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A rendering of the new three-story building, seen here in the background from a viewpoint on Park Avenue, looking east on New England Avenue.
A rendering of the new three-story building, seen here in the background from a viewpoint on Park Avenue, looking east on New England Avenue. (ACi)

Local property developer and manager Battaglia Group is exploring lenders for a planned three-story Class A office and retail building in Downtown Winter Park, with initial city approvals expected this month and the first dining tenant signed, a lead executive with the company told GrowthSpotter.

Located at 158 E. New England Ave., the 0.61-acre parcel is currently a city-managed surface parking lot, and lies east of the intersection with S. Park Avenue, behind the corner anchored by Peterbrooke Chocolatier.

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Battaglia Group owns the site, and produced initial designs for a 52,600-square-foot building early last year, first reported here in April 2016.

The developer had an initial meeting with Winter Park's Planning & Zoning Board this past November. They tabled the request so staff and Battaglia could refine a few areas of the application, in particular a parking solution that wouldn't exacerbate the city's perceived lack of parking options downtown.

Weeks away from filing development plans with the city, learn what the developer has planned less than a block off S. Park Avenue.

Battaglia's revised request for conditional use approval for the building is on the PZB agenda for Tuesday evening, and would follow with a hearing by City Commissioners later this month.

The building would have one level of integrated basement parking (about 54 spaces), and will form an agreement for additional parking in the private Bank of America garage directly across the street on New England Avenue, which Battaglia Group owns, and has significant unused capacity.

Civil engineer AVCON, Inc., produced a traffic analysis for the project, and VHB, Inc., was hired to conduct an in-depth parking study that supported Battaglia's request for shared parking.

A portion of the new mixed-use building's parking need can be met in that garage, which VHB reported had 119 to 151 spaces open during the daytime, on average. The second aspect of the shared parking concept explored how city code only sees parking in an urban district like Downtown Winter Park as a fixed ratio.

It doesn't take into account that a single space could be used by various patrons, depending on time of day. VHB demonstrated in its report how office users would occupy a certain number of spaces during weekday business hours, while retail and restaurant patrons would fill those same spaces on evenings and weekends.

"It was about getting staff comfortable with the inventory we had, and how we could meet the needs of the building and have an element of sharing, based on time of day," said Daniel Butts, COO with Battaglia Group Management. "The revised staff report now has a recommendation on that basis, albeit on a conservative stance by the staff. But we'll take it."

The project's total development cost is still estimated near $15 million, Butts said. The land is Battaglia's equity, which they'll use to secure a construction loan.

Soft negotiations have already begun with some existing lender relationships to determine what those terms would be, Butts said. Battaglia may broaden its lender search in the coming weeks and months, he added.

Assuming approvals come this month for the preliminary conditional use request, Battaglia would then finalize a developer's agreement with the city that includes valet parking management strategies, apply for final conditional use approvals, and submit construction documents over the next few months.

The company hopes to be in a position to break ground in Third Quarter, Butts said, with a 12-month window estimated for construction thereafter.

One restaurant tenant has signed a pre-lease agreement for 5,800 square feet, which Butts said is a fine-dining concept new to the area, but declined to name. Millenia Partners is marketing the project's retail space (18,190 gross square feet).

"We're in talks for one additional restaurant that would also be a fine-dining concept, and the balance of the ground floor would be two to three retail shops," he said.

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On the office pre-lease front, Butts said tenant negotiations are in progress. Colliers International is marketing the second and third level office space (34,411 gross SF).

"The goal is to secure preliminary approvals with the city, which will enhance our leasing efforts in office."

Architecture work was done by John Cunningham when he was previously with ACi, and transferred with him to Zyscovich Architects, where he's now managing principal of the firm's Orlando office.

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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