City may order shutdown of car museum at Artegon for zoning violations

The South Florida billionaire who dreamed of converting the former Artegon Marketplace into an entertainment venue and museum showcasing his vast car collection could be shut down by the City of Orlando because of zoning and code violations. 

Miami-based Dezer Development paid $23.75 million in January for the 104-acre mall property. Founder Michael Dezer subsequently closed his Dezer Auto Museum and relocated the estimated 1,500 vehicles to Orlando.

The city has given Dezer until midnight Friday to remove every vehicle from inside the building because the museum is not a permitted use under the existing retail zoning.

The order followed a unanimous vote in October by the city's Code Enforcement Board (CEB) to find Dezer guilty of multiple violations after a former contractor on the job site complained that he was ordered to perform electrical work without a valid permit.

Dezer has an open building permit to remove some partitions on the interior of the building, but no permit has been sought in 2018 for electrical work, records show. 

The city also received complaints over the summer that workers were driving cars inside the mall, endangering movie theater patrons. Other violations dealt with the outdoor storage of a plane, a boat and two vintage fire trucks.

The CEB also ordered the removal of those vehicles and told the owner to rezone the property, change its land use and install all required development standards or face $200 per day in fines.

City Spokeswoman Cassandra Lafser told GrowthSpotter the  necessary zoning approvals have been not be obtained by the property owner. The property will be inspected Saturday for compliance on the storage of vehicles inside and on mall property.

"If the property is not in compliance, an affidavit of non-compliance would be issued and fines will start running that day and continue daily at the amount of $200/day until the property comes into compliance," she said. 

Additionally, the CEB gave Dezer until Feb. 7 to obtain the proper zoning and land use, file engineering plans and permits for all of the interior renovation work completed to date or revert the building to its previous use.

If Dezer fails to bring the property into compliance, the CEB authorized the city atttorney to begin lien and foreclosure proceedings.

Property manager Mike Rich attended the CEB meeting and held a pre-application meeting with city planners on Nov. 5 and filed determination request with zoning staff to determine which uses are permitted under Dezer's master plan

Lafser said staff believes a zoning determination that will allow for the museum is possible - but only after all other proper approvals and permits have been obtained and approved.

Rich declined to comment. Dezer could not be reached.

That plan allocated 142,590 square feet to the museum. Another 125,505 square feet adjacent to the Cinemark and Bass Pro Shop was slated for an arcade. City inspectors submitted photos of the pinball machines and other arcade games in that section of the building. 

Other uses detailed in the master plan are: 81,260 SF of restaurants, a car dealership office (65,380 SF) and nearly 100,000 SF of assembly space, with nearly 30,000 SF set aside for back of house operations.

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