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A conceptual rendering of how West Second Street Associates may renovate the Downtown Orlando office building it owns at 500 N. Orange Ave.
A conceptual rendering of how West Second Street Associates may renovate the Downtown Orlando office building it owns at 500 N. Orange Ave. (WSSA LLC)

Flint, Mich.-based developer West Second Street Associates is preparing designs for a complete renovation of the former AT&T office building in Downtown Orlando, and will seek retail and office tenants for pre-lease in the coming months, the company's director of acquisitions told GrowthSpotter.

Located on the northwest corner of N. Orange Avenue and W. Amelia Street, the 2.25-acre parcel features a five-story building with about 118,500 square feet gross, built in 1980.

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WSSA acquired the property and building for $7 million in March 2015 from Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph. It has remained vacant for the past 19 months.

The present-day state of the WSSA-owned building at 500 N. Orange Ave., which is vacant.
The present-day state of the WSSA-owned building at 500 N. Orange Ave., which is vacant. (Orange County Property Appraiser)

The company initially considered in 2015 to convert the building into a 354-unit multifamily complex, but the demand for downtown apartments and price per square foot didn't support their cost of conversion, said Gary L. Cobb during NAIOP Central Florida's Developer's Showcase event on Thursday night.

Similar study of demolition and new construction for multifamily also didn't meet their investment goals for the property. WSSA changed gears earlier this year, after learning that large blocks of office space were in high demand in Downtown Orlando, Cobb said.

"We're new to the office market, and this is our only private asset in Orlando, so it's taken some time to understand those dynamics, but now we know there's real unmet demand for this product," he said.

Vacant office space in Downtown Orlando's central business district has dropped from 1.1 million square feet in 2012 to roughly 400,000 square feet as of August, according to recent data from multiple local real estate firms.

The building's location within walking distance to the Orange County Courthouse, downtown amenities and future Creative Village campus, its "fortress-like" structure and high-speed communications resources left inside are unique selling points.

The company is working on a prototype design of the renovated office building, and a structured parking option with up to 200 spaces. A total exterior remodel could feature glass or other material, Cobb said.

The building redesign could also accommodate ground-floor retail and a bank branch drive-thru, he added.

Baker Barrios is working with WSSA on the project design. The owner is currently stripping material from the floors, and will eventually install new elevators, HVAC systems and more.

At 23,700 square feet per floor, WSSA will aim to get at least two floors of space reserved for credit tenants before investing in the full renovation plan, Cobb said.

"This is a family-owned company with a conservative approach and most of its experience in single-tenant, government-leased buildings, so they won't redevelop this on spec," he said. "But we know the demand is promising."

Cobb said the company will market the project and available space itself for the time being, but is open to contact from Orlando-area real estate brokers.

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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