Simon Property Group is in the early stages of surveying and studying its 77 acres at Orlando International Premium Outlets on the northern end of International Drive, with a goal of expanding its retail footprint there and building a parking garage, local real estate sources have told GrowthSpotter.
Mark Cechman, chief planner for Orlando's Planning Division, met in mid-August with attorney Hal Kantor of local law firm Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A., and civil engineer Jay Jackson of Kimley Horn, both representing Simon, according to e-mail records from city staff.
Kantor called the meeting, citing Simon's interest in ways to maximize usability of the outlet mall property. Cechman confirmed Thursday that additional parking on the site was discussed at that meeting, with preliminary talks of a parking garage.
Kantor and Jackson did not respond to calls requesting comment on Thursday, nor did a Simon spokesman. No further meetings have been held with city staff since August, and no development-related plans have been filed with the city.
Multiple real estate professionals with knowledge of the property told GrowthSpotter over the past week that Simon is actively reviewing its layout of the outlet mall to build more retail space.
That would be done on today's surface parking, which would necessitate a new parking garage, they said. The property has 2,983 surface parking spaces across its eight parcels, according to Orange County Property Appraiser records.
Located at 4951 I-Drive, the outlet mall was originally acquired by Lightstone Group's Prime Retail in May 2005 for $114 million, according to county records, and underwent a $300 million redevelopment process. The mall closed for a renovation period and reopened in August 2007.
The property was later sold by Lightstone in a $2.3 billion-portfolio deal (21 outlet properties) in August 2010 to Simon Property Group, its current owner, the Orlando Sentinel reported at the time.
International Premium Outlets is Florida's largest outlet shopping center, and one of the 10 highest sales-generating malls in the United States, along with the Mall at Millenia, according to rankings in recent years by Fortune magazine.
John Crossman, president of Crossman & Companyand a broker with 24 years of commercial-retail experience, said Thursday he knows of multiple retailers that have shown interest in expanding in or near the Orlando International Premium Outlets, but couldn't find the space.
"The tourism impact can't be understated," he said. "When a retailer makes a sale they want to average below 10 percent on return of sale. Retailers in tourist areas like this have return of sale figures that are extremely low. We know tourism is at record numbers and local retail is performing at a record level, so expansion makes sense."
James Mitchell, senior vice president for retail services at CBRE, said Friday that Simon Property Group has historically been very tight-lipped about announcing new outlet centers or expansion plans for existing ones.
"That parking lot at (International Premium Outlets) is always packed," he said. "Parking garages for retail in Orlando have not traditionally been successful, ... but I think this would be the anomaly, based on (Simon's) success and the lack of surface parking there."