Multifamily and mixed-use developer Kettler expects its planned luxury apartment community in Celebration to be the first of several deals in Central Florida as the company looks to gain a foothold in the Greater Orlando market, CEO Robert C. Kettler told GrowthSpotter.
"This development transaction represents a significant milestone for our company," Kettler said. "Expanding our geographical footprint and entering the Florida market has been a strategic focus of our organization. We could not be more excited to have our first acquisition in the state be in iconic Celebration."
Kettler, a leading developer in the Washington, D.C. metro area, purchased the 18.4-acre parcel on Celebration Boulevard in late May for $11.16 million, and filed a conceptual plan with Osceola County that combines multifamily, a hotel and senior housing.
"The Florida decision was simply based on an analysis of markets around the country, and Orlando is one of fastest growing markets for job growth and new construction," said John Chappelear, senior vice president of acquisitions. "Everything is pointing up, and we wanted to be a part of it."
Chappelear said he had 30 years of development experience in Florida before joining Kettler. So he jumped at the opportunity to enter the market via Celebration, which already has an established national brand through its association with Disney.
"I never thought I would be so fortunate as to find a beautiful 18-acre site in Celebration," he said. "That was just great good fortune that we came across that."
He said the company would have loved to take on the Islands of Celebration project - the final village in the master-planned community. "But we were late to the dance on that one."
Kettler is also looking to expand into Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and South Florida, but Central Florida is the top priority.
"We are very seriously looking for other opportunities," he said. "We're engaged in active negotiations on several sites in Central Florida. We're also making offers to acquire existing properties. We're talking to just about every broker in Central Florida."
Kettler is known for its award-winning large‐scale, master planned communities and mixed-use development. "We would love to find a high quality mixed-use site in a prime location," Chappelear said. "We've had a lot of experience here near transit stations. So if there's a sight near one of the new SunRail stations, I would not sneeze at that."
At Celebration, Kettler will invest approximately $75 million in the 368-unit apartment community. The developer is in active negotiations with a national hotel company to build a $20 million, 134-key hotel. The site plan also calls for 100 senior housing units -- also projected at $20 million.
"We expect to have the hotel portion of this put to bed within 90 days," Chappelear said. "We're also having discussions with a senior housing developer for that portion of the project."
Chappelear said the apartment community would "set the new bar for surface-parked garden (style apartments) in Celebration," he said. The buildings will meet the required Art Deco design theme and will feature an extensive amenity package and top-of-the-line finishes. They will be four stories and elevator-served.
"The clubhouse is envisioned to be at least 8,000 square feet -- maybe more," Chappelear said. "We're considering a two-story clubhouse. It's going to have a large pool. The clubhouse will be larger than anything currently in the Celebration market."
Virtually all Disney/TCC land sales carry a deed restriction that gives the corporation final approval of the building design. Chappelear said Kettler engaged Torti Gallas + Partners as architect based on Disney's recommendation. The firm had designed a condominium complex in Celebration.
"It turned out to be good advice," he said. "We're still in early schematic design, but it's coming together nicely."
Kettler representatives will meet Wednesday with Osceola County's planning staff to discuss the site plan prior to filing a construction plan. The developer's goal is to have building permits by First Quarter 2018 for both the apartment complex and the hotel, followed by a 15-month construction period.
"We hope they will move on a similar track with us so our construction can be in lockstep," Chappelear said.