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Carvana plans Orlando dealership fronting I-4, brokers call location 'a gem'

A look at the Carvana auto dealership in Nashville.
A look at the Carvana auto dealership in Nashville.(Carvana)

Phoenix-based startup Carvana.com has chosen a location to build its first automated car dealership in Orlando, filing plans with the city for nearly 3 acres fronting Interstate 4, southwest of the interchange with S. John Young Parkway.

The 2.84-acre parcel lies between I-4, 35th Street and Rio Vista Avenue, near the intersection of L.B. Mcleod and Vineland roads, directly north of the Harley Davidson dealership and Toyota of Orlando that front the interstate with Vineland Road access.

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The land is owned by an affiliate of Jacksonville-based real estate developer Sleiman Enterprises. Sleiman did not respond on Thursday to requests to confirm if this would be a land sale or lease to Carvana.

The company has filed a master plan request with the City of Orlando to develop a 8,524-square-foot car dealership building, with an eight-level (70 feet) storage tower for vehicles, dubbed a "car vending machine."

The location is ideal for car dealership exposure, and a potential gem that only Carvana could utilize with its small footprint requirement, compared to 5-10 acres needed for a typical car dealership, said Tad Dixon, commercial broker and development manager with First Team Commercial of Winter Park.

"It's a great location. We've seen there is tremendous value placed on that I-4 exposure, and it is within striking difference of the Millenia area," said Dixon, who is currently involved in developing the Don Mealey Chevrolet in Clermont, and the Sport Mazda on S. Orange Blossom Trail.

"I have clients looking for sites up and down I-4 and the 408 right now. It's very difficult to find a good car site on I-4."

Carvana began serving the Orlando market in early March with next-day delivery service of cars ordered online, its first entry into Florida. The company opened its first automated dealership in Nashville in November 2015.

"That I-4 exposure is fantastic, it gives you great access to anyone in the downtown area and anyone on the southwest side of town," said John Crossman, president of Crossman & Company. "It's one reason Millenia Mall does so well, it's easy for both visitors and people downtown to get to. This location is similar, and the Harley Davidson dealership (located directly south) seems to have done well there."

Carvana customers shop online in advance to choose their car, and order it to be delivered to their home if they live within 100 miles of an affiliated dealership, or go pick it up from the glass "vending machine" tower if Carvana has its own dealership in town.

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Customers activate the automated tower by inserting a coin into a custom slot, imitating the process of buying a drink from a vending machine. Customers then have a seven-day test ownership period.

"Retail land sale in that corridor is running $1 million-plus per acre for pad ready, and ground lease may run up to $165,000 per acre, easily. But what they're buying is that I-4 billboard exposure," said Cindy Schooler, director of retail listing with Cushman & Wakefield. "To have that many people pass by every day it's a brand awareness parcel for them, so the entry cost may be above market. But they'll find the efficiency on three acres by going vertical."

Carvana declined to respond to specific questions about the Orlando plans submitted, offering a prepared statement from co-founder Ryan Keeton that said, in summary, the company is trying to expand into as many markets as possible in the next few years with its car vending machine.

Orlando's Interplan is civil engineer on the project. The proposal will be heard by Orlando's Municipal Planning Board on June 21.

Other high-profile auto dealerships are snatching up frontage on the western side of I-4 in that Millenia-tourist corridor. Those include a new Lexus dealership now under construction on Major Boulevard, and plans for a Ferrari/Maserati dealership and Porsche dealership on land owned by UP Development, directly north of the Millenia Parc One office building.

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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