Owens Realty Services CEO Bob Owens now controls virtually two city blocks in downtown Winter Park's Hannibal Square district after completing the purchase Thursday of 100,000 square feet of residential, office and retail space.
Owens told GrowthSpotter he was drawn to Winter Park because its downtown reminds him of his native New England. "A lot of modern developers are trying to duplicate what we have in Winter Park," he said. "It's truly an authentic downtown."
Most of the properties involved were purchased from original Hannibal Square developer Dan Bellows, and will now be managed by Owens Realty Services.
"Our goal is to take Dan Bellows' vision for Hannibal Square and make it a tremendous walking, retail and lifestyle district," Owens said.
The firm began acquiring property in the neighborhood in 2014 under its investment arm, Owens Realty Capital. It paid $15 million for The Plaza at Hannibal Square, a mixed use development with offices, retail and 31 high-end apartments.
"When we bought Hannibal Plaza the office space was vacant, and the retail was mostly vacant," Owens said. "It's now 100-percent occupied. What we're calling Hannibal II is already fully rented."
Just before Christmas, Owens bought five vacant parcels along Pennsylvania Avenue for a combined $5.6 million, less than a half-mile north of the assemblage on W. New England Avenue. Owens said he also paid $1.1 million last year for 0.8 acres of mostly vacant land next to Hannibal Plaza on Lyman Avenue.
All are within blocks of Winter Park's SunRail station and are suitable for either townhomes or single family homes, he said.
"We feel that the Hannibal Square redevelopment district is still evolving. With the David Weekley development and the Phil Kean homes, we're seeing a lot of high-end infill residential," Owens said. "We're definitely seeing a lot of young professionals moving to downtown Winter Park because of the SunRail. It's great access to downtown Orlando, and on weekends you have the farmers market. It's a unique downtown environment."
Owens Realty Services is a full-service brokerage that also provides property management and facility management services to corporate and governmental clients. The firm has had the management contract for Orlando City Hall since 2007, and counts Florida Polytechnic Institute and UCF among its clients.
The infill development will be a first for Owens, who said he hopes to submit plans to the city in six months. Owens said he wants the design to complement the historic neighborhood and to utilize architectural details in keeping with the Hannibal Square aesthetic.
"We'll be selecting a land use professional within the next few months to assist us with the site planning and permitting," Owens said. "We'll do a formal solicitation."
Owens said he will select a developer or developers after the site plans are approved.
-- Reporter Bob Moser contributed to this story.