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

The Crossroads of Lake Buena Vista shopping center is set for demolition as part of an I-4 improvement project, meaning dozens of restaurants will have to relocate and the end of destination dining location.

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.

Florida Department of Transportation officials, Crossroads tenants and the property’s owner met in Orange County district court Monday in the first eminent domain hearing for the 29-acre property.

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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 building are slated to be torn down and replaced with an interchange to help traffic in and out of the tourist corridor, including Walt Disney World Resorts and S.R. 535.

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. Previously tenants were told they had until the end of 2019 so the new deal gives them at least an extra 18 months.

(Florida Department of Transportation video capture)

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.

An artist's rendering of the Crossroads of Lake Buena Vista shopping center before it was constructed in 1988. It is now set for demolition to make way for I-4 improvements.
An artist's rendering of the Crossroads of Lake Buena Vista shopping center before it was constructed in 1988. It is now set for demolition to make way for I-4 improvements. (Orlando Sentinel archives)

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

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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.

Got a news tip? karnold@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5664; Twitter, @kylelarnold or facebook.com/bykylearnold

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