Local commercial real estate and development group Demetree Global has assembled nearly two-thirds of the land surrounding the intersection of S. Orlando and N. Orange avenues, with plans to redevelop the area with new retail, and a large traffic roundabout to serve as a grand gateway to Winter Park.
Demetree affiliates own or have under contract 9.41 acres of the approximate 14.39 acres around the intersection, based on property records and GrowthSpotter interviews with stakeholders in the immediate area.
One property owner who claims to have seen conceptual art for the roundabout called it "a big idea" that would redefine Winter Park. Others who say they've been asked to sell question if the concept will only worsen traffic congestion. All requested anonymity for their comments, due to non-disclosure agreements.
The City of Winter Park confirmed for GrowthSpotter on Thursday that an initial meeting was held in March between representatives of the city's planning and public works departments, and MMI Development's Michael Wright and Angel de la Portilla, acting on behalf of Demetree.
No plans or documents were left with staff regarding the roundabout, and nothing formal has been filed since.
Executives with Demetree and MMI did not respond to calls for comment Thursday.
The redevelopment is still one to two years away from starting, sources say, but it's generally believed that a roundabout would improve traffic flow and safety at the intersection.
Because S. Orlando Avenue (17-92) is controlled by the Florida Department of Transportation, thorough engineering studies, traffic counts and surveys have been conducted of all the right-of-ways on the intersection.
Data models indicate the roundabout would improve the number of cars through the intersection by 50 percent in the same time they currently take, and reduce wait times by 80 percent at the current traffic light (which would be removed). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has reported that fatalities at intersections are reduced by 90 percent with roundabouts.
The largest land acquisition was made Wednesday, when Demetree affiliate WP Station Tower LLC paid $15 million for the entire southwest corner of the intersection, four parcels totaling 5.38 acres that include the eight-story Mercantile Bank Plaza office building (now known as the TD Bank building), sold by Taurus Investment Group out of Maitland.
Directly east of that property, on the intersection's southeast corner with Harmon Avenue, lie five parcels totaling 3.2 acres. There, Demetree affiliate Winterpark Station LLC bought a one-story office building (0.19 acres) in September 2014 for $520,000, and leases it to an accounting firm.
The bulk of that corner is 2.43 acres owned by affiliates of Lombardi's Seafood, which has a vacant 13,212-square-foot former seafood warehouse. Demetree Real Estate has tied up that property by leasing it with an option to purchase, and is attempting to sublease until acquisition and demolition are needed.
Other property owners around the intersection say they've been approached by Demetree with acquisition offers over the past year, and had the retail and roundabout plans described to them. They also say "Winter Park Station" is a working name for the development concept.
North of the Lombardi property are two parcels totaling 1.41 acres owned by Demetree affiliates. The Wintergate Square office building, home to Demetree Global's and MMI's offices, was bought by Demetree for $1.1 million in December 1998. A home-turned-office directly south was bought by Demetree's Winter Park Station LLC for $715,000 in December 2014.
Dominating the northwest corner is a 3.23-acre parcel occupied by the five-story Gateway Plaza office building, owned by Guy D. Colado, founder of the building's main tenant Commerce National Bank & Trust. His son Ray Colado, bank president, did not reply to requests for comment Thursday on if they've agreed to sell the property.
And finally, on the northeast corner is a 0.51-acre parcel leased by an Einstein Bros. Bagels, the land owned by Tavern Square Properties LLC, an investment vehicle managed by former Orlando residents Cathie D'amron, and Thomas and James Harper.
D'amron said Thursday her group is not interested in selling their property, and she and her partners have not been approached by Demetree, to the best of her knowledge.
The city owns three small portions of green space that surround the intersection, 0.659 acres on three sides of it, which may also have to be acquired or donated for the redevelopment effort.