FDOT allows tenants at Disney-built Crossroads center to stay until at least August 2021

Stores and restaurants at the Disney-built Crossroads of Lake Buena Vista will have more than two and a half years to operate before the property is taken for an I-4 improvement project.

Tenants initially were told they would have to vacate by the end of the year, but they won a reprieve and extra 18 months rent-free after a court hearing Monday with Florida Department of Transportation officials and the property’s owner.

Deals have now been made with 23 of the 24 tenants in a transaction that will cost FDOT at least $146.9 million, court documents show.

A court ruling Monday allows FDOT to take possession of the land as soon as the $146.9 million is paid. FDOT still needs to make deals with property owner U.S. Cities Fund and Gooding’s Supermarket, the last location in what was once a chain.

It’s a major step for the state in acquiring property for the I-4 improvement project that will follow the Ultimate project now in the works in Central Florida. The entire 29-acre shopping center will be razed and replaced with stormwater ponds to serve a new interchange designed to help traffic in and out of the tourist corridor, including Walt Disney World Resorts and S.R. 535.

FDOT also paid $70 million to acquire a 39-acre property at Palm Parkway and Daryl Carter Parkway for the I-4 Beyond project, Growthspotter reported.

Crossroads has drawn so much attention because it is a lucrative shopping center site with views from I-4 and the first independent shopping center, restaurants and grocery store at travelers exit Disney property.

“Most of the tenants would prefer to stay on the site as long as possible,” said Prineet Sharma, a lawyer for the Dakshin Indian restaurant.

Tenants at the property, including Dakshin, Red Lobster, Gooding’s Supermarket and Buffalo Wild Wings, will be allowed to remain rent-free at the Crossroads center until at least the end of August 2021. 

The deal could allow tenants to stay longer if the I-4 Beyond project isn’t funded or ready to start construction at that point. However, FDOT will be allowed to order tenants to leave at any point after August 2021.

Crossroads was built by Disney in 1988 for the cost of $30 million and has boasted unique Central Florida offerings including a Sony store, Chico’s and a McKids stores, a children’s apparel spin-off off McDonald’s.

Jungle Jim’s and Larry’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream were there as well.

It is now owned by a national property and leasing company U.S. Cities Fund.

Kent Hipp, a lawyer for U.S. Cities Fund, said it’s a favorable resolution for all parties to allow tenants to stay and extra 2 1/2 years.

“It’s one of the most valuable shopping centers in the area,” he said. “It was very important to allow the tenants to stay for this period of time.”

FDOT is required to pay relocation and other costs to tenants at the shopping center for making them move. Final deals range between $4,990 for Apple Scooter and $6.5 million to Talk of the Town Restaurant Group, owner of Johnnie’s Hide-a-Way.

The landowner will get at least $106.9 million, but that number could increase based on negotiations.

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