Fourth developer in 19 months files apartments plan for Universal Blvd site

Bob Moser
GrowthSpotter

Georgia-based developer Flournoy Partners is now the fourth multifamily developer in 19 months to pitch Class-A apartments for a prominent land parcel on Universal Boulevard, filings plans Monday for 330 units on a smaller footprint than past bidders.

Located north of the Las Palmeras by Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare hotel, the site lies right between the new Topgolf, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, Ripley Entertainment's 20 acres and the bulk of Universal Orlando's 474 undeveloped acres, and is owned by Orlando Equity Partners LLC (OEP), an affiliate of Southwood Development Company in Atlanta.

Dubbed "Essex at Universal," OEP filed a Development Plan on Monday on behalf of Flournoy, which has the site under contract, to build 330 apartments on 11.32 acres. 

That footprint and Flournoy's plan for the land replace a larger DP that had been approved for developer Aspen Heights Partners as recently as September, which had the site under contract for a proposed 414 units over 19.88 acres. 

Aspen Heights' vice president of development Ryan Fetgatter told GrowthSpotter on Monday his company has since walked from the contract, but declined to elaborate. 

This site and more OEP land totaling 25 acres were previously under contract in mid-2016 to Trammell Crow Residential for up to 656 apartments, which followed a conceptual 697-unit site plan floated in April 2016 for the site by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Flournoy's new DP calls for five buildings of four stories each, with 330 units broken down as 136 one-bedrooms, 148 two-beds and 46 three-beds, as well as 593 surface parking spaces, five private garage buildings, a swimming pool, clubhouse and outdoor recreation area. 

"There's no question the Ripleys and Universal land acquisitions around this property have made it very favorable for my specific use of luxury apartments," president Jake Flournoy told GrowthSpotter. "I feel the size of the project we've been able to design is very manageable and demand in this location will be healthy for this scope of project, whereas the previous project proposals were considerably larger. From an absorption standpoint that creates a higher hurdle to overcome." 

Flournoy Partners has not gone hard on its contract deposit for the land. Total project cost is estimated at more than $50 million, said Flournoy, and construction financing will be sought in First Quarter 2018. 

Sale of just 11.32 acres to Flournoy would leave OEP with another 8.56 acres remaining directly south for sale and development, accessible via a portion of access road that Flournoy would seemingly build first.

The first phase of that access road was completed early this year up to the entryway of Topgolf, and the second phase is under construction now.

Flournoy's other multifamily venture in Orlando until now was the joint venture it formed in 2015 with Washington, D.C.-based equity firm Carlyle Group to develop the 268-unit Axis West apartments on Westwood Boulevard, which opened this past April. 

Because of strong demand from institutional investors for new Class-A multifamily assets in Orlando, the developer will be listing Axis West for sale in early 2018, Flournoy said, with marketing by Apartment Realty Advisors

"We are actively pursuing other sites, and are very interested in new development opportunities around Greater Orlando for institutional multifamily," said Flournoy, who cited development specs of 25 to 30 units per acre and 200 to 330 units total as a guide in site selection.

Orlando's Kimley-Horn office is civil engineer on the plans, Atlanta-based Geheber Lewis Associates is the architect, and Jacksonville-based LandSouth Construction is expected as general contractor. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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