Highlighted is the 1.39-acre surface parking lot at 110 W. Jefferson St. in downtown Orlando that has been targeted for a proposed medical tower complex.
Highlighted is the 1.39-acre surface parking lot at 110 W. Jefferson St. in downtown Orlando that has been targeted for a proposed medical tower complex. (Orange County Property Appraiser)

The owner of a downtown Orlando parking lot for sale at $10 million is refuting claims by a new local developer that his property is tied up in plans for a trio of medical service towers.

Tabitha Ponte, architect and CEO of Lake Nona-based Ponte Health founded in 2016, began publicizing plans last week to develop a "Vertical Medical City" in downtown Orlando, with three buildings that would stand as high as 40 stories and total more than 2 million square feet.

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Ponte has no real estate development experience. She told GrowthSpotter on Feb. 1 that her husband, sales agent Jorge Benavidez of Luxury Realty in Kissimmee, was negotiating a contract with the owner of the 1.39-acre lot at 110 W. Jefferson St.

A conceptual elevation of the proposed three-building Vertical Medical City project in downtown Orlando, with its tallest tower estimated to reach 40 stories.
A conceptual elevation of the proposed three-building Vertical Medical City project in downtown Orlando, with its tallest tower estimated to reach 40 stories. (Ponte Health)

The owner, Harry Hahamovitch of Boca Raton-based commercial real estate investment firm HHH Management, said that day he recalled having one or two exchanges with Benavidez, but that talks were not advanced.

Hahamovitch reiterated on Wednesday morning that he has not "had a conversation of any significant length" with Benavidez. While open to an offer, he wants the real estate market to know his property is not tied up by Ponte Health Properties LLC.

"The negative part to me is that when something like this comes out, other people interested in the land may think it is already gone," he told GrowthSpotter. "So motivationally, I am concerned it could hurt me until the brief period passes that they either flop because it may be grandiose and not doable, or come to the table with a lot of money and put down that first small payment."

Ponte is reliant on finding equity partners to move the project forward, which she said would "fund land acquisition and all the leg work, architecture, engineering design and more to materialize the project on some kind of reasonable timeline, preferably in seven to eight years."

She declined to say how much money, if any, her business was ready to invest.

Hahamovitch values his parcel near $10 million, due to its favorable entitlements and zoning for high-rise development.

The site was previously under contract in 2015 to a developer that proposed a 31-story, 450-unit residential tower with retail space, dubbed "Orlando Central." Hahamovitch said that buyer could never get their financing together to close on the land.

In a Feb. 1 press release, Ponte named six consultancy firms that attended a pre-design meeting to learn about her Vertical Medical City concept. One of those was Orlando-based TLC Engineering for Architecture.

A spokeswoman for TLC said Tuesday the company has provided Ponte a list of their fees for service, but hasn't signed on to the project. TLC would conduct its normal due diligence on Ponte, the lead architect and developer, before accepting a job offer.

Ponte said a "major health system" had stepped forward with intent to lease one of the three medical towers and operate emergency and surgical operations, but declined to name the company.

Orlando Health spokeswoman Kena Lewis said Tuesday her company is not involved with Ponte's proposed development, and has not been approached. Ponte Health has asserted work with Orlando Health in the past.

A spokesman for Florida Hospital said the company is also not involved in the project, or negotiating with Ponte to participate.

Ponte has a pre-app meeting scheduled for Thursday with city of Orlando staff to review options for the proposed development.

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Ponte says she has been an architect and construction consultant for more than 17 years for private firms and public agencies in Florida and Chicago, but declined to provide a resume or other proof of work history. She is a certified architect in the state of Florida.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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