Local church pays $8M for vacant retail center near Florida Mall, w/land to grow

An Orlando-based Christian church that's bursting at the seams in its main location paid $8 million last week for a 26-acre retail shopping center, where it will fill a big-box vacancy with ample land for future expansion. 

Located at 811-1001 W. Sand Lake Road, the shopping center lies directly north of The Florida Mall, and includes 36,688 square feet of in-line space that's less than 50 percent leased, a 43,657-square-foot vacancy that formerly held Sports Authority, and a 6,238-square-foot restaurant outparcel that was formerly a Carraba's Italian Grill, but was recently leased and converted to a Colombian family restaurant. 

The property also has several outparcel pad sites available for new development, and the potential to add another 150,000 square feet of retail on vacant land. Gross leasable area is currently 80,345 square feet.

The sale closed on Sept. 21 and was recorded Thursday in Orange County.

The buyer was Discovery Church, which currently has locations in Winter Garden, S. Orange Avenue and S. Alafaya Trail. Lead pastor Don Cousins told GrowthSpotter on Thursday the South Orange location is operating well above capacity, and prompted the investment.

"We've hit a wall and just don't have sufficient parking and room for all our services, office space, you name it. So we either stop growing or had to do something," he said. "We'll have to do this in phases. The plan is over the next 18 months to design, renovate and then relocate there." 

Baker Barrios has been hired as architect, H.J. High as general contractor, and some civil engineers in the parish will contribute, Cousins said. No commercial real estate brokerage firm has been considered to help lease the vacant retail space. 

Design efforts for renovating the former Sports Authority space should begin in the coming weeks, with six to nine months estimated for plan filings and permits, he added. 

The church sourced an $8.85 million loan from Compass Bank to finance the purchase.

As for the remaining developable land, Cousins said a master plan will likely need to be developed "down the road," something he doesn't expect to pursue in the near term.

"As the church grows we have a lot of ministries in mind, so we may use a majority of the property for the church's needs," he said. 

The seller was Point Plaza Partners LLC, an affiliate of Fields-Realty LLC out of Boca Raton. The company previously paid $6.45 million for the property in September 2015, just months before Sports Authority announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2016, which included closing seven stores in Central Florida. 

That purchase at the time fulfilled the tail-end of a 1031 exchange for Fields Realty. Principal and commercial real estate broker Kim Fields said Thursday the company won't be reinvesting the proceeds, and instead will be making a distribution to its investors. 

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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