FDOT moves forward with taking of Disney-area retail center for I-4 express lanes

The Florida Department of Transportation has begun to seek appraisals for Crossroads of Lake Buena Vista -- the first step in what could be the most expensive real estate taking in Florida history.

Located directly across from a Walt Disney World main entrance, the entire shopping center is targeted for right-of-way (ROW) acquisition as part of the I-4 Beyond the Ultimate widening project. Crossroads has 155,000 square feet of retail space and is home to some of the most profitable restaurants in the Orlando market, as well as the last Gooding's supermarket.

GrowthSpotter first reported last November that FDOT planned to build drainage ponds on the site of the 29-acre shopping center to accommodate a new interchange design at S.R. 535. 

The estimated $3 billion I-4 Beyond the Ultimate project, which is currently in design but not funded for construction, continues the I-4 Ultimate express lanes into Polk, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties.

Last year FDOT estimated the ROW acquisition cost for Segment 1 -- which includes the S.R. 535 interchange and Crossroads shopping center -- would exceed $428 million.

FDOT has allocated $309 million in ROW funding for the 14-mile segment that includes the S.R. 535 interchange over fiscal years 2018-2022. Since the state's fiscal year started July 1, the first $130.8 million is available this year, said FDOT spokesman Steve Olson.

That means the agency's ROW staff can now legally begin negotiating with affected property owners and tenants. "We will probably start making notices the first week of September," Olson told GrowthSpotter.

He said the appraisal is the first step in the taking. "The case is then heard in court to establish the final value, later. This way, work may proceed on the land needed and in question."

TIAA bought Crossroads in 2005 for $54 million from Disney Development Co. Last year, the firm divested of its other major Orlando asset when it sold the Publix-anchored shopping center at the heart of Orlando's Restaurant Row for $92.5 million. 

Raymer F. Maguire III,  whose boutique law firm specializes in eminent domain, told GrowthSpotter that tenants are eligible for relocation assistance as soon as FDOT makes an offer to the property owner.

Business owners can choose to accept a $40,000 lump sum payment, but most of the tenants in Crossroads would be eligible for a larger relocation package based on their lease terms and whether they own their FF&E. 

Certain costs are capped. If the business does move, it can only recover $25,000 toward the cost of building out the new space. But the cost of moving equipment and inventory is case-specific.

"It is non-negotiable," Maguire said. "To DOT’s credit, they have a highly cooperative attitude of helping people max out their business relocation benefits." 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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