Orange County Public Schools just approved an initial contract with the town of Eatonville to sell publicly-owned land that collectively spans more than 100 acres.
At a school board meeting Tuesday night, the board voted to approve a draft agreement with the town that insists it purchase the property for the purpose of selling portions of the land to third party developers.
The deal is valued at about $10 million, plus additional costs such as expenses gained by the seller prior to the closing date, among other conditions.
Woody Rodriguez, the board’s attorney, told GrowthSpotter he’s seen a high amount of interest from developers to purchase the property.
“Our hope is that they remain interested,” Rodriguez said. “Some well-established developers have been very vocal about it.”
One of the most vocal, has been Chuck Whittall of Unicorp National Developments.
In August, he tweeted:
116 acres of prime real estate, with direct Interstate 4 visibility, in the heart of North Orlando? Think of the opportunities. My team at @UnicorpUSA1 and I already have, and we can't wait to share our plans for the future of this Eatonville project. pic.twitter.com/9oB677G6X8— Chuck Whittall (@ChuckWhittall) August 13, 2019
In a previous interview with GrowthSpotter he said he’d like to develop something similar to Baldwin Park at the site. He said he envisions a mixed-use development with a grocery store and residential components like single-family homes and/or apartments.
“I was born and raised in Winter Park, so you know I’ve been around that property my entire life," Whittall said. "I just think something special can be done with it.”
It includes two parcels, the larger of which being a roughly 94-acre tract of land where the former Robert Hungerford Preparatory School once operated before closing in 2009.
The site at 100 E. Kennedy Blvd., sits on the southeast corner of East Kennedy Boulevard and Wymore Road. The property also features large amounts of visibility from I-4, which lies to its west.
Another roughly 17 acres the school board owns at 525 W. Kennedy Blvd. is also part of the deal.
A former Request for Proposals issued by the town of Eatonville in 2016 claimed the property near Keller Road is well-suited for residential uses with retail frontage development on West Kennedy.
“Like the residents of Eatonville I am eager to move this agreement along,” Karen Castor Dentel, a school board member, whose district includes the Hungerford property, said at the meeting.
It won’t be the first time the land has been put out to bid.
Several proposals for the Hungerford property have also fallen through. The most recent being a contract with Tennessee-based retail development company, UP Development.
UP Development’s purchase offer and planned redevelopment of the property won favorable approval by the city and school board officials in 2017.
Though it was not recognized by the school board, several extensions were given to the developer to close on the property. Rodriguez said the official deadline passed in March.
The deal with UP Development was valued at about $20 million. A representative of the company declined to comment on the story.
Initial plans proposed by UP Development included building a new vocational school, up to 1,000 housing units, a museum, a new elementary school, a baseball stadium, office and retail space and two parks.
The developer also promised to preserve and renovate the existing school building, which today lies vacant and heavily vandalized.
Both properties sit within a qualified opportunity zone, meaning investors stand to benefit off of numerous tax incentives if they choose to enter into the program, which was introduced in President Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul plan.
Investors or developers who invest in an opportunity zone will have the ability to defer and forgo capital-gains taxes.
The draft agreement states the properties would be put out to bid separately with the town issuing a formal request for proposals of the 17-acre property first.
Rodriguez said he does not have a firm timeline of when the RFPs may be issued, but hopes it takes place within 90 days once the agreement is approved by the town.
According to the two appraisals, the value of that property is at about $3.2 million, while the average appraised value of the larger Hungerford property is valued at about $20.7 million.
Small pieces of the property have already sold, including about five acres of land where data center provider HostDime is planning to build its headquarters. The company paid $1.4 million to acquire the property at 1 Innovation Pl. in 2016.
As part of the proposed contract deal with Eatonville, the school asks that more than five acres of land near the town’s library remain a public space for at least 30 years.
At the meeting, Eatonville Mayor Eddie Cole called the agreement a “win win.”
Staff writer Laura Kinsler contributed to this report.