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The last large piece of vacant land near the Mall of Millenia is for sale.
The last large piece of vacant land near the Mall of Millenia is for sale. (Teresa Burney)

Tuesday offered a bit of a nostalgic moment for James G. Willard, a partner at Shutts & Bowen, LLP who has represented the master developer from the beginning of the 374-acre Millenia tract that today includes the Mall, as well as a plethora of upscale shopping venues and homes.

The last piece of vacant land of any substantial size came before Orlando's Municipal Planning Board for some clarifications on what can be built on the 23-acre vacant tract between Vineland Road and Interstate 4 next to the Audi dealership.

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Adventist Health System/Sunbelt Inc. owns the land.

"The hospital is in the process of marketing that property and wanted to clarify some things so there are no issues with any potential buyers," Willard said, adding it bought the 23 acres six or seven years ago with the thought of putting some health care on the land, then changed its mind.

The owner wanted it clear to buyers that the land could also be used for hotels, residential development or retail, and not just office use as it was originally envisioned. Also it wanted to clarify that the existing development agreement would not expire in 2015.

It  is important that potential buyers know they have options beyond office space for the land.

"Office space (demand) is way down," said Willard.

The board agreed to extend the development agreement formally to Dec. 30, 2020. And it offered a conversion table to the landowner showing how much apartment, townhome, retail, office, and hotel space could be built without creating more vehicle trips, which could trigger higher development costs.

The change is the 12th amendment since the original development was approved in 1992.

The recession increased the time it took to take the parcel to full build-out, but things are going strong now and Willard has pride in the project.

The mall itself has kept its luster despite the economic downturn and still looks as good as the day it opened in 2002, Willard said.

"Believe it or not  it's pretty close to what we hoped for," he said. "It has taken a while, a couple of economic cycles. There is not a mixed use development in the country that didn't take longer than they thought."

tburney@growthspotter.com or 407-420 6261

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