Canadian developer Geosam Capital has its first buyer under contract for a retail site neighboring the 150-unit The Residences at Veranda Park apartments in MetroWest, a project that could build momentum for new commercial and multifamily in the mixed-use community.
Ladybird Academy, a chain of private preschool and childcare centers with 15 locations in Greater Orlando, has 1.3 acres under contract from Geosam fronting Hiawassee Road, at the corner with Via Venzano Avenue.
The site lies on the southern end of 13.5 undeveloped acres that Geosam owns next to The Residences. The developer acquired the assets through foreclosure in 2011, along with three neighboring commercial buildings that make up a master plan envisioned in 2005 by original developer Kevin Azzouz.
A construction permit is expected for Ladybird by May or June with closing on the land to occur in step, said Nicholas Fouraker, broker with 4 Acre Commercial Real Estate, Geosam's exclusive listing agent for sale and lease of its Veranda Park properties. Miguel de Arcos of SVN represents Ladybird.
"This has been part of the rebranding effort we've been doing with Veranda Park, where we've put together a great visual story for what they have to offer," Fouraker told GrowthSpotter. "Our business plan has been validated by the market in a short time, we're receiving calls daily for the property."
About two acres of vacant land fronting Hiawassee Road remain for potential retail or office development. Ten acres directly behind have been planned for up to 634 more apartments and structured parking, but Geosam has not moved forward on construction plans for that second phase since 2016, when the city of Orlando approved a site plan.
David Peter, COO with Geosam, told GrowthSpotter in November he has no definitive timeline to pursue permitting and development of that second phase, but said the company was likely to retain the land.
Fouraker said this week his team is "working with a couple buyers now that would like to take those 10 acres and do 600-plus apartments. If we can get our price, Geosam would likely be happy to sell."
The Residences apartments building directly adjacent has 48,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, of which only about 8,000 square feet is now leased.
Fouraker said they've had professional office interest there recently, and are actively seeking a food hall concept or brewery to take over a former 22,500-square-foot private gym's space.
"We have incredible building signage on Hiawassee and ceiling heights of 20 feet, so we could do a great brewery there, and truck courts in the back could accommodate grain delivery or a silo," he said. "I think we have one of the cooler southwest Orlando office opportunities because we're in a mixed-use project, with huge glass windows and high ceilings."
A conversion of The Residences at Veranda Park from apartments back to its original condo format was planned by Geosam to start in January 2017, but has been delayed since to focus on completing façade improvements, Peter said.
Marketing of the condo units could begin in this year's first quarter, but the process "remains fluid," he added. Geosam has all the state approvals necessary to carry out a condo conversion, and has relationships with lenders that could address buyers' financing needs, Peter said.