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Highlighted in red is the Rockefeller property in question, at the intersection of International Parkway and Wilson Road.
Highlighted in red is the Rockefeller property in question, at the intersection of International Parkway and Wilson Road. (Edward Bulfango/Seminole County Property Appraiser)

The Rockefeller property, roughly 28 acres on International Parkway near the Lake Mary-Sanford border, may soon be built on by its owner or a buyer, bringing an end to a nearly 10-year construction impasse.

"We would develop the site if a big build-to-suit tenant came in," Tyler Jones, development manager for land owner The Rockefeller Group, told GrowthSpotter on Thursday. "We still feel strongly about the property and its value."

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What has The Rockefeller Group perking up again, after failing to go through with building plans just as the recession hit, is work on the Wekiva Parkway. The roadwork will span from Sanford to near Mt. Dora and tie into S.R. 46, providing greater access to the property, Jones said.

But the land is also being actively marketed for sale at $10 million, said broker Nick Jones of Colliers International, which is representing New York City-based The Rockefeller Group.

A sale would follow The Rockefeller Group's purchase price of $16.75 million in September 2007 for the 28.31-acre property. The land has been on the market for roughly a year now, and has been under contract a few times, Jones said.

The Rockefeller Group is a storied developer and builder, owning properties across the country, including two in New York's Rockefeller Center. The firm was started by the Rockefeller family and is now majority-owned by Mitsubishi Estate Co., which bought the Lake Mary property through LLC affiliate Rock-Miramar.

The purchase was made from trusts in the name of Jeno Paulucci, a colorful and outspoken businessman who developed Heathrow, and cultivated celery in the Orlando area for the canned Chun King Chinese food that was sold in supermarkets throughout the country in the 1970s and 1980s.

Paulucci, who had offices in Sanford, was also behind Jeno's Pizza and Jeno's Pizza Rolls, also sold in grocery stores, as part of the more than 75 companies he started.

As planned by The Rockefeller Group in 2007 and 2008, the property was to contain a 315,000-square-foot, four-story office building and a 170-room hotel. There was also space left for restaurant and retail use. The project was approved unanimously by Seminole County commissioners in February 2009.

"I remember it being an exciting project at the time because it is the type of mixed-use project that we want to see in this area," said Tina Williamson, Seminole County's director of development services.

Proposed purchase deals for the Rockefeller property over the past year have fallen through for different reasons. For one, The Rockefeller Group wants someone to take the full 28 acres and close quickly, Jones said.

But now, things are looking better. "A number of parties are showing a high amount of interest," he continued. "We're seeing quality groups putting together site plans."

Most prospective buyers are talking multi-family projects, but there has been hotel, office and assisted living interest as well, he said.

The Rockefeller Group last month asked and received permission from Seminole County to essentially erase the project's development plan. Specifically, the owner requested that the property's plat be declared null.

Vacating a plat clears the way for a buyer to come up with its own vision for the property, but it would require that company to start from scratch with Seminole County in terms of the development process.

That The Rockefeller Group has taken so long to build on what is considered an attractive piece of property is surprising, said Randy Morris, principal of RM Strategies Inc., which advises developers. "It's a great piece of property, it's a great location; the beltway is coming in, which makes it more accessible and appealing."

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The property is in a special zoning district that targets industry, making it appealing for office, commercial, retail and multi-family, Morris said.

The land is bounded by International Parkway on the west and I-4 on the east. South of the property is Wilson Road and Grant Line Road is to its north. Residential subdivisions The Lofts at Savannah Park and Savannah at Heathrow are nearby.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at ktalley@growthspotter.com or (407) 420-5176. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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