A 77-acre tract of undeveloped land on North International Drive, vacant for a decade and once destined for an amusement park, could draw renewed interest for mixed-use development as demand heats up the tourism corridor.
With an address of 5001 Vanguard St., the 77.34-acre rectangular parcel lies south of the Artegon Shopping Mall property, with frontage on I-Drive for about one-eighth of its property line.
The land was acquired in March 2005 for $16.6 million by I Drive Investors, a Florida LLC affiliated with investors from Ecuador who are represented by FirstStar Development, a real estate services firm out of Ponte Vedra Beach.
Roughly $500,000 was invested in 2005 by the owner to master-plan the property for dense mixed-use development, and to fully entitle the land with permits from the water management district and Army Corps of Engineers, as well as traffic certificates, said Steve Cissel, principal at FirstStar.
It's now a PD-zoned property with all the necessary entitlements, ready for "whatever the market needs, from theme park to high-rise hotel, condos, retail or more," he said.
"The owners bought this, entitled it and it depreciated in value when the market went to hell in a handbasket," Cissel continued. "That property lost about 50 percent of its value from when they purchased it and entitled it. Now they've been patient over the past few years to let it recover its value."
The site came close in 2011 to being developed as Orlando Thrill Park, a roller coaster and amusement park by The Baker Leisure Group. Homeowners in neighboring Tangelo Park fought the proposed park over concerns of noise, traffic and property depreciation. In April 2011, Orlando's Municipal Planning Board denied zoning and land-use approvals needed for the park to be built.
Cissel said a thrill park could still work for the site. He believes that after four years and recent entertainment projects introduce on I-Drive like the Orlando Eye and Skyplex entertainment complex, city planners may be more open to such land uses near residential.
There are no active offers on the property, Cissel said.
The best and highest use for the parcel is arguably a mixed-use combo of residential with entertainment, hospitality, retail and dining, said Scott Corbin, managing director of Retail Services for Colliers International in Central Florida.
At 77-plus acres, phased development would allow multi-family or short-term rental for tourists to be built on the property's rear to suit market demand, while the property's exposure on I-Drive is ideal for commercial, said Margery H Johnson, senior director of Land Brokerage Services at Cushman & Wakefield.
"We are also seeing so much interest from foreign investors in buying their piece of America. I think there's a real possibility for that location to be developed in some part as short-term rental homes for vacationers, with I-Drive as a marketing tool," she said. "You can do permanent residential there and short-term rentals. Those don't mix well, but it's enough space to separate them."
The North I-Drive area still has a significant amount of land to develop, with parcels closer to I-4 available north of Fun Spot, and additional land from Artegon, said Corbin.
"Ultimately that whole area will fill in, but there are some access challenges on North I-Drive that you don't have to face in the south or mid- I-Drive areas," Corbin said.