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A new buyer wants to raze the former JungleLand Zoo building on Kissimmee's W192 corridor and replace it with a self-storage facility.
A new buyer wants to raze the former JungleLand Zoo building on Kissimmee's W192 corridor and replace it with a self-storage facility. (Leon Hampton/Bumpus & Associates)

Orlando gift shop-owner Arvind Nandu could be poised for a huge return on his $550,000 investment on Kissimmee’s W192 tourism corridor if he can successfully rezone the property to allow for a self-storage facility.

Nandu is president of Benzer International, Inc., and the owner of a host of area businesses – including two I-Drive gift shops and what was the first indoor flea market of its kind in Orlando.

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He bought the long-closed JungleLand Zoo just after Christmas last year. At the time, he told GrowthSpotter he was looking to do something unique with the property, but he enlisted JLL’s John and Max Krzyminski to market it for sale a few months later. The nearly $2.4 million asking price was more than four times what he paid for the 6.8-acre site.

The Bargain Planet owner wants to stay at the prime I-Drive location, but he's open to redeveloping the site.

Krzyminski highlighted the 200 feet of W192 frontage in the offering. “Behind the building is the meat of the property with multiple acres ripe for development as the property is tucked away behind a wall of trees that help act as a natural sound barrier to Irlo Bronson,” he wrote.

The property is currently zoned Tourist Commercial, which is one of the most flexible zoning categories in Osceola County. But one of the few uses that isn’t permitted in TC zoning is self-storage.

Osceola County Commissioners reduced the code enforcement fines on the former JungleLand Zoo by over $1 million to help facilitate the December 2018 sale.
Osceola County Commissioners reduced the code enforcement fines on the former JungleLand Zoo by over $1 million to help facilitate the December 2018 sale. (Osceola County Code Enforcement)

Celebration-based architect Daniel Bumpus filed a pre-application meeting request in late November with the county to discuss the possible rezoning and site plan for a self-storage facility.

The conceptual plan calls for demolition of the existing building at the north end of the property, followed by construction of a 3-story, 58,000-square-foot self-storage building. The back of the property would be utilized for outdoor storage of RVs, boats, construction equipment and other vehicles.

Originally Alligatorland Safari Zoo, which opened in 1977, the attraction became JungleLand in 1995 and was best known for its iconic 126-foot alligator and its big cat shows – until one of the stars went rogue. A lioness named Nala escaped her enclosure in 1997, fleeing into the nearby wetlands. She was captured without incident two days later, but not before the story went global.

Languishing since its closure, the site had become a blight amid the tourist corridor. Nandu had been eyeing the property for two years, but it was saddled with over $1.1 million in code enforcement fines. When the former owner brought the property into compliance in 2018, Osceola County reduced the fine to around $50,000, facilitating the sale to Nandu.

Earlier this year, Nandu paid $1.9 million to buy the I-Drive property he had been leasing for his UFO-shaped Bargain Planet gift shop. Benzer also owns the gift shop and miniature golf attraction at 6582 International Dr.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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