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Cali restaurant chain Lazy Dog, Portillos and more planned for WaterStar Orlando shopping plaza

The WaterStar Orlando Planned Development has entitlements for up to 167,322 square feet retail space.
The WaterStar Orlando Planned Development has entitlements for up to 167,322 square feet retail space. (Orange County)

The first set of retailers on the roster for Equinox Development’s large mixed-use project in the Four Corners area of Orange County include a California-based restaurant chain that’s in the middle of making its market entry into Florida.

Headquartered in Costa Mesa, restaurant chain Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar is one of a trio of tenants listed in recently submitted plans for the 35-acre WaterStar development along Black Lake Road near Margaritaville Resort Orlando.

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The dog-friendly restaurant offers a casual dining menu with cocktails for people and another menu for canines, which are allowed in the eatery’s patio area. Homemade to-go meals sold in frozen TV dinner trays are also a popular menu item. Currently, the chain has 39 locations across seven states and is expanding into Florida, with its first location slated to open later this year in Boca Raton.

Architectural elevations for the Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar restaurant features a stone veneer and a take out/pick up window.
Architectural elevations for the Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar restaurant features a stone veneer and a take out/pick up window. (Orange County)

Sara Swiger, Lazy Dog’s director of public relations, said they cannot comment at this time.

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Other retailers listed on plans for WaterStar Orlando include Oak Brook, Illinois-based hot dog chain Portillo’s Hot Dogs, which opened its first Orlando restaurant at the $1 billion O-Town West mixed-use development earlier this summer.

The restaurant company, which is held by private equity firm Berkshire Partners, filed to become a publicly-traded company last week, confirming its intent to launch more than 600 restaurants in the U.S. over the next 25 years, according to new reports.

Portillo’s initial public offering should happen soon and is expected to be valued between $2.5 billion and $3 billion. As of late June, Portillo’s had 67 restaurants across nine states.

The third tenant listed in the plans for WaterStar is the Tampa-based Australian-themed American casual dining restaurant chain, Outback Steakhouse. Its parent company, Bloomin’ Brands Inc. was founded in 1988.

The owner of Formosa Gardens on W192 wants to convert the tired shopping center into a mixed-use community with a food hall, craft brewery and hundreds of condos and apartments.

WaterStar Orlando is located on the north side of U.S. 192, near the Western entry to Disney. The WaterStar Planned Development can feature up to 695 multifamily units, 250 hotel rooms and 167,322 square feet of commercial/retail space.

Original plans called for far more retail space, but in the midst of the pandemic the company gave up on nearly 100,000 square feet of retail to build a second apartment complex.

Orange County’s Board of County Commissioners recently approved plans to change the commercial entitlements from 250,000 square feet to 167,322 square feet. The conversion allows for an increase of multifamily entitlements from 320 units to 695 units.

Representatives at Equinox did not respond to requests for comment on the article. Eleven 18 Architecture is the architect for the inline retail buildings at WaterStar Orlando.

Across from development, hotelier and developer George Chen is planning to redevelop the Formosa Gardens shopping plaza on W192 into a $60 million new mixed-use community. Plans include a food hall and event space with a craft brewery with six floors of condominiums above and an attached parking garage.

Current tenants at Formosa Gardens include Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, Outback Steakhouse, T.G.I. Friday’s, Carrabba’s and Cracker Barrel, among others.

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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