A long-held plan by Demetree Global to put a student-focused destination with housing, dining, year-round event space, and artwork-filled parks near the gates of UCF is coming to life with help from the nation’s largest multifamily operator and a world-renowned chef.
South Carolina-based Greystar is currently building two student housing communities totaling 1,500 beds on each end of the 54-acre Collegiate Village project site at the corner of University Boulevard and North Alafaya Trail.
Meanwhile, the development team with Winter Park-based Demetree Global is working with Chef Grant MacPherson on what will eventually occupy the wide pedestrian corridor between these two residential buildings.
MacPherson provides food and beverage consultation for boutique hotels and restaurant properties worldwide through his company Scotch Myst, according to its website.
He previously collaborated with Apple Corp and its now-deceased founder Steve Jobs on a campus dining facility in Cupertino. He helped The New Realm Brewing Co in Atlanta open the largest brewery in Georgia’s history and lent his talents to several prestigious hotels in Las Vegas, including the Wynn and Bellagio.
Luc Picotte, Demetree’s chief operating officer, told GrowthSpotter that MacPherson will not only be opening a restaurant at Collegiate Village, but also has a hand in the other commercial components within the project, such as a planned two-story, 20,000-square-foot “grocerant” concept with a grocery store, food hall and upstairs eatery under one roof.
“It’s mainly going to be a food destination and Chef MacPherson is helping us design it,” Picotte said. “We are meeting next week with (him) to go into more detail on the specifics of the interior, the atmosphere, the flow, and so on. We want to make sure we have the right concept.”
The goal to create a food-centric college atmosphere got a boost earlier this year when the Miami-based popular brunch spot Bacon Bitch moved onto an out parcel, joining five other restaurants already on-site.
Plans for Collegiate Village call for a spacious pedestrian walkway called The Paseo lined by shipping containers for small businesses on one side and a multi-tenant urban-style development on the other with 120,000 square feet of retail and commercial space separated by an open-air amphitheater.
Demetree plans to invest up to $30 million on the development of this segment alone, with the goal of creating a gathering spot for area college students and residents alike.
The work includes renovating and updating an existing Marriott Courtyard hotel, built in 1997, so it matches the exterior of the student housing buildings.
Some of the existing retail space on the site, which currently includes a vape shop, liquor store, a few restaurants and more, will also be redeveloped with new tenants. Other sections of this block will be demolished and replaced with new buildings.
Orlando-based LandDesign Inc. is the civil engineer and landscape architect for the retail portion.
Demetree applied for building permits from Orange County for 74,266 square feet of retail development in late October.
But Picotte doesn’t want this project to be about the new buildings. That’s one reason he roped in MacPherson to help.
“We are spending a lot of resources and energy to make this right,” he said. “This project is designed to be about an experience, not about buildings with brick and mortar. MacPherson will help us with that.”
Part of the experience will be MacPherson’s restaurant. While Picotte said he isn’t ready to disclose major details about what’s coming, he clarified that it won’t offer high-priced menu items.
“It’s not going to be high-end, it’s going to be a cool, affordable concept,” he said. “It’s all about the experience. He knows how it’s going to flow and what kind of product we want.”
Attempts to reach MacPherson were unsuccessful.
Willaim “Bill” Demetree, founder of Demetree Global, began investing in Central Florida properties back in the 1940′s. He played a monumental part in Orlando’s history by selling 12,500 acres to Walt Disney, who would go on to build Disney’s Magic Kingdom and part of Epcot on the property.
The roughly 50-acre land assemblage along University Boulevard has been in the family for years and plans for Collegiate Village date back to at least 2017, when GrowthSpotter first reported about it.
The arrival of the pandemic in 2020 caused Demetree to temporarily pump the brakes and rethink its concept. For example, the team had originally intended to see clothing stores move into the retail space.
Now, the focus is on restaurants and outdoor spaces with a wider pedestrian pathway. Several parks with art from local artists will accompany one’s journey throughout the village.
The project took a major step forward in 2020 when Demetree secured a contract with Greystar to build the student housing communities.
As the largest operator of apartments in the United States, Greystar manages over 782,900 units/beds globally and has a robust institutional investment management platform comprised of more than $59 billion of assets under management, including approximately $25 billion of development assets.
“This is really a good example of bringing in the best of the best,” Picotte said. “Landing Greystar was a big trigger for this project. Once you have 1,500 student beds here, that’s a lot of people to feed. It’s like a very, very synergistic deal. Those 1,500 beds will definitely feed the retail component and vice versa.”
For one of the student housing projects, Greystar is building four, 5-story buildings with 366 student housing units (1,100 beds) on approximately 13 acres of land. The other, on the opposite end of the property, calls for another 176 units (511 beds) on 2.79 acres.
Both student housing projects were designed by Forum Architecture and Interior Design.
While the student housing element is expected to open next year, Picotte expects the project to be complete by 2024. Once it opens, it will continue to evolve, he added.
“Across the U.S., these college-driven projects are really, really hot,” Picotte said. “This is where the growth is, it’s a very strong location and draw. We are very excited about this.”