UPDATED: OCTOBER 2, 2018, 3:07 PM — A new affiliate of longtime International Drive investors run by second-generation siblings has purchased the homes of tourist draws including Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition and Route 65 Rock Bar and Restaurant for a recorded $8.3 million.
Megan and R.J. Dowdy made the buy under 7200 IDrive LLC, an offshoot of the successful family company Dowdy Properties founded by their father, Ron E. Dowdy, to start their new venture. Like their original family business, which will continue operating as it has, the sister and brother intend to own property and run their business as landlords.
"We were raised on that," Megan Dowdy told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday afternoon. "Our father, that's what his business is and has been, and it's what my brother's and my business will be.
"... We're not intending to purchase and flip, or purchase and redevelop. We will find the highest and best use for each parcel of land, of course, and if we take down a building to make room for an end user to build, that might happen."
The duo's initial purchase of two parcels across the street from the western end of Carrier Drive, separated only by driveway access to a hotel that borders Interstate 4, totals nearly 3.7 acres of land and approximately 51,700 square feet of leasable space. Dowdy Properties will manage the space.
"They're the best owner that could be out there for that property," said John Krzyminski, Managing Director at Cite Partners, which brokered the deal and found tenants in recent years with a sale in mind. "They'll have an eye on it every day, see the traffic and how full the parking lot is, and if there are any issues with the tenants they're very close and they'll be able to respond quickly."
Megan Dowdy said partnering with Krzyminski in searching for tenants before the deal closed was the kind of win-win with "relationship-driven" collaboration for which she wants the family's companies to be known.
"It can be a foreign thought process in the state of our society," Dowdy said. "... But in this case it shows that if you look after the tenants and they're happy, then those buildings are full and John's clients will be happy, the bank will be happy, and we're happy as buyers. It's a team mentality."
Next up is finding tenants for the vacant property of the two purchased by 7200 IDrive, located at 7200 International Drive and most recently home to tourist attraction Extreme Dinosaurs: The Exhibition. Fronting I-Drive and immediately across from the western end of Carrier Drive, the land totals 1.5 acres with a 22,525-square-foot building constructed in 1994.
"Depending on how they break it up, they can have one big tenant go in there or they can have two 12,000-square-foot tenants or so," Krzyminski said. "It offers a lot of flexibility."
Activity in the area is high, Krzyminski said. The construction of the Grand National overpass as part of the I-4 Ultimate project is generating interest, with an ability to create smoother traffic flow in the area, as are record tourism numbers for Central Florida in recent years.
"The north end of I-Drive is a good long-term family hold for them," Krzyminski said. "Although the south end below Sand Lake Road has more glitz and glamour, north I-Drive is seeing a renaissance right now. A lot of tenants are looking there because of its future potential. It's got strong pedestrian counts, foot traffic."
Dowdy affiliates own eight properties on I-Drive and Canada Avenue, which include its own offices immediately across the street from the siblings' first purchase, totaling 80,000 square feet plus a 66,000-square-foot miniature golf venue.
Route 65, owned by Brazilian entrepreneurs Ademir Nogueira and Toledo Farias, signed a 10-year lease for the restaurant at 7308 International Drive earlier this year. It's an Orlando spin on Rio de Janeiro entertainment venue Rota RJ 65, aiming to build on its formula for live rock music and a Brazilian atmosphere.
The site is also home to the Titanic museum and a restaurant featuring Afghani fare, with just under 29,200 square feet of total space built in 1993 according to Orange County filings, including approximately 2.19 acres of land with I-Drive frontage.
Dowdy Properties began purchasing tourist-corridor properties in the 1970s, GrowthSpotter has previously reported.
A building completed last year at 6304 International Drive gave the Dowdy portfolio nearly 9,000 square feet of conditioned space that quickly was fully leased to tenants including Waffle House for its first I-Drive location, Subway and a Thai restaurant. Plans for another similar building have been in the mix on property to the immediate southwest with a strategy of building it as a shell in order to work with tenants as they enter the picture. Megan Dowdy said Tuesday that with demolition complete, that project likely will go vertical in 2019.
One exception to keeping properties in the Dowdy fold: a Canada Avenue parcel that developer Joshua Wallack was able to swing as he gathered the assemblage where Skyplex is planned.
"My father had never sold any of his Orlando properties in his life to that point, and he wasn't going to sell this one," Megan Dowdy told GrowthSpotter about three years ago.