New York-based Kimco Realty Corporation provided Orange County staff more details Wednesday about its long-term development plan to bring multifamily housing to the Publix-anchored Marketplace at Dr. Phillips.
Calling it an effort to rejuvenate an old shopping center that’s struggled through the years to attract and retain retail tenants, Peter Flint, the company’s vice president of development, proposed building out as many as three apartment buildings on the property in phases over the next 10 to 20 years.
The first phase, he said, would consist of demolishing the now-closed Stein Mart on the north end of the plaza and replacing it with an eight-story residential tower that could hold as few as 316 dwelling units — or as many as 411 — along with an attached parking garage. A pedestrian bridge would allow apartment tenants to cross an easement separating parking lots in order to easily get to restaurants or shops within the plaza.
Construction of the first phase, once approved, could start within 30 days, Flint said.
While employees of the county’s planning, transportation and public works division spoke favorably of the overall concept, there were concerns about the reception an eight-story element in the middle of a residential area would receive from neighboring communities.
“We love good urban form, but eight stories is a little much,” said Jason Sorensen, Orange County’s senior planner. “We will have to see what the residents think and respond accordingly.”
At the end of the technical review committee meeting, county staff said that a high-interest project like this calls for more public meetings, including some with community members, to hash out details of the project.
Citing the investment his company is willing to pour into this effort, Flint agreed to modify plans in response to feedback.
“If it needs to be looked at in terms of height, we can do that,” he said.
GrowthSpotter first reported about the development plan shortly after the initial application arrived on the desk of the county administration office. Preliminary plans drafted by architecture and planning firm BCT Design Group show seven possible options for the site.
All involve the demolition of the SteinMart, which closed after the discount retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020. Two of the options consist of razing both the SteinMart and a conjoined Office Depot and HomeGoods building on the southern edge of the shopping center. Flint said Wednesday that both of those tenants are trending in the same direction and could leave behind a vacant space in the near future. Apartments built on that end of the property would comprise the final phase.
Tearing down all three big box stores would give Kimco space to build three apartment buildings — one of eight-stories tall, two of five-stories — with as many as 879 units or as few as 841 units, according to site plans.
The other options that keep the Office Depot and HomeGoods intact would allow Kimco to build two buildings of eight or five stories for as many as 760 units or as few as 418 units, according to preliminary site plans.
Surrounded by affluent subdivisions, the apartments would be located along Della Drive, near the intersection of Dr. Phillips Boulevard, three miles southwest of Universal Studios theme parks.
Publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange since 1991, Kimco has specialized in shopping center ownership, management, acquisitions, and value enhancing redevelopment activities for more than 60 years, according to its website.
As of March 31, 2022, the company owned interests in 537 U.S. shopping centers and mixed-use assets comprising 93 million square feet of gross leasable space, its website says.
Kimco has been working to mix in housing to many of its shopping centers across the country in recent years. In 2020, Kimco sought approval from the city of Baltimore to add apartments to five separate shopping plazas there. All of those requests were pending at the same time, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Another example: After the company bought a 40-year-old, 526,000 square foot mall in Washington in 2013, Kimco moved in 2018 to redevelop it with up to 685 apartments, a 150-room hotel and two office buildings totaling 175,000 square feet. Today, it’s called the Marketplace at Factoria.
Locally, Kimco is also looking to add apartments to Orlando’s Colonial Plaza, a large shopping center located at 601 N Bumby Ave that includes a host of national retailers such as Total Wine & More, Conn’s Home Plus, Marshall’s, Sprouts Farmers Market and more.
In August of 2021, Kimco merged with shopping center owner and developer Weingarten Realty Investors, acquiring all of its properties. Among properties that were transferred over to Kimco: Marketplace at Dr. Phillips.
Weingarten purchased the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, located at 7682 Dr. Phillips Blvd, for $4.4 million in 2006. It’s currently zoned for non-residential C-1, a retail commercial district.
The shopping center currently has more than 70 tenants, including a Starbucks, Chipotle Mexican Grill, an Einstein Bros Bagels, Pizza Hut. But it is directly across the street from a newer, larger Publix-anchored center at Plaza Venezia.
When Kimco took over the property, leaders realized it needed a boost.
“Currently we have some rather weak tenants that we are trying to improve upon and a shopping center that quite honestly is a little aged,” Flint said Wednesday. “It doesn’t quite meet today’s needs.”
He added: “One of the things that we have found that has helped our retailers find success and stay in business is to have a mix of uses on the property. We’ve found that these mixed-use projects are typically well-received in these communities.”