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Can Orange Blossom Trail lose its bad rep? A master plan targeting redevelopment opportunities seems to think so

The OBTNext master plan covers over 4,700 acres around an eight-mile stretch of Orange Blossom Trail.
The OBTNext master plan covers over 4,700 acres around an eight-mile stretch of Orange Blossom Trail. (obtnext.com)

A comprehensive master plan that covers an 8.3-mile corridor centered around Orange Blossom Trail was presented to a group of stakeholders and real estate industry insiders at a ULI Central Florida event, Tuesday afternoon.

The Orange Blossom Trail Development Board commissioned GAI Consultants/Community Solutions Group to cook up the OBTNext plan with the help of a $500,000 grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, secured by OBTDB executive director Vanessa Pinkney.

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At the event, Pinkney and GAI’s Thomas Kohler introduced some new initiatives and development opportunities available in the 4,766-acre corridor, which stretches from S.R. 50 to where Florida’s Turnpike intersects with S.R. 528 (Beachline Expressway).

“OBT hasn’t had the best reputation,” Pinkney said. “What I try to tell people is that changing OBT is going to have a regional impact, not just in the area, but in the entire state....We can’t just focus on infrastructure, the key to our success is going to be partnering with others and bringing the community into what we are doing.”

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The OBTNext plan hopes to create five different branded districts: West Downtown, Holden Heights, Holden, Americana and Lake Ellenor.

The OBT Development Board wants to create five distinctive branded districts to help reposition Orange Blossom Trail: West Downtown, Holden Heights, Holden, Americana and Lake Ellenor.
The OBT Development Board wants to create five distinctive branded districts to help reposition Orange Blossom Trail: West Downtown, Holden Heights, Holden, Americana and Lake Ellenor. (obtnext.com)

West Downtown is envisioned to be a hub for sports and entertainment uses that can be supported by food and beverage businesses. This envisioned district stretches from S.R. 50 all the way down south to West Gore Street and is anchored by the 65,000 seat Camping World Stadium, which is undergoing a $60 million renovation.

It also contains the recently completed Police Department headquarters and Lorna Doone Park. Key redevelopment opportunities identified in the master plan include the former McNamara care dealership site, at 1100 W Colonial Dr., and the former Parliament House, has already been eyed by a developer.

Earlier this spring, GrowthSpotter reported Joseph Lehman, owner and CEO of Lehman Property & Development, submitted a conceptual site plan depicting a 300-plus-unit multifamily community that features two residential buildings fronting on Orange Blossom Trail and a third overlooking Rock Lake. No official development plans have been filed.

The master plan also identifies the potential of improving the streetscape of Nashville Avenue.

Next is the Holden Heights district, where over 25% of the existing jobs related to construction are located. The master plan states the property between Gore Street and Kaley Avenue can become a place to attract higher education institutions and businesses related to design and construction.

It’s where the 115,280-square-foot Amazon Logistics Center at 1216 S. Orange Blossom Trail opened recently. Last year, a company tied to CBRE paid $32.6 million for the facility, built in 2019.

Potential investment opportunities include developing vacant properties along Woods Avenue, and creating a construction district called “Makers Row” by extending Woods Avenue from Grand Street to 19th Street, around Lake June where the Holden Heights Community Center is located.

The City of Orlando and Orange County collectively own about 6.3 acres of land in the so-called Makers Row area.

The proposed Makers Row area is located in the envisioned Holden Heights district.
The proposed Makers Row area is located in the envisioned Holden Heights district. (obtnext.com)

Other opportunities include renovating or redeveloping the Lake June and Holden Heights community center as a neighborhood destination. The master plan also mentions developing residential parcels around Kaley Square, repurposing the Grand Avenue School building and redeveloping the Mears transportation property at 1600 W Gore St., which is mostly being used as surface parking, into a mixed-use development.

The third envisioned district, Holden, stretches south from the I-4/U.S. 441 interchange all the way to Holden Avenue. The area features a variety of restaurants from different parts of the world and is surrounded by neighborhoods. The master plan envisions this area as a district for authentic international cuisine that would be supported by office and service uses.

The Southgate Shopping Center at 4649 S. Orange Blossom Trail and Orange Blossom Center, directly across the street, are both identified as catalyst sites with the potential to be redeveloped as mixed-use projects.

