The Miami lender that took possession of the former Parliament House property on Orange Blossom Trail and demolished the former gay-friendly resort is following through on plans to build a 306-unit apartment community called Lion Gardens.
Lion Financial applied this week for a Planned Development amendment to convert the property’s hospitality use to multifamily residential. The case heads to Orlando’s Municipal Planning Board in December.
Lion Financial’s Ron Simkins knows he’s taking a bit of risk building a $60 million apartment community on the site of the former Parliament House at 300 N. Orange Blossom Trail. The neighborhood is in transition, and the Simkins family is self-financing the entire project and banking on it being a catalyst for more private investment in the corridor.
“Some people have suggested that it’s too early for this project, but I didn’t feel that way,” Simkins said. “The whole energy behind this project is to try to build something nice, you know, and people will come in. We think it’s a great neighborhood, it’s just been down for a couple of years at Orange Blossom Trail. But it’s a great area, and it’s close to everything.”
The design by FK Architecture calls for three 4-story, elevator-served buildings: one overlooking Rock Lake and the other two fronting on Orange Blossom Trail and flanking the primary entrance to the community at W. Livingston Street. The site plan locates the clubhouse, fitness center, mailroom and internet café in an amenity space at the end of the north building, while the pool and cabana are shifted toward the lakefront.
The southern building dedicates 2,000 square feet of space on the ground floor for a coffee or donut shop at the main entrance. “We met with all the HOAs in the neighborhood, and that was something that was not originally a part of the plan, but it was something they wanted to have. So we thought it was a good suggestion and decided to do that,” Simkins said.
The architect incorporated 10 different exterior applications on the building facade and varied the roof elevations to bring the urban form requested by the city. “That was the direction from the city and the neighborhood,” Simkins told GrowthSpotter. “We kept the neighborhood abreast of everything that’s going on, we actually had about six meetings and a lot of Zoom meetings. The reason for that is we wanted to blend in with the urban core and jumpstart the neighborhood a little bit in the future.”
The developer also is proposing a 10-foot sidewalk/trail to run parallel with Orange Blossom Trail to allow for better pedestrian and bicycle traffic flow for the public and for residents to use the existing Lynx Bus stop. The community also will offer a rideshare location and bike racks for residents’ use.
Simkins said their goal is to attract tenants who want to be close to downtown and Creative Village, but to offer more attainable rents. “They are market rate, but the project is designed to be somewhat affordable,” he said. “We realize that it’s a new neighborhood, and we’re hoping for a change there, and so the idea is for people who are either students or people who live in downtown or in the local area to have an alternative that is high quality but cheaper than some of the other neighborhoods.”
Orlando and Orange County planners are finalizing the OBT Next masterplan with a goal of spurring new investment in the 8.3-mile corridor. The Lion Gardens site falls within the proposed West Downtown segment of the corridor. It’s about a half-mile north of Camping World Stadium and a half-mile west of Creative Village.
Lion Financial LLC acquired the largest piece of the 20-acre site last year through foreclosure for $300,100. The Miami-based lender had previously purchased two other parcels in the assemblage in a 2018 bankruptcy sale. Those included The Gardens, an 18-unit timeshare property.
The Simkins family founded Innovate Development Group and is leading the redevelopment of Miami’s Park West neighborhood into the Miami Innovation District. Ron Simkins said the family has been a long-time investor in the Orlando market, having owned and managed an apartment complex on Semoran Boulevard for 15 years. They have no plans to sell the new complex after its initial lease-up.
“We hold everything, and that’s been our strategy, for good or bad, but we hold everything,” he said.