Located in the 11000 block of International Drive, south of the intersection with Central Florida Parkway, the two highlighted parcels are the Houghtons' 7.41 upland acres fronting I-Drive, and 12.36 acres directly east to serve as mitigated wetlands.
Located in the 11000 block of International Drive, south of the intersection with Central Florida Parkway, the two highlighted parcels are the Houghtons' 7.41 upland acres fronting I-Drive, and 12.36 acres directly east to serve as mitigated wetlands. (Orange County Property Appraiser)

The British owners of a fully entitled hotel and retail site on S. International Drive have renewed their search effort in the past month for a buyer or joint venture partner, after nearly a decade of patience that could prove lucrative.

Based in the county of Tyne and Wear in northeast England with business and real estate holdings in the United States, Gary Houghton and father George Houghton, founder and chairman of family holding company GH Group (HK) Ltd., maintain a portfolio of multifamily, office, assisted living and single-family rental properties in South and Central Florida.

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The Houghtons acquired, through affiliates, 7.41 upland acres in 2006 fronting the 11000 block of International Drive, south of the intersection with Central Florida Parkway, and another 12.36 acres directly east a year later to serve as mitigated wetlands.

They subsequently produced plans for an assisted living facility on the site, then sat on the asset through the recession. In 2013, they engaged Amr Gawad of True Engineering and Consulting to design conceptual hotel plans and pursue entitlements, with the goal of finding a JV partner to develop.

The family counts more than $4 million invested over the past decade in the acquisition, design and engineering, and tax maintenance on the property. In 2014 they earned county entitlements for up to 500 hotel keys or 250 lock-out timeshare units, 60,000 square feet of retail and a height of up to 11 stories.

Original concept rendering from 2015 of a proposed 11-story condo hotel with ground-floor retail on the Houghton property along S. International Drive.
Original concept rendering from 2015 of a proposed 11-story condo hotel with ground-floor retail on the Houghton property along S. International Drive. (Amr Gawad)

They've shopped the property privately in the years since with no success, and allowed two prospective JV partners to tie it up for the past two years while trying to amass investors or raise funds via the EB-5 program.

One of those was Miami-based investor Charles Newman, who in 2015 floated plans for an 11-story condominium hotel on the site with George Houghton, dubbed Treasure Cove Hotel & Plaza.

"I was never really in a rush to sell it, land is land and there was no reason to," he told GrowthSpotter. "Charles Newman had the option on it, that ran out in October 2016. Then a Vietnamese group had an option on it until this October, but couldn't get the money together."

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"Our mistake was not to list the property with a worldwide commercial broker while engaged with the two prospective joint venture partners, thus effectively we lost two-plus years," added son Gary Houghton.

Richard Kurban, associate with Brokers Real Estate Group, Inc., is now listing the property at $8.125 million, with no date set for a call for offers.

"This is their first effort to begin marketing it with a broker," Kurban said. "There's no hard deadline, but we're confident it's priced competitively."

At just under $1.1 million per net developable acre, the asking price is on par with similar sites sold within the last two years for hospitality development on or near I-Drive.

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Those comps include AD1 Global's 5.18-acre purchase a block to the north in August, Empire Equities' 5-acre deal on Westwood Boulevard in August directly south of the Orange County Convention Center, Floridays Development's 2.42-acre site on Regency Village Drive bought in December 2016 with plans for a new Holiday Inn, and Ripley Entertainment's December 2016 purchase of 20.4 acres along Universal Boulevard.

"This site is what we call in England 'oven-ready' to build on," George Houghton said. "I'm 77 years old now and too old to commit on my own to develop a project that will take three years or so to finish. But if someone comes along and wants me to stay in as a 50/50 JV, that's a consideration."

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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