The master plan also envisions creating public access to Lake Tyler and Lake Holden.

Key development opportunities in the Holden district include redeveloping the Southgate Shopping Center and Orange Blossom Center into mixed-use projects.
Key development opportunities in the Holden district include redeveloping the Southgate Shopping Center and Orange Blossom Center into mixed-use projects. (obtnext.com)

Further south, between Holden Avenue and Oak Ridge Road, is the proposed Americana area. The region is mostly composed of auto-related businesses and has large parcels that can support more auto-related businesses, like used-car sales.

According to the master plan, this area is ripe for creating new development pads for multifamily development. Other targeted enhancement projects include building a linear park around Lake Tyler.

Lastly, the Lake Ellenor portion of the OBTNext master plan has a high concentration of educational institutions around the lake. The district stretches from Oak Ridge Road to the south of Premier Row and lends itself to more education services and jobs, according to the master plan.

The Lake Ellenor area encompasses more than 2,500 acres and features entitlements to build a mix of retail, light industrial, office and institutional developments.

The University of Central Florida has its South Orlando Center location in the area at 7300 Lake Ellenor Dr. The Florida College of Integrative Medicine Orlando is also located on Lake Ellenor.

Key enhancement projects identified in the master plan include redesigning Landcaster Road and Orlando Central Parkway as campus streets and building a linear park and Campus Boulevard roadway around Lake Ellenor.

The OBTNext master plan hopes to improve mobility and transportation services in that portion of the corridor, which features a number of public and private educational institutions around Lake Ellenor.
The OBTNext master plan hopes to improve mobility and transportation services in that portion of the corridor, which features a number of public and private educational institutions around Lake Ellenor. (obtnext.com)

At the event, Kohler said the intent is not to create eight miles of the same character in the entire OBT corridor.

“This is not a monolithic corridor, it has many different characteristics,” he said. “We want to develop destinations that attract development and encourage a diverse corridor. We want to make it safe and livable, improve access to open space and recreation, build strong neighborhoods and create flexible affordable housing opportunities.”

Of the 7,800 parcels within the corridor, roughly 200 are vacant, according to a GIS map.

The parcels facing the OBT corridor between S.R. 50 and S.R, 408 are the only ones currently zoned as mixed-use and fall within the Orlando City limits. The rest of the corridor’s future land use is generally commercial, industrial, neighborhood activity center, and neighborhood center.

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The historic gay-friendly motel and lounge were demolished earlier this year to clear the way for new development.

So far the OBT development board has several partnerships in the works. It’s teaming up with the Orlando Regional Realtors Foundation to combine several contiguous lots and maximize housing along Woods Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd streets.

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Housd (Central Florida Regional Housing Trust) and ORRA Foundation are also working together to develop two single-family home infill lots in the OBT corridor, Evan Shelley, the real estate projects manager for Housd, told GrowthSpottter. “The intent is to do many more,” he said in an email.

The OBT development board also funded a $100,000 grant to work with construction manufacturing startup Blue Diamond, which creates building material and block molds that make construction projects easier, more affordable and quicker to put together.

It is teaming up with the non-profit organization Lift Orlando to lease a 10,000-square-foot warehouse to Blue Diamond. At the event, Avery Donaudy, VP of business development for American Interiors and president of OBTDB, said Blue Diamond is committing to build several residential houses in the corridor equal to the startup costs.

“If you’ve got a development project, there are opportunities that the development board can bring to the table. Possible incentive programs, whether it’s impact fees or infrastructure support, demolition...all those opportunities are open to the development community,” Kohler said.

The OBTNext master plan complies with the land uses and comprehensive plans already in place by the county and city of Orlando, meaning a developer isn’t obliged to follow the recommendations stated in the master plan.

According to Pinkney, there is approximately $500,000 in redevelopment incentives available for commercial or residential projects for this fiscal year.

“With Amazon and some of the newer businesses that have relocated to Orange Blossom Trail, that [Community Redevelopment Area] funding has really grown,” she said. “The money has really turned around. We’ve always had things in the books, but now we have the ability to move forward.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include a comment from a manager at CFRHT’s Housd program.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at arabines@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 491-3357, or tweet me at @amanda_rabines. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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