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Outlined in green is vacant land at the corner of E. Colonial Drive and Fern Creek Avenue in downtown Orlando under contract for lease by a national fuel station chain. To the east in red is another lot owned by the same family, now under construction for a new Bento Cafe restaurant.
Outlined in green is vacant land at the corner of E. Colonial Drive and Fern Creek Avenue in downtown Orlando under contract for lease by a national fuel station chain. To the east in red is another lot owned by the same family, now under construction for a new Bento Cafe restaurant. (Orange County Property Appraiser / staff edit)

A downtown Orlando city block long-anticipated for redevelopment as a Japanese steakhouse is now under contract to a national fuel station chain, as the family owner shifts its restaurant growth plans elsewhere.

Located at 1601 and 1615 E. Colonial Dr. on the northeast corner of Fern Creek Avenue, the 1.625 acres across two parcels are owned by an investment affiliate of Kobe Japanese Steakhouse president Chau Nguyen.

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Nguyen paid a combined $1.542 million between 2010 and 2015 for the properties. In 2016, he demolished the former Barney's Steak & Seafood restaurant and Chevron station buildings on site and announced plans that year to build a new Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, which would have been the chain's sixth in Greater Orlando.

Learn where the convenience store and fuel station chain has property under contract for purchase or lease, and how the property owners value the fit.

But in the past year the family restaurant business has refocused its growth priorities elsewhere. It's now building a new location in St. Petersburg, said Hien Nguyen, development director for Kobe Japanese.

Through his affiliate business Kobe Realty, Nguyen has been marketing the property passively over the past year. Atlanta-based RaceTrac Petroleum, Inc. now has the property under contract for lease, and is in its due diligence period.

A representative of RaceTrac met with city of Orlando staff in January to discuss potential development of the site. Nguyen declined to comment on RaceTrac as the prospective buyer.

No plans or formal application has been filed yet with the city. RaceTrac is expected to reach its due diligence deadline by June.

RaceTrac is pursuing aggressive growth in the southeast United States, targeting 1.5- to 2-acre tracts on highly trafficked roads to accommodate new locations with 6,000-square-foot stores and 18 to 24 fuel pumps. The block of E. Colonial Drive features average daily traffic counts of 49,000, per the Florida Department of Transportation.

Your update on the redevelopment and urban infill plans for the corner lot long home to Colonial Bowling Lanes.

There are currently no RaceTrac fuel stations in the downtown Orlando market, and the nearest one to this site is 5.1 miles to the east on Colonial Drive.

Nguyen began a soil remediation process in early February on the former Chervon station side of the property, contracting with The Colinas Group. The owner's application was accepted by a state-funded brownfield program, and they're now working with Orlando Utilities Commission and the city to get a power line to the site to run equipment, Hien Nguyen said.

The property is zoned MU-2T, offering broad redevelopment potential for retail, multifamily or mixed-use. Nguyen owns another contiguous 0.48 acres on the block now occupied by small offices, providing a total 2.1 acres.

A half block to the east, Nguyen also owns a vacant lot at 1904 E. Colonial east of the Dollar Tree, where site work began in January for the fourth area location of Bento Cafe.

The Nguyens will be delivering a vanilla shell building to Bento Cafe for lease. Construction plans and the building's size are not finalized yet, Hien Nguyen said.

He anticipates completion of the building this year. GDP DesignBuild is the architect working with both landlord and tenant, and a general contractor for vertical construction has not yet been selected, Nguyen said.

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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