Woody Rodriguez, the Orange County School Board's general counsel, is pleased with the quantity and quality of developers who submitted qualifications to develop the 110-acre Hungerford school site that covers both sides of Interstate 4 in Eatonville.
"We have seven options for developers," he told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday. "From our perspective not only are they financially able candidates, but they have some capability to deliver the town (of Eatonville) what they are wanting, so 10 years from now its still not an empty field and nothing has happened.
"Honestly I saw (the list) and my initial impression is we have got seven offers and they look like serious group," Rodriguez added.
The land's development has been plagued for years with false starts and harsh stops, but this time, with an open bidding process and a group of qualified candidates, things are looking up for the prospect of developing the land and creating a stronger tax base for Eatonville, Rodriguez said.
The next step is a meeting to assess the proposals, with a group of three Eatonville residents who were chosen to review the list. They'll choose finalists from the seven applicants, who will be asked to move forward in the process and present their designs. That first meeting is May 12.
Orange County Public Schools owns the land, and the school board's goal is to get at least appraised value for the property. That was previously set at $10.4 million, but will be less now since a five-acre tract is coming off the land, Rodriguez said.
HostDime, a Web-hosting company based in University Park outside Orlando, is proposing to buy five acres of the property for $1.8 million and build an $18 million headquarters on the Wymore Road site. The company is also promising to deliver free Wi-Fi to all 2,000 of the town's residents as well, the Orlando Sentinel previously reported.
Rodriguez said he is not clear what the city prefers to be developed on the sprawling property, because there have been all kinds of ideas thrown around over the years.
"They have talked about a museum, green space, sports facilities, we have had all sorts of proposals," Rodriguez said.
The process could be slowed again by an upcoming city election, he added. Both the school board and the city need to agree on the eventual developer.
"Really this is the cornerstone (of Eatonville), it goes right down to their main road, their main street," Rodriguez said. "This needs to be a signature piece to help raise the tax base."
The seven candidates that responded to the RFQ are:
Gardner deems itself a mission-based for-profit developer whose goal is to create economic opportunity and catalyze community revitalization, through the development of housing and services.
Casto developed Winter Park Village and Clermont Town Center, along with a number of other Orlando developments.
It defines itself as "A non-profit organization established to execute growth vision to provide economic growth for the town and citizens of Eatonville, Florida."
4. DCS Real Estate Investments VI
DCS is Dwight Schar, owner of the Washington Redskin's company. It also is developer at Bella Collina. Local developer Randall F. Greene is a development partner with DCS.
5. UP Development, teaming with Baker Barrios Architects
UP owns Downtown Orlando's Fashion Square Mall and has a number of other develoments underway in the Greater Orlando area. Barrios is involved in a number of mixed-use projects in the area, including Cincinnati-based North American Properties retail, hotel and apartment plans for 16.5 acres on the northern end of International Drive.
Richard Shassian's SKL had an earlier proposal to build a domed sports venue on the land but cancelled it.