The Center at Celebration, former home to Stetson University’s Central Florida campus, sold this week for the second time in less than two years.
An investment vehicle led by Orlando plastic surgeon John Choi paid $5.9 million for the 36,000-square-foot Class-B office building in the heart of the Disney master-planned community. The three-story building is right across from Celebration’s K-8 school and walking distance to the Bohemian Hotel and downtown Celebration.
Choi told GrowthSpotter he will be moving part of his practice to the new location, but his ultimate goal is to open a college of osteopathy in the former academic building. He said he wants to focus on filling the need for more front-line medical workers: primary care doctors, nurses and physicians assistants. He said the start-up cost for a new medical school is about $30 million.
“I have many other doctors involved in this,” he said. “To start, we need at least $6 million in escrow, which would allow for about 50 students at $30,000 tuition.”
Choi said he is in the process of applying for accreditation this year with the hope of opening to the first class of students in 2022. Choi and his wife, Laura Choi, recently formed a company called University of Medicine at Celebration LLC.
The instructors would be a mix of MDs and DOs, and the dean must have a medical degree and at least five years of accredited teaching experience.
This would be the second new medical school announced in the Orlando area this month. Tampa-based physicians and philanthropists Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel are supporting the construction of a new independent medical school in Horizon West.
Boyd Development recently submitted plans in Orange County seeking Development Plan review for a project dubbed KPPCOM. In addition, the developer is seeking to move forward with the environmental permits and grading of 25 acres for the future 136,200-square-foot medical college, directly across the Orlando Health Horizon West hospital campus.
Choi said he wasn’t aware of the plans in Horizon West, but he noted that Florida has become a destination for new medical programs as its population grows and ages. “Four new colleges of osteopathy have opened in Florida in the last four years,” he said.
His group will strive to keep the tuition costs comparatively low and cap enrollment at 100 students. “I want to be able to maintain personal relationships with the students,” Choi said.
Stetson opened the $7.2 million semi-circular building in 2001 but decided to divest of the asset in 2018.
It sold in early 2020 to Orlando CRE broker Oscar Rodriguez and investor Mike Wang, who paid $4.2 million for the landmark with the intention to reposition it as a multitenant office building.
“The building is really better suited for a single-user,” said Susan Morris, principal at RDIP. Morris brokered both sales, along with Eduardo Gomez and Kane Morris Webster. “We had four offers come in from single users, but Dr. Choi’s fit the use of what the building was already.”
Morris said the address at 800 Celebration Ave. still has caché. “There will always be demand for office space in Celebration because it just doesn’t turn that often,” she said.
The building was designed by New York-based Dreamer + Phillips to be a “recognizable icon” for the Celebration community with a large atrium and windows in every classroom with views of the adjacent nature preserve.
Choi, an artist and avid pianist, said he felt an immediate connection to the space. “It’s such a beautiful location. When Stetson University left, it was such a shame,” he said. “They left everything — all the desks and furniture. They even left a piano. When I saw that, it just clicked.”
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