Wood Partners, an Atlanta-based developer that has been active in the greater Orlando area, is under contract to buy the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club dog track in Longwood, according to city sources.
Early reports indicate Wood Partners plans a mixed-use development that will include apartments and retail on the 31-plus- acre site at the corner of Ronald Reagan Boulevard and Dog Track Road. Executives with Wood Partners did not return phone calls or e-mails. City officials said they were not privy to the developer’s plans, except that it would be mixed-use.
“There is no information other than Wood Partners has been awarded the contract, and they are currently in the due diligence stage,” Longwood economic development manager Tom Krueger said in an e-mail. “We are anticipating a mixed-use development with several acres of retail. Everything else is premature and I would just be speculating.”
Wood Partners is already building a multifamily development in Longwood called Alta, a 263-unit apartment complex just west of City Hall at 881 W. Warren Ave. And on Monday the company announced it had begun construction on Alta Headwaters, 328 luxury apartments on 15 acres a half-mile east of Shingle Creek.
But the real possibility of a mixed-use development with shopping and eateries is what has city officials excited.
“As long as there is the mixed use there. We don’t just want apartments,” city manager J.D. Cox told GrowthSpotter. “If you go around to other areas and see the shopping opportunities, we would like to develop some of those in Longwood.”
Cox described his city as being a “late-bloomer” when it comes development and redevelopment. But the city worked hard in recent years to streamline development review and working with developers to cut red tape.
“We work with builders from the get-go,” Cox said, “and we try to solve problems before they become problems. I have the impression that (Wood Partners) enjoyed working with us and we enjoyed working with them.”
The dog track went on the market following passage last November of Amendment 13, a statewide ban on commercial dog racing by Jan. 1, 2021.
Because the sale has not closed, the purchase price for the property was not available. An online advertisement by brokers Marcus & Millichap said the property was offered at $7.35 million.
It likely went for a much higher price. Ray Turchi, who along with fellow Marcus & Millichap broker David Vaughan, represented the dog track owners, Penn National Gaming IINC of Wyomissing, Penn., said the property “flew off the shelf.”
“It was one of the hottest properties we probably ever handled in Central Florida,” Turchi told GrowthSpotter.
Andy Slowik of Cushman & Wakefield represented Wood Partners in the sale.
One of the reasons the property was such a hot commodity, Turchi said, is its location in an Opportunity Zone. Created by the 2018 tax bill, Opportunity Zones allow investors to defer paying taxes on investment gains until either the sale date of an Opportunity Funds investment or Dec. 31, 2026.
The Opportunity Funds must be invested in areas that have a poverty rate of at least 20 percent, or a median income not exceeding 80 percent of the surrounding metro area. The idea was to spur development in areas in need of economic assistance.
“The tax reduction act of a couple of years ago included Opportunity Zones to encourage investment in urban areas that need a shot in the arm,” Turchi said. “It’s been very successful.”
In addition to the tax deferment, investors can reap even larger savings by keeping their money in the fund for at least 10 years. After that, they can avoid paying all taxes on the sale or exchange of their investment in an Opportunity Zone fund.
Though city officials are euphoric at the news of the coming redevelopment, Cox said many Longwood residents will miss the old dog track, which opened in 1935 and is one of five left in the state. The other four are in Daytona, Palm Beach, Orange Park and St. Petersburg.
Cox pointed out that the mascot for nearby Lyman High School is the greyhound.
“There is a plus and a minus in this,” Cox said. “The dog track has been part of our community from the get-go. It is very much a part of the community. But people recognize that business owners have chosen to do something different. We’re just thrilled they found a buyer that is going to be doing things that are right along the lines of what the city is doing and how we wish it to be developed.”