. The building would be constructed with an interior open courtyard and a parking garage on the north side of the building, next to the bank tower. 

The unit mix includes 86 studios, 151 one-bedroom units, 72 two-bedroom units and 16 three-bedroom units, for a total of 325 apartments -- well below the 418 units allowed under the current zoning. The parking garage has capacity for 606 spaces, which exceeds the minimum requirement -- especially given the proximity to the Lynx/SunRail station -- and indicates some parking may be reserved for the church. 

The city's building code and design guidelines for the Central Business District mandate that no more than half of the street-frontage of the building can be used for something other than "active commercial uses." Permitted uses include dining, retail and personal services.

The site plan indicates MAA would reserve the hard corner for future commercial use, but the square footage is yet to be determined. MAA SVP of Investments Matt Smith met last week with city planners to discuss the mandatory commercial use as well as the downtown design guidelines.

MAA, a publicly traded multifamily developer REIT focused on the South and Southeast, owns several apartment communities in the greater Orlando area, including Post Parkside downtown on Central Boulevard.

The new downtown tower would face competition from the massive "X Orlando" tri-tower apartment development proposed immediately north of the Bank of America building. Developer Property Markets Group plans a 17-story tower with 262 apartments in Phase 1 -- plus 41,000 square feet of ground-floor retail/commercial and 663 spaces in a nine-floor garage.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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