Osceola settles code enforcement case with key Disney-area land owner

Osceola County Commissioners voted Monday to reduce code enforcement penalties against the owner of the Orlando Sun Resort & Spa by $560,344 and close the case against the long-vacant hotel.

The move clears the way for the owner to proceed with a rezoning and DRI rescission for the property and reposition it for sale.

Owned by Fortuna Realty in New York, the one-time Hyatt resort is in a prime location at the northeast quadrant of I-4 and W192. Built in 1974, the sprawling two-story motel sits on 77 acres right across from Celebration and minutes from Disney.

Fortuna has engaged Avison Young as the exclusive advisor for the public offering, which was published last week. The owner will consider joint venture opportunities, according to the property flyer. 

Chief Code Enforcement Officer Tom Wilkenson told GrowthSpotter the property had been accumulating fines since 2011 in excess of $700,000. The fine was reduced to $141,656, which equals 20 percent of the original fine plus staff costs. It must be paid within 30 days.

The code violations included failure to meet the minimum maintenance standards for properties in the W192 Community Redevelopment Area district, as well as accumulation of junk and debris, overgrown landscaping. 

Robert Harding, a shareholder with Gray Robinson, represents Fortuna. He said the property is now fully in compliance, which should allow the county to consider the rezoning.

Rj Whidden & Associates Vice President John Adams applied last December on behalf of Fortuna CEO Morris Moinian to rezone the property from Planned Development to Commercial Tourist (CT) and to rescind the Development of Regional Impact. Adams also filed a school capacity report indicating the owner was seeking entitlements for up to 615 multifamily or condominium units.

CT zoning allows tremendous flexibility and high density development with no height restrictions. Adams said both issues must go through a public hearing process with the county's Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners before final approval.

Fortuna acquired the asset in 2004 with entitlements for more than 4 million square feet of mixed-use development consisting of multifamily, hotel, entertainment and retail uses. The company, which owns multiple luxury hotels in the greater New York market, borrowed $26 million from M&T Bank to secure the property. That loan was set to mature on Sept. 1.

David Buchheit, executive director of the W192 Development Authority, said he is mystified as to why the owner hasn't sold or redeveloped the property, but if they are positioning it for sale it's good news for the Tourism Corridor.

"I get asked about that parcel at least twice a week, and that's been the case for the last four years," he said. "The location is perfect for redevelopment. Being directly adjacent to Disney on one side and Celebration across the street, it's a prime location for any kind of use. I don't know that there's a better location on I-4."

EDTOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to include the name of the listing broker for the property.

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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