Commercial properties across Greater Orlando battered but not broken by Irma

The Gym Downtown, at 133 E. Robinson St. in Downtown Orlando, had large parts of its building siding torn off, lost its entrance awning and had broken windows on Monday morning.

Commercial properties across Greater Orlando were battered by the wind and rain of Hurricane Irma early Monday but weren't broken, with most owners reporting damage to landscaping, signage and building exteriors that will prompt most contractor calls in the coming days.

While FEMA was still assessing where the storm has hit in Florida before posting its formal disaster declaration, Metro Orlando is estimated to have an exposure of $6.46 billion in commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), higher than Miami, Tampa or any other metro area in Florida, according to an initial CMBS exposure analysis on Monday by Morningstar Credit Ratings.


A sinkhole estimated at 10 feet wide opened up in the parking lot of Astor Park Luxury Apartments, southwest of Tuskawilla and Red Bug Lake roads in Winter Springs.

And at the 342-unit Landmark at West Place apartments in Orlando, a smaller sinkhole opened next to one of the property's garden-style buildings, pulling a half dozen or more air conditioners down with it.


Common damage sustained at commercial properties were wind-torn entrance canopies, shattered plastic and plexiglass panels on pole signs, lost siding, roofing tile and shingles, and metal canopies over fuel station pumps.

Storefronts in Downtown Orlando with such damage included The Gym Downtown on E. Robinson Street, and Eola Wine Co. and World of Beer on E. Central Boulevard.

Eola Wine Co., at 430 E. Central Blvd., lost its outdoor seating-area awnings on Monday morning following Hurricane Irma.

Damaged pole signs and awnings could be seen Monday morning up and down S. Orange Blossom Trail, including the Days Inn Orlando Downtown, and the Orange Blossom Center retail strip on the northwest corner with Holden Avenue.

Westgate Resorts, the second largest hospitality provider in Central Florida with seven timeshare resorts in Greater Orlando, had close to 20,000 guests at its properties on Monday and was busy moving some from sites that were without power.

"We're dealing with a lot of power outages. Westgate Lakes is without power; Westgate Palace is without power. That's also the one that sustained the most damage," COO Mark Waltrip told GrowthSpotter.

"We just evacuated Westgate River Ranch (early afternoon Monday). We had 11 guests staying there (in the lodge), and we moved them to Vacation Villas in Kissimmee," he continued. "Once we lost power at the ranch, we couldn't run the lift stations. We need those to operate the sewer system, and we were starting to get back-ups.

"We're getting ready (mid-afternoon Monday) to evacuate the Palace. We have generators to run the elevators but we're about to run out of fuel and we have no way of getting it," Waltrip said. "Those are two 20-story towers, and we don't want people stranded up on those higher floors. We're moving them to Vacation Villas – it has power and water."

In the tourism corridor, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites on the corner of Major Boulevard and Vineland Road had a damaged pole sign, and the Clarion Inn & Suites on Caravan Court lost patches of roofing. The Orlando Outlet Marketplace at the corner of International Drive and Fun Spot Way had outparcels with lost roofing tile, and the La Quinta Inn and IHOP at each corner of American Way and I-Drive suffered pole sign and roofing damage.

World of Beer, at 431 E. Central Blvd. on Lake Eola, had damage to its outdoor seating area awning on Monday morning.

Unicorp National Developments was just beginning to check on its many commercial properties across Greater Orlando on Monday, but had found by mid-afternoon a Valley National Bank branch with windows blown in, and damage to the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive's pole sign and landscaping, said CEO Chuck Whittall.

At Old Town Kissimmee, the new Ferris Wheel is designed to withstand up to 130 miles-per-hour sustained winds. "That was one of the questions we had when we purchased it, because it's Florida and we know eventually we'll have a hurricane," said general manager Thearon Scurlock.

"There's a process you go through to lock it down, and we strapped it down just to be sure," he continued. "The thing I'm most worried about is we just planted 10 new oak trees about eight months ago.

"There was only minor construction activity on the (Old Town) grounds, unlike (Hurricane Matthew), where we had the whole middle of Main Street ripped out and construction fencing that got blown all over the place," Scurlock added. "Matthew was our practice. This time we were more prepared. We focused on having everything that could become a projectile secured ahead of time."

National multifamily operator McKinley, which owns nearly 8,000 units across close to 100 properties in the I-4 corridor, had promising reports of little damage from its Orlando and Winter Park properties early Monday. The company has had a hurricane response team ready for the past week.

"We assumed a highly probable direct hit and went into prep mode," said CEO Albert Berriz. "We have executive leaders experienced in Florida running it, and have a committed vendor base of about 500 individuals now standing ready to go through all our communities in the next 72 hours to make sure they're safe. We'll assess construction needs during those 72 hours."


George Chen, hotelier and developer of the new Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens, Formosa Gardens shopping center and the Clarion Suites Maingate on Kissimmee's W192 tourism corridor said Monday the minor damage sustained at his properties was a relief.

"We were really, really blessed. We made it through by the skin of our teeth," Chen said. "The winery had some minor damage to the underside of the roof, but we should be able to get it fixed within the next two weeks.

"The warehouse building at the winery is totally destroyed, but the landscaping, amazingly, survived," he continued. "Right now, we're dealing with a loss of power in the shopping center and the hotel. We were full (with evacuees). We were ready to put people in the dining room, but didn't have to."

RIDA Development Corp.'s hotel properties at ChampionsGate Resort and OMNI Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate were forecast late Saturday to lie in the eye of the storm, luckily wind speeds diminished by the time they arrived, said senior vice president Marc Reicher.

"All of our property managers stayed on site last night, and they're in position. The (hotel) tower and all the buildings are fine," he continued. "One of the biggest tasks was disassembling and storing all of the pool furniture for the resort's five pools.

"We filled up very early with evacuees," Reicher said. "A lot of folks will be going back to South Florida today, so people in Lakeland, Polk City and Davenport area who are without power, I imagine, will be taking their place."


And at developer Encore Capital Management's Reunion Resort and Margaritaville Resort, minor damage to vacation homes and new retail space was a welcome surprise, said development manager Jim Bagley.

"The greatest damage was to the landscaping and trees, but that's to be expected," he said. "I'm shocked, out of the thousand homes in Reunion, (there were) only two with minor damage. At Margaritaville in the retail area some of the steel framing got twisted in wind, but that can easily be fixed."

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