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Orlando looking for experienced developer to build out last piece of old Navy base

Orlando looking for experienced developer to build out last piece of old Navy base
A bird's-eye view of Southport Village Center, the last remaining property of the old Orlando Navy base. The property comprises 126 acres, which brokers estimate is valued between $20 million and $30 million.

More than a decade after it was pulled off the market, the last vestige of the McCoy Naval Annex in Orlando is once again for sale — this time attracting national interest.

Since the 1990s when the U.S. Navy pulled out of the city, the remaining 126 acres of the old training base have sat vacant, as other parcels around it have been developed, including 200 acres of former military housing that were converted to duplexes in what’s now Villages of Southport and 1,100 acres that became upscale Baldwin Park.

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Now the City of Orlando is selling the last of the naval property, Southport Village Center, which brokers estimate to be valued between $20 million and $30 million. To transform the empty land into a community with 1,000-plus housing units, city officials are soliciting an experienced master developer.

“We’ve been waiting for the right time to put the property back on the market," said Laurie Botts, real estate division manager for the city. “What we don’t want someone to do is buy this property and landbank it."

Located just west of Orlando International Airport and south of the Beachline Expressway, the property is split into two parcels, a north parcel that’s about 96 acres and a south parcel that’s around 30 acres. Between them is a spot for a solar farm the city will keep, in addition to a parcel to the south where a fire station will be relocated. The city will also retain a wetland area near the property where houses cannot be built.

One of the busiest airports in the country, Orlando International Airport has been a consistent draw for developers. GrowthSpotter reported in July the increased investor interest in that area, due in part to a new $2.8 billion terminal that will bring the total number of workers to 2,500.

Close to Amazon’s new fulfillment center and Lake Nona’s Medical City, the property is being marketed as a prime location for the burgeoning local aerospace and aviation industries.

Orlando-based First Capital Property Group is marketing the property, and broker Trent Scott said he’s heard from “almost every one of the national home builders.”

At an optional pre-proposal meeting with the city last week, representatives attended from Houston-headquartered David Weekley Homes, Austin-based Keller Williams, SSCC Group Inc. out of Miami, and Orlando-based groups such as Upshot Capitol Advisers, Jamison Commercial Partners, Poulos & Bennett and Harris Civil Engineers, among others.

Southport Village Center is just west of Orlando International Airport and south of the Beachline Expressway. To the west is Village of Southport, which includes about 660 homes.
Southport Village Center is just west of Orlando International Airport and south of the Beachline Expressway. To the west is Village of Southport, which includes about 660 homes. (Courtesy Trent Scott)

Botts said the city envisions a mixed-use community of entry-level homes, apartments and townhomes with retail options, such as a small grocer, coffee shop or child-care facility, that blends in with existing developments. The city would also like to possibly include housing for seniors, military veterans and tenants with disabilities, as well as housing that’s attainable for residents who make between $35,040 and$58,400, given the crunch for more affordable housing in the Orlando market.

Developers will also be responsible for about $14 million in road improvements, the inclusion of bike and walking trails, and construction of a stormwater management system and sanitary sewer.

The result will likely be an “urban, mixed-use, pedestrian and transit-accommodating” community, according to guidelines provided for the project. A beneficiary of possible future SunRail extensions and the Virgin Trains Brightline expansion, city officials hope to build a walkable, sustainable community that aligns with Orlando’s Green Works action plan to increase the city’s environmental friendliness.

“It’s going to take a master developer to do this,” Botts said.

The solicitation for the sale also requires the developer who wins the project to work with residents of other neighborhoods, including the Villages of Southport Homeowners Association, which represents about 660 homes.

Perry West, who sits on the HOA’s board of directors, said residents have waited a long time to see this new development come about and hope it will bring much-needed retail options to the area.

“We really don’t have anything close for everyday convenience, for groceries and stuff like that,” West said.

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But he’s skeptical of putting townhouses and apartments next door to his community’s duplexes, and said residents would rather see single-family homes.

“We don’t want them towering over where people are looking into our homes,” he said.

According to a vision plan set forth when the Southport area was being first developed, the city would welcome combinations of commercial mixed-use buildings, multi-story apartments, townhomes, detached single-family homes, senior housing, recreational and office areas. Botts said creating a series of subdivisions isn’t the city’s goal.

Pre-proposals from interested developers are due to the city on Sept. 6, and from there the city will devise a list of finalists to invite for formal interviews. Each finalist must participate in a mandatory pre-proposal conference and submit a more detailed package to the selection committee, which will make a final recommendation to the City Council. Botts said the city hopes to have building permits for the first phase of the project issued within about two years, and at least half of the property built out within the next five years.

The city hasn’t specified an asking price for the property or had the property appraised. Karyn Barber, spokeswoman for the city, said the market will decide how much the parcels are worth.

“We really want high-quality development here,” Barber said. So we’re not looking for the highest offering price, we’re looking for the best proposal.”

Got a news tip? You can email Caroline at cglenn@orlandosentinel.com or call 407-420-5685, and follow her on Twitter @bycarolineglenn.

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