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Osceola County negotiating with Korean developer for $1.2B town center in Neocity

The developer would pay $14.125 million for the 25 acres designated as Neocity's town center (green) and would have exclusive rights to negotiate to buy an additional 45 acres shown in yellow.
The developer would pay $14.125 million for the 25 acres designated as Neocity's town center (green) and would have exclusive rights to negotiate to buy an additional 45 acres shown in yellow. (Osceola County)

Korean tech billionaire Young-hwa Song will pay Osceola County $14.125 million for 25 acres in the county’s Neocity technology district and pledges to deliver a $1.2 billion mixed-use town center, based on terms in an exclusive negotiating agreement that was unanimously approved by commissioners Monday.

Song is the founder and CEO of DS Semicon and holds patents for a host of technologies used exclusively by Samsung. He met with Osceola Commissioner Cheryl Grieb, Congressman Darren Soto and other U.S. trade officials last July at his corporate headquarters in Anyang City’s Smart Square technology district.

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“And when I was in South Korea, he allowed me to look at his fab, which doesn’t typically happen,” Grieb said. The office building is designed with employee wellness in mind, with break rooms, health food options, a nap room and even a golf simulator. “So he really values his employees, which is, is great to see. But the fact that he’s so excited about taking on this project — he’s excited about Neocity — he believes in the concept. And this would be done as a smart city, we would be able to use a lot of the technologies that he would implement into his buildings to start really studying what works, what doesn’t work, what can we improve on, so kind of a testbed, so to speak. South Korea is on the cutting edge of all this type of technology.”

The agreement gives the county and prospective buyer about three months to formalize a conveyance agreement for the transfer of the property, at a price of $565,000 per acre, and provides the company with exclusive negotiating rights for another 45 acres in Neocity lakefront property for a possible Phase 2 of the Smart City. In his memo to commissioners, County Manager Don Fisher said the town center would be “a testbed seamlessly connected through smart technologies creating a unified experience for employees, residents, and visitors located in Neocity.”

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The development plan outlined in the draft conveyance agreement calls for 1,150 condominiums with nearly 400,000 square feet of amenities and common space as well as a 1.4 million-square-foot retail and entertainment hub situated along the lakefront in Neocity. The town center would include a commercial office tower, a dining and retail center with a movie theater, a 200-room conference hotel with about 100,000 square feet of convention/exhibition space and an entertainment hall with a 700-seat event center. Fisher said the initial concept calls for an indoor theater with an outdoor amphitheater to host events similar to the Frontyard Festival at Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center.

Rendering of Neocity town center in Osceola County as envisioned by the county's master plan.
Rendering of Neocity town center in Osceola County as envisioned by the county's master plan. (Perkins+Will)

“We need to place to go watch a great show and maybe have a glass of champagne beforehand, either inside the art center, or maybe even sitting on the grounds during those few cooler weather months that we have,” Fisher said.

There also would be 23,200 square feet of cafes and restaurants throughout the property, and potentially even an urban farm component. The idea is to create a unique, smart city, built from the ground up, in Neocity. The town center would function synergistically with the Center for Neovation to attract more high-wage employers to the district.

“The Center for Neovation is the magnet to draw employers for job,” Fisher said. “The employers like a lifestyle, as well.”

In all, the development program calls for over 3.14 million square feet of new construction, with 55% slated for residential use and 45% for commercial. “And we’re hoping that with this type of density, we’re going to see construction in the development form that is not traditional for this part of Osceola County,” Fisher said. “If you’re putting 3 million square feet on 25 acres, it’s going to be pretty dense, and we are encouraging that density and height and innovative architecture.”

Osceola County has spent years cultivating business relationships with South Korea. The county also hired business consultant NeoCity Links to open a permanent office in Seoul for the purpose of recruiting leading Korean businesses such as LG, Hyundai, Samsung to NeoCity. The deal with Song grew of those relationships.

Osceola County is looking for expert help to recruit South Korean technology companies to NeoCity. 

Grieb said their first discussions started 18 months ago and really ramped up after the July visit. “It’s been worked on for quite a while,” she said. “And culturally, South Koreans, they like to do business face to face. They want to know who you are. They want to feel who you are. And they do that by sitting in front of you and talking to you.”

The proposed buyer is DS Semicon’s U.S. affiliate, DSUS, LLC, which is registered in Duluth, Georgia. The firm also has links to another Georgia company, N-city Atlanta Inc., and to a local company, NeoCity Development Group LLC, which shares an office in downtown Kissimmee with Neocity Links.

Once commissioners approve the negotiation agreement, Fisher and Song will have 60 days to bring back a conveyance agreement for approval, and 200 days after that to negotiate the final development agreement, which would lay out the timeline for the county and developer to achieve project milestones. For example, the county would agree to use a significant portion of the sale revenues to complete infrastructure within Neocity, including the 5-K trail around the lake.

The framework plan also includes economic incentives, including property tax refunds (100% for the first five years and 50% for the second ten tax years following the substantial completion of the Project)for up to 15 years, for Phase 1 of the project.) Since Phase 2 would be targeted and reserved for high-tech job creation, those incentives would be job-based. The purchase price for Phase 2 would be negotiated at a later date, Fisher said.

Grieb said the development timeline, which would Song submitting Site Development Permits within 300 days and commencing construction by the first quarter of 2023, is aggressive. Part of the reason for that is because there are other developers interested in the same site, she said.

“So I think it benefits the county by having an aggressive timeline, so we’re good there,” she said.

Fisher said Monday’s vote doesn’t mean the county and the developer will close the deal. “But I think this is as far as we’ve made it to this point, where we actually have someone that is looking at investing real money into Neocity,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily call it the finish line. It’s more like the start of the race. The finish line is probably 10 to 15 years off, when Neocity is fully functioning and operational.”

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

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