Two Winter Park property owners will be seeking redevelopment partners or buyers for their land along W. Fairbanks Avenue in the next year, as city commissioners voted Monday to give them another 15 months to phase out current auto dealerships there.
Winter Park is merely opting to enforce its existing zoning rules that date to 2006, when the city wanted to start encouraging redevelopment along W. Fairbanks Avenue by phasing out auto dealerships that fronted the busy thoroughfare.
In 2009, with the recession taking hold the city allowed some land owners to keep leasing to auto dealerships until 2015. Again in 2015 they were given a two-year extension through this past September.
City planners recommended this month that commissioners enforce the rule, and give property owners just 90 days to close the car dealerships.
Commissioners opted instead on Monday to give those land owners another extention through December 2018, which is the same deadline given to the Orlando RV properties at 860, 805 and 710 W. Fairbanks Ave. that were former Holler auto dealerships.
Winter Park has invested upwards of $8 million in updating W. Fairbanks Avenue infrastructure in recent years, with traffic and street lights, sewer line extensions and new paving.
Another $12 million is projected for investment, including Duke Energy's burying of power lines along the avenue, which should start in January and run through December 2018. The expected inconvenience of that undergrounding program was a main reason for commissioners granting one last deadline extension.
Frank Ray, a retired auto dealer living in Sorrento, was one of two property owners given the December 2018 deadline on Monday. He owns the 0.12-acre parcel at 1891 W. Fairbanks Ave., leased now to a small auto dealership.
He had not explored the property's sale value previously because it was always leased, but said Monday "now I'd be interested in learning how much it's worth."
And at 2250, 2286 and 2324 W. Fairbanks Ave., brothers Jim Veigle and Charles Veigle Sr. own roughly 1.3 acres right at the intersection with Interstate 4, all currently leased to auto service shops and dealerships. It's part of roughly 8 contiguous acres the Veigle family owns over two blocks on that highway corner, when incorporating a row of single-family rental homes.
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The Veigles are commercial real estate veterans, with close to 70 investment properties in Greater Orlando. Jim Veigle said he has been approached in the past by representatives of various retail, multifamily and hotel companies with interest in that I-4 frontage property, but is waiting for a developer that shares his vision.
"I've already done three or four different (conceptual) plans there, and I'm actively searching for new opportunities on that property," he told GrowthSpotter on Monday. "We would sell or lease the land in the end, I'm just looking for a developer who has the same ideas I do for best and highest use."
Extending that deadline to December 2018 also gives the city time to revisit drafts of design guidelines it has on file for W. Fairbanks Avenue, which a ULI task force produced in 2012 as recommendations, but had been put on hold since.
"We were told by the city that Winter Park wants to see tall buildings on that corner, they want it to be the gateway to Winter Park because of their investment in remodeling the street," said Charles Veigle Sr., co-owner of Rock 'n Roll Demolition Services. "Times are changing and the property on that corner is valuable. So I understand Winter Park trying to make it into something new."
In July, the Veigles sold a trio of office and retail buildings at one of Winter Park's busiest intersections, on the southwest corner of W. Fairbanks and S. Orlando avenues.
More redevelopment is being pursued further east on W. Fairbanks Avenue. The city accepted a $3.5 million purchase offer in September for a 1.51-acre public lot where a medical office building is now planned, and Leon Capital Group is trying to redevelop 1.52 acres with new retail a block west of the Orlando Avenue intersection.