The new owners of a former Winn Dixie building in Belle Isle say they will start demolishing it this week or next to make way for commercial businesses, including a Wawa fuel station and convenience store.
Orion Investment and Management Ltd. Corp. out of Miami, doing business as Hoffner Fruit LLC, paid $2.35 million for the building and 7-acre parcel at 4400 Hoffner Road. The sellers, Efesos Properties N.V. Inc., previously bought the property in 2002 for $3.68 million.
Wawa, the hugely popular mid-Atlantic chain which entered Florida four years ago, is the first tenant to commit to the property, said Norman Buhrmaster, Orion's senior vice president. Wawa plans to build a 6,100-square-foot building, with an outside eating facility and 16 gas pumps, according to a site plan submitted to the city of Belle Isle.
"We're real excited about (Wawa); we think it's going to be a terrific asset," Buhrmaster told GrowthSpotter. "And we're talking to some other people who are not committed to the site yet."
The proposed Wawa store was opposed, however, by a handful of nearby residents. They said locating the popular store at the corner of busy Hoffner and South Conway roads would generate traffic congestion and noise from the customers, according to minutes of a Belle Isle City Council meeting last year.
The Belle Isle purchase is the latest example of Orion's interest in the metro Orlando area. In March 2014, the company paid $31.7 million for the Rialto retail and office complex on Sand Lake Road, in Dr. Phillips.
The company also developed, then sold, a retail center on Vineland Avenue that included a Golden Corral, Bahama Breeze and BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, according to Buhrmaster. Orion continues to manage that property, he said.
"We like the Orlando area," Buhrmaster said. "We think it's a nice community and (the development) is going to be a real asset to Belle Isle and other areas of Orlando."
Orion's co-developer on the project is Brandon Partners of Orlando.
"They have a long history -- at least two generations of history -- developing shopping centers," Buhrmaster said. "They will be the ones supervising the activities of the demolition and construction of the site. We will be the ones negotiating with the tenants."
The 56,527-square-foot Winn Dixie store was built in 1994 and closed in 2010 along with dozens of others in Florida due to a weak economy and increasing competition from Walmart and Publix.