The year in review: GrowthSpotter’s top stories of 2018

In October, Disney released this rendering of the new nature-inspired resort it plans to build on the site of the former River Country water park. GrowthSpotter broke the news in May, and it was our most read story of 2018.

From lawsuits to long drives to Lay's potato chips, GrowthSpotter readers gravitated toward all kinds of stories in 2018. Big in the mix, not surprisingly, was new construction – factories, shopping centers and entertainment venues among the most clicked. Did you miss any of our "biggest hits" in 2018? Read on for the year's Top 10.

A river no longer runs through it


Back in May, GrowthSpotter broke the news that Disney was planning a new themed hotel and timeshare resort on the former River Country water park site, bringing WATG and Balfour Beatty onboard for its design and construction. River Country had a solid, if steadily declining run from 1976 to 2001. The new 900-bed property will boast a Bay Lake location in which to showcase its nature-inspired theme when it opens in 2022.

A Tuskawilla reboot


A Bealls Outlet, Ulta beauty supply store, and HomeGoods outpost joined Hobby Lobby as the formidable anchors of the Promenade at Tuskawilla shopping center after a $5 million redevelopment that kicked off back in January. The 217,000-square-foot shopping center, in a prime location at the intersection of Red Bug Lake and Tuskawilla Roads in Winter Springs, has enjoyed a makeover that bid goodbye to its Kmart building. A partial demolition and subdivision of the space made room for new tenants. Cuhaci & Peterson and Matcon Construction handled design and general contracting on the reboot for the property, which is operated by Southern Management and Development.

Prime to pond?

The Crossroads of Lake Buena Vista shopping center, with its prime location across from one of Walt Disney World's main entry points, is home to some of the best performing restaurant chain locations in the nation, which is why tenants were less than thrilled when the Florida Department of Transportation announced intent to buy it. FDoT plans to build drainage ponds to accommodate a new interchange design as part of the ongoing I-4 "Beyond the Ultmate" widening project. In April, the department issued a notice of taking, and gave tenants 18 months to vacate the property. Once acquired, Crossroads will be the undertaking's most highly valued property taken for Right-of-Way; it's starting-point appraisal came in at $145 million. Several of the tenants are challenging the FDoT appraisals, and they are scheduled to go to court Jan. 14-16.

A Major law suit

Australian-turned-Orlandoan businessman Tim Majors' various Ivanhoe Village venues are preparing for a flurry of horn-blowing New Year's Eve festivities, seemingly unaffected by the lawsuit between Majors Investments and the California-based Griffin-American healthcare REIT, filed in the fall of 2017. Majors Investments bought the bank-owned Medical Village of Mount Dora in 2013 for $1.3 million, then sold it, post-conversion into a Class A medical office space before selling to Griffin-American for $16.3 million. The complaint alleges that Majors and partner, Jeffrey Cannon, fabricated tenant leases to facilitate the property's sale, at which time it was purported to be nearly completely leased. It has since been rebranded as the Mount Dora Professional Center, managed by Colliers International.

Fore love of Lake Mary

GrowthSpotter subscribers interested in keeping their networking prospects "on course" (or perhaps just improving their swing) took considerable interest when Topgolf announced plans for a new location in Lake Mary in July. Its first location is located on Universal Boulevard in Orlando. The Lake Mary sports complex is expected to open in the second quarter of 2020.

A Maximo deal


Though the name was retained by its new owners to honor the history of a ranch run by the same family for four generations, the Latt Maxcy Corporation sold the last of its Osceola County holdings – some 38,000+ acres – to Optimum Agriculture and the government of Dubai for $136.5 million in April of this year. The property, originally settled by pioneer Latimer Maxcy, once encompassed 150,000 acres (40,000 of which is now Kissimmee River State Park). Its new owners will convert some of the land to farming and was looking into solar farming, as well.

It takes a village…

…to lure in big-box retailers in Polk County, where growth in the Posner Park area of Davenport near I-4 and US Highway 27 continues. Intram Investments' Posner Village project is banking on it with more than 100,000 square feet of commercial space that's now slated to open in the third quarter of 2019. Acre Commercial Real Estate is handling the leasing for the shopping center, which will situate its tenants alongside big names including Starbucks, Bealls Outlet and Marshalls and Five Below.

A prototype for Providence

Publix prototype or concept stores are designed with more specificity to the communities they serve, and Loughman's Crossing, a new, $23 million shopping center development on the northwest corner of 17-92 and the Poinciana Parkway – just across from the Providence golf community – will serve as a new location for one of these newer, larger-format supermarkets.  A national hamburger chain was also reported to be on deck for the 78,200-square-foot retail center.

Snack time


Being cheesy's about to get a whole lot easier in Osceola County, where Frito-Lay announced plans to build a $130 million plant across from the Poinciana SunRail Station, which was, per Frito-Lay's parent company, PepsiCo, a carrot in deciding where in Florida to construct its new facility. The 286,000-square-foot automate distribution plant is expected to employ 200 people after its completion in 2021.

Hotel, pray tell?

Roughly 50 acres that sits east of Disney Springs along I-4 changed hands in August of this year when Great Wolf Resorts sold it for $32.75 million; the company had purchased the two parcels in 2016 for $23 million. Great Wolf is known for its indoor water parks, but never developed the property, which enjoys I-4 frontage and borders both the World Marriot Resort's golf course and Starwood's Vistana Resort. CBRE's Robert McEwan, who has sold the property several times, told GrowthSpotter that it's large enough for up to three hotels.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact us at or (407) 420-6261. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.