UPDATED: JULY 12, 2016 9:19 PM — Miami-based real estate investment group Midtown Opportunities, backed by developer Alex Vadia, paid $35.1 million on Tuesday for the two blocks of land occupied by the Orlando Sentinel Media Group on N. Orange Avenue, the developer confirmed for GrowthSpotter Tuesday night.
Orlando Sentinel management informed staff on Tuesday afternoon about the sale, but a purchase price was not shared. The sale closed Tuesday, but has yet to be recorded in Orange County.
This marks Midtown Opportunities' second land buy on N. Orange Avenue in the past seven months, after it paid $10 million on Dec. 30 for the 3.57-acre undeveloped tract known as "Central Station Phase II," next to downtown apartment complex Crescent Central Station, directly across from the Orