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Unicorp pitches long-term revamp of 76 acres in I-Drive Entertainment District

Unicorp pitches long-term revamp of 76 acres in I-Drive Entertainment District
The above is a conceptual, phased master plan for dense, urbanized redevelopment of roughly 76 acres in the International Drive Entertainment District, 68 acres of which are owned and managed by Unicorp National Developments. The design was produced in early November by Unicorp and architects at Antunovich Associates. (provided)

Unicorp National Developments, owner and manager of more than 68 semi-contiguous acres from the Wyndham Orlando Resort down to I-Drive 360 that lie southeast of International Drive and Sand Lake Road, has an early-stage master plan to redevelop much of that property over the next decade.

It would be a dense, vertical, walkable, mixed-use environment with more than double the retail and hotel footprint found there today, all of which covers roughly 76 contiguous acres with other parcel owners included.

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Unicorp and Chicago-based architects at Antunovich Associates produced the plan in recent months, and presented it in private to Orange County planning staff in early November.

That master plan submittal is currently under staff review, and will be part of agenda discussion during the Nov. 20 I-Drive 2040 Vision Code and Standards CPD Steering Review Group Meeting.

Unicorp has an ownership stake in the Wyndham Orlando Resort that fronts W. Sand Lake Road (27.18 acres), the I-Shops retail strip to its west that fronts I-Drive (10.42 acres), the Walgreens store on the Sand Lake Road corner (1.49 acres), the Kings Plaza retail center directly south of that (8.9 acres), McFaddens restaurant and saloon (1.82 acres) and the I-Drive 360 complex (18.69 acres).

Sprinkled in between those parcels are other properties like Ripley's Museum owned by Jim Pattison Developments out of Vancouver, Canada (0.99 acres), Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Theater owned by the Redmond family out of Chuluota, Fla. (5.37 acres), and a Fairfield Inn and Suites fronting Universal Boulevard owned by an affiliate of Avista Hotels (1.89 acres).

This master plan was produced in part to help gain approval in December for the 420-foot Starflyer attraction from the Board of County Commissioners.

Property owner Unicorp is working with Starflyer's developer to place the attraction on its Kings Plaza property, but needs county approval to change that plaza's zoning (Goodings Plaza PD) to allow for an amusement use, and apply Convention Plaza District Overlay Zone rules so there is no height limit.

Unicorp got a recommendation for approval of the changes in late July from the county's Development Review Committee, but only if the applicant agreed to wait for BCC to hear this case in mid-December, at the same meeting in which the final I-Drive Vision Plan's report and code for future growth of International Drive are also presented.

Unicorp and its CEO Chuck Whittall did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday for this story.

The master plan also features development east of Universal Boulevard that Whittall has talked openly about since early this year.

He envisions a mix of retail, dining, hotels, a theater and public water show on what would be a 17-acre parcel soon to be controlled by California-based Colony Capital, following a Nov. 18 public foreclosure auction for 474 acres in the area.

Unicorp's master plan includes much of what has been designated the Entertainment District in the new International Drive/Convention Plaza District 2040 Strategic Vision Plan that was presented to the county's BCC on Nov. 3, but has yet to be adopted.

Most notable in Unicorp's master plan is the inclusion of six new interconnected streets with six four-way intersections within the district. It appears to embrace the Vision Plan tenet to boost walkability, which could involve increasing intersection density by setting maximum block size of 1,320 feet, and prioritizing development within quarter-mile walk sheds (length of a five-minute walk).

Unicorp's plan map also highlights the proposed Skyplex entertainment complex and the soon-to-open Mango's Tropical Cafe Orlando, both being developed by Wallack Holdings. 

Editor's Note: This story was updated to include a newer, revised version of Unicorp's master plan map that does not have a residential component in the proposed redevelopment. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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