Apartment, retail plans progress for 50 acres at Universal-Destination intersection

The OEP East Parcel features lots 2, 3, 4 and 5 along the road frontage that are under contract for purchase by ComTerra Development Group for retail and restaurants.
The OEP East Parcel features lots 2, 3, 4 and 5 along the road frontage that are under contract for purchase by ComTerra Development Group for retail and restaurants. (Kimley-Horn & Associates)

Plans for a total of 700 apartments and 150,000 square feet of retail at the northeast corner of Universal Boulevard and Destination Parkway should progress next week, when the Orange County Development Review Committee takes up a change to the owner's plans on its 50-acre parcel.

A Preliminary Subdivision Plan (PSP) change determination for the 50-acre OEP East Parcel will be reviewed. The 50 acres is currently owned by Orlando Equity Partners, an LLC affiliated with Southwood Development Co. out of Atlanta. The property is part of the Universal Boulevard PD (aka U.S.I. South Campus PD).


Currently zoned Tourist Commercial and PD, the OEP East Parcel is made up of six lots, with Lot 1 (13 acres) currently owned by Altamonte Springs-based developer ContraVest, where it is building the first phase of its The Courtney apartments (355 units).

ContraVest expects to finish construction by the end of this year or early January on that first phase, and has an option to develop the adjacent lot for a second phase of The Courtney with 345 more units, said John Schaffer, principal and CFO.

Schaffer said Tuesday the company is evaluating the feasibility of a second phase now, and if it decides to act on an option to buy the lot, could begin construction on that phase in Fourth Quarter 2016.

Proximity to I-Drive's dense zone of employment and easy highway access were keys in drawing ContraVest to develop at Universal Boulevard and Destination Parkway last year.

"Home ownership in 2007 at the height of the market was at 68 percent, but has now dropped down to 63 percent, so we've lost around 5 percent of homeowners nationally and had millions go back into the rental market," said Schaffer, in a June GrowthSpotter story on apartment development in the tourism corridor. "I've heard from analysts that this figure may drop further to 61 percent, so even more will be moving to the rental market."

Estero, Fla.-based ComTerra Development Group has a contract to buy roughly 20 acres across four parcels that form an "L" shape along the property's Universal Boulevard and Destination Parkway frontage.

Principal Jim Nashman said Tuesday he has received "tremendous interest" in the retail parcels by a number of restaurants and retail users, and is currently working through title- and platting-related details with the land owner. A closing could be soon, but Nashman declined to forecast a date.

Nashman's plans for Destination Shoppes aim to capitalize on the parkway's connection to International Drive that could be ready by mid-2016.

The tail ends of Destination Parkway between Universal and International Drive have been laid, and the initial portion that connects S. John Young Parkway and Universal Boulevard was built in 2014.

Developers are working on the assumption that Orange County's connection for Destination Parkway will see construction start in January 2016, and be built by July of next year.

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