New dinosaur attraction coming to I-Drive, Artegon retailer preps for move

Premier Exhibitions, Inc., operator of "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" on International Drive, is preparing to lease a vacant building next door and open a new dinosaur-themed attraction by September, while one of the last retailers active at Artegon Marketplace is also preparing a move down the drive in that same timeframe. 

Located at 7220 I-Drive, just a few blocks south of the former Wet 'n Wild property, Premier Exhibitions will lease the building last occupied by "CSI: The Experience," which closed unexpectedly in October 2015, despite having time left on its lease with landlord The Eyde Co. 

Austria-based EMS Exhibits was the operator of that CSI attraction, and had been sued by Eyde's land owner affiliates for breach of contract. The Eydes voluntarily dismissed that suit in Orange County's Ninth Circuit Court on June 28. 

The new exhibit, "Dinosaurs Unearthed," combines life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, full-scale skeletons, fossils, interpretive content and interactive activities, according to the company's website. Orlando will be the third location for Dinosaurs Unearthed, following Winnipeg and Vernon, Canada. 

An opening date for the new attraction was fluid as of Monday, but is expected to be "a month or two from now," Ramona Piacentini, floor manager at the Titanic attraction, told GrowthSpotter on Monday. Officials with Premier Exhibitions did not respond to requests for comment. 

The 22,593-square-foot, two-story building has been available for lease since October 2015, and could house a large restaurant, retail or another attraction. 

Eyde Co. owns the vacant building and the multi-tenant retail buildings directly south that house Ker's WingHouse, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, and a handful of small restaurants. 

In separate news, corporate owners of western wear store Boot Barn filed various building, fire and electrical permit requests in late July with the city of Orlando to move the store to the International Shoppes retail center on the southeast corner of I-Drive and Kirkman Road, also known as the proposed site of developer Abdul Mathin's iSquare Mall + Hotel project.

Boot Barn has been one of the few retail holdouts with long-term leases that were still operating at Artegon Marketplace after it closed in late January. 

Staff at the Orlando Boot Barn said Monday evening that the store relocation is expected to be complete by September. 

Mathin did not respond to requests for comment on Monday, but told GrowthSpotter in early February that he had an LOI from Boot Barn at the time, and the retailer would be taking roughly 18,000 square feet in the combined spaces formally leased by a Halloween costume store and Casual Male XL. That's down slightly from the 20,000 square feet it occupies at Artegon.

Mathin, through his Orlando-based development firm The BlackMINE Group, has delayed the proposed 23-story luxury iSquare Mall + Hotel project repeatedly since first announcing plans in early 2014, particularly in the past two years

Mathin asserted that his tenants at the International Shoppes retail center have 90-day cancellation clauses in their lease contracts, allowing him to transition the property for demolition and iSquare construction when financing is ready.

"I can build this at a slow pace, there's no rush," Mathin said in February. "If this takes six months, two years or more it doesn't matter, it's going to get built." 

Mathin claimed in February his development group had secured a $500 million hospitality bond in the United Kingdom in August 2016 for the project, but had to let it go after 90 days of inactivity.

He has offered no further detail or evidence about how much equity BlackMINE Group and investors are contributing to the estimated $400 million iSquare project, or any lending institutions that will bank the construction.

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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