Developers and homebuilders paid top dollar for vacant land in Central Florida, where the two priciest sales were scooped up for future distribution centers.
A 248-acre industrial park still under construction next to the Orlando Apopka Airport sold in March for $92.5 million, making it the most expensive land deal in Central Florida for 2022.
WPT Capital Advisors bought the Apopka 429 logistics park, where Lakeland-based Blue Steel Development is constructing 2.5 million square feet of spec warehouse space across three industrial buildings. The developer, along with partner Robert Zlatkiss, assembled the property in 2020 and spent over a year getting the entitlements and permits. The logistics park, which has rail access and is three minutes from State Road 429, is scheduled for completion in the Third Quarter of 2023.
Bridge Investment Group closed the second-highest deal of the year, paying $44.25 million in April for 130 acres on Old Lake Wilson Road in Osceola County. The land was previously under contract for a mixed-use, luxury vacation home resort called Park Place Resorts. The development team had envisioned the project as an eco-friendly resort that would cater to “very high-end clients,” but it stalled in 2020 during COVID.
The seller was Florida Bramingham Inc., which had rezoned the property from Tourist Commercial to Employment Commercial. It’s across from the Mystic Dunes Golf Resort and immediately north of EastGroup Properties’ Horizon West Logistics Park. CBRE’s Robert McEwan, Michael McEwan and Austin Weller represented the seller.
The next two deals ranked by price also closed in Osceola County.
Taylor Morrison excecuted the biggest residential land deal of the year, paying $31.35 million for the first phase of Center Lake Ranch, where it will build a gated, age-restricted “Esplanade” neighborhood with detached homes on 50-foot and 60-foot lots and paired villas on 37.5-foot lots.
A Taylor Morrison spokesperson said the Arizona-based homebuilder will have more than 850 homes in Center Lake Ranch, with nearly 300 in the Esplanade community and over 550 at another community within the project. The builder has started putting in the infrastructure to serve the two communities but has not begun the residential development yet.
Connecticut-based investment firm Westport Capital Partners, financing partner for BTI Partners, paid $28 million in late October for land on the southwest shore of Osceola County’s Lake Tohopekaliga with entitlements for 2,644 residential units as part of the county’s South Lake Toho mixed-use district.
It’s the third major land acquisition along Lake Toho for BTI, which is the master developer for Crosspraire and Edgewater West, both located in the East Lake Toho Mixed-Use District. “Westport acquired the land in partnership with BTI Partners,” the company confirmed.
The Oct. 25 sale encompassed three parcels and a total of 538 acres owned for 50 years by the late Billy H. Johnson and Claira Johnson, one of Osceola County’s pioneer ranching families, and their descendants. Prior that that, it had been owned by Bronson’s Inc., which still controls thousands of acres south of Lake Toho. The deal breaks down to a little over $52,000 per acre.
Clay Taylor and David Hitchcock, senior advisors with SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler in Lakeland, represented the sellers.
A trio of land sales in Lake County topped the $20 million mark and will bring thousands of residents to new master-planned communities in Leesburg, Mount Dora and Groveland.
Richland Communities paid $24.8 million in January for 550 acres in Mount Dora’s Wolf Branch Innovation District, which has an approved master plan that entitles the PUD for a mix of uses, including industrial and warehousing, multifamily residential, medical office and commercial. It even reserves 20 acres for a college campus.
The largest tracts include the approximately 298-acre site known as Summer Lake-Grace Groves, south of SR 46, which sold for $10.57 million, and the 215-acre Sorrento LLC site, north of SR 46, which sold for $9.8 million. Daryl Carter, president of Maury L. Carter & Associates, brokered all of the sales and also was the seller of the Sorrento property.
“We have a perfect storm driving growth. Central Florida is on fire,” Carter said. “We’re a job-producing machine. We have good leadership, and the results are obvious.”
The conceptual master plan approved by Lake County and the city of Mount Dora entitles the PUD for a mix of uses, including industrial and warehousing, multifamily residential, medical office and commercial. It even reserves 20 acres for a college campus. Richland, which has extensive land holdings in Lake, Polk and Osceola counties, moved its corporate headquarters from California to Florida this year to focus on master-planned communities in and around Tampa and Orlando.
Jean Marsan, of Marsan Real Estate Group, paid $21 million on April 12 for the 1,088-acre Journey Circle M Ranch on U.S. 27 in Leesburg. Marsan received approval to annex the property into the city limits for a master-planned community called Whispering Hills, which has 642 net developable acres, 203 acres of wetlands and more than 330 acres open space and recreation.
The mixed-use development will have a maximum of 2,942 homes — 2,302 single-family homes/townhomes and 640 multifamily units — along with a maximum of 451,000 square feet of commercial, hotel, medical and office uses. It will also have a new golf course and an equestrian center.
The Tampa-based Eisenhower Property Group (EPG) purchased 735-acre Little Everglades Farm in Groveland on May 3 for $20.2 million, with preliminary plans to build a Village concept on the property.
Groveland’s Village designation, which allows for six units per acre, includes three zoning districts. These include a more intense Village Core along with some commercial, a Village Center, with would feature townhomes and cottage homes, and a Village Edge, with single-family detached lots. The Village Edge is where the largest lot sizes can be designated. No formal plans have been submitted yet for the property.
The sale in Lake County closed a few months after the developer made an even larger purchase — the $70 million Two Rivers Ranch in Pasco County. EPG plans to transform the 3,400-acre ranch into a master-planned community with thousands of new homes and more than 3 million square feet of commercial space. That deal closed in October 2021.
Global real estate investment firm Angelo Gordon also picked up property in Lake County in 2022. The firm paid $19.8 million on July 20 for lots 2, 3 and 4 of the Perimeter Park West industrial park in Clermont. The sale covered phase 2 of the 36.4-acre park. Phase 1 comprised the first two Class A warehouse buildings north of Hartle Road with about 300,000 square feet of space.
The land was annexed into the City of Clermont and approved for a conditional use permit to allow light industrial use and outdoor storage.