Brothers behind local lender buy downtown Orlando train depot, seek known retailer

Bob Moser
GrowthSpotter

The brothers and co-CEOs of FBC Mortgage paid $3.975 million on Monday for downtown Orlando's historic Church Street Train Depot property, with plans to draw in a national or regional retailer and crowdsource to learn what the public wants there. 

Located at 78 and 90 W. Church St. a block east of Amway Arena, the historic Church Street Train Depot has been operated for the past two and a half years as Ferg's Depot sports bar and restaurant.  

Local investors Joe and Rob Nunziata, through investment vehicle Orlando Crazy Train LLC, bought the property after taking their first tour in early June. 

"When we look out our (FBC Mortgage) office balcony we can see that building and always wondered about owning it. Now it's ours and we're excited," Rob Nunziata told GrowthSpotter

"We grew up here, and back in the day Church Street used to be real vibrant with Olive Garden, a dueling piano bar and other national retail tenants," he continued. "Like with the Walgreens deal we did on Church Street last year, we're trying to get it back to a strong retail tenant lineup." 

The Orlando Sentinel first reported on Aug. 6 that Ferg's Depot had closed and the property was under contract for sale. 

The Nunziata brothers are now seeking a national or regional retailer to fill the high-profile train depot space, and are interviewing a short list of favored retail brokers.

As part of that process, by Aug. 22 they expect to launch a website -- MakeOrlandoGreat.com -- where they'll list a dozen or more retail and dining concepts in a poll and seek votes from the public. The expectation is this will help show prospective tenants clear demand.

The property offers 15,000 square feet of leasable indoor and outdoor area, or 9,000 square feet conditioned. It is comprised of three separate buildings that could serve one or more tenants, with an option to connect the first and second buildings.

The seller was Mark Ferguson, who runs the Ferg's Sports Bar in St. Petersburg. He opened the restaurant in January 2016 after spending years renovating and restoring much of the historic 125-year-old property. Shipping containers were added to the site to serve as bathrooms, storage and a bar space that opened out to a plaza on Church Street. 

The Nunziatas travel two three days a week for their work with FBC Mortgage, and believe the retail activity they see in the downtowns of cities like San Diego, Denver and Louisville dwarfs that of Orlando, despite comparable daytime and nighttime populations. 

"Our downtown is so far behind despite its competitive size, we'd really like to see Orlando be at the same level or better as those other cities," Rob Nunziata said. "We think when you bring in national tenants it will build momentum."  

Kevin O'Connor and Matt Cichocki of NAI Realvest represented the seller. Christi Smith of Texas-based Stoneshire Realty represented the Nunziatas, who introduced them to the Ferg's Depot opportunity after she had previously repped them on their July 2014 purchase of the historic First National Bank on the corner of Church Street and Orange Avenue.

The brothers they won't be in a rush to fill the space this year, citing a value price paid for the train depot building, and the two-plus years of patience they demonstrated in waiting to land Walgreens.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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