Maitland-based Equinox Development Properties has assembled nearly 50 acres next to Disney's Animal Kingdom and across from Margaritaville Resort for a mixed-use town center combining experiential retail, dining, residential and hotel uses.
Dubbed "WaterStar Orlando," the town center in southwest Orange County abuts a strip of Equinox-developed restaurants in Black Lake Village that include Joe's Crab Shack, Chuy's Tex-Mex and a new Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar.
Equinox CEO Ryan Stahl told GrowthSpotter the firm's past success in the tourism corridor and the rapid economic growth around the S.R. 429 interchange led principals to quietly assemble as much undeveloped land as possible in the area.
"The assemblage of these parcels presents itself as one of the last large pieces of property along this flourishing tourist corridor," he said. "We have had success in this corridor throughout the years and have enjoyed watching it continue to evolve."
The conceptual plan calls for 262,600 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space with 1,462 parking spaces, two apartment towers with a combined 300 units, and a 150-key hotel.
The main entrance across from Margaritaville's Sunset Walk would lead visitors to a lakefront district surrounded by a half-dozen full-service restaurants and the hotel. The developer is already is discussions with "unique restaurant concepts" to introduce new brands to the market.
"And we'll continue the amenity driven experience by creating congregating areas in and around the shopping center where people will want to hang out whether they are locals or tourists," Stahl said.
In addition to the big-box and junior-anchor retail, the shopping center would set aside 45,000 square feet for an entertainment space. Encore Capital Management has already signed Studio Movie Grill and GameTime to leases at Sunset Walk.
"The entertainment venue is one that we are really focused on making sure is the best fit," Stahl said. "We have been traveling the country recently looking at best-in-class experiential retailers and, with an Orlando tourist-driven location such as this one, it looks as though we'll have a few options to choose from."
Stacy Miller with ACRE Commercial is the leasing broker for WaterStar. Stahl said Equinox is currently negotiating with a local multifamily developer for the apartment site and will reach out soon to hotel developers.
Miami-based Beame Architectural Partnership, led by principal Traci Golownia, developed the master plan. Stahl said the firm would apply for rezoning soon in Orange County and expects to break ground by mid-2019. The design team also hopes to coordinate with Osceola County's W192 Development Authority on a landscaping and streetscape plan that complements what's happening across the street at Margaritaville.
"We are located in Orange County so we are technically outside of the W192 CRA," he said. "However, from a visual perspective, we feel that we are part of the CRA and look to ensure that WaterStar Orlando will be cohesive with the Key West theme proposed for that district."
W192 Executive Director David Buchheit noted that the Four Corners Area Council is strongly engaged in the effort to create a more unified look on the western segments of the corridor in Orange, Polk and Lake counties. The council is also studying that location for a possible pedestrian bridge that could connect WaterStar Orlando to Margaritaville.
"Ultimately, their product reflects our product," he said.
The W192- S.R. 429 interchange is quickly evolving into a major shopping and entertainment destination. Rolling Oaks Commons, a SuperTarget-anchored power center, will combine with WaterStar, Sunset Walk and the future LifeSports USA development to total nearly 1 million square feet of retail space.
"It has become an area where retailers are realizing they need to be located based upon the strong sales figures," Stahl said.