UPDATED: JANUARY 09, 2017 10:15 AM — The former site of one of Osceola County's most blighted, abandoned buildings could soon be home to a new luxury apartment complex.
Headed by Terry Pomeranz, T.R.A.M.S. is the same Canadian development firm that built the adjacent 432-unit Academy Village Apartments.
Pomeranz told GrowthSpotter the new complex would be called Academy Lux. "It's going to be more high-grade, with high end finishes - granite counters and enclosed parking," he said. "We're just bringing it up more to today's standards."
Pomeranz said he is partnering with with Cagen Management on the $40 million project, which will be constructed in one phase. He said construction would start as soon as permits are issues, hopefully within four months.
He also subdivided two outparcels fronting on E192 at Academy Drive that will be home to a new AutoZone and 7 Eleven.
The 31-acre lot at the north end of the property had been home to the Southeastern Academy of Travel and Tourism, which operated in the converted 1970s-era Ramada Inn until 2001. The school filed for bankruptcy and the property was sold, but within a few years it was abandoned and became a haven for vagrants.
"It was really bad," Chief Code Enforcement Officer Tom Wilkinson said. By 2008, the building was little more than a graffiti-covered shell. The county declared the property a public nuisance in 2008, and a year later entered into a consent order with the previous owner to demolish the remains of the building.
"When the economy in 2008 went down, there were people out there vandalizing it," Wilkinson said. "We had a couple of homeless camps out there."
But that owner allowed the property to deteriorate, and Fifth Third Bank foreclosed on it in 2012. The court approved the sale in 2013 to a Pomeranz affiliate, and he signed a new consent order promising to demolish the building and remove decades worth of accumulated junk.
"It was just a matter of getting rid of the hellhole it had become," Pomeranz said. "It was an easy clean up. The site of it, and knowing that kids were always there, that was the bigger issue."
The building was fully demolished in 2015. And though it is in compliance now, Wilkinson said the property still carries a $516,000 lien for unpaid fines.
He said Pomeranz could ask for a reduction from the Board of County Commissioners, but the lien shouldn't affect permit approvals for the apartment complex. He would need clean title to the property if he intended to sell it.
The site is about a mile and half from the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center and lies within the E192 CRA district, in a zone designated for infill residential development. Last year county commissioners adopted stringent new development guidelines for the district that employ "urban, walkable design principles."
This story has been updated with comments from the developer.