Gainesville-based The Collier Companies is taking over development of a long-delayed apartment project in northwest Orange County between Apopka and Maitland.
The multifamily developer and operator paid more than $3.19 million last week for 45.75 acres at 2695 S. Orange Blossom Trail, less than a quarter mile from an interchange with S.R. 414 (Apopka Expressway). The seller was an affiliate of private equity investors Priderock Capital Partners.
Collier Companies CEO Andy Hogshead told GrowthSpotter his company is partnering with Priderock on the project under the affiliate Collier-Lake Betty Apartments Owner LLC.
"They wanted to step it up with an entrepreneurial partner eager to get it done. That was us," Hogshead said. "We saw the land and we liked it. It lines up with the demographics we like, the income and the accessibility."
In February, Priderock revived plans from 2010 to develop 408 apartments on Lake Betty. Originally in partnership with The Bainbridge Companies, the investors bought the land in 2006 for $6.5 million, which Bainbridge later divested from.
Hogshead said the partnership is tweaking plans Priderock submitted to the county earlier this year. Collier has decided to downsize the project to 325 units, all built in one phase. There could be a second phase, he said, depending on how successful the first is.
The units will be traditional garden-style apartments in three-story buildings. Hogshead said total investment in the project should come to between $45 million and $50 million, which includes cost of the land. Collier should be submitting modified plans to the county in the next couple of weeks, he said.
"We've been working on updating and bringing (Priderock's) original plans up to code," Hogshead said. "We've been making some design tweaks to make them more in tune with what renters want today."
The reduced number of units will leave more green space for natural recreation and access to Lake Betty.
"This property has a lake as its central feature," Hogshead said. "We are going to leave it rustic, not wild and overgrown, but leave it natural with a lot of walking and fitness trails and places to relax and enjoy the lake."
Collier will choose a general contractor from the local market through a bidding process, Hogshead said. The company will likely choose from some contractors they have worked with successfully in the past.
"This is an extremely competitive market and the labor markets are so tight. Getting skilled trades is really difficult," he said. "A good GC has the ability to bring skilled crews and, more importantly, keep skilled crews on the job. That's where they really add value."
Hogshead said Collier Companies is working on assembling more land in the Greater Orlando area for other multifamily projects. The company keeps control of and operates about 95 percent of the communities it develops or buys, he said.
Florida's fast-growing population is attracting billions of dollars in multifamily investment, and Orlando is leading the way. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metropolitan area was named the country's no. 4 metro area in Forbes magazine's "America's Fastest Growing Cities 2018" list.
The business magazine projects the Orlando metro area will see an increase in population on 2.93 percent in 2018 and wage growth of 7.73 percent.
"The demographics in Orlando are strong and getting stronger," Hogshead said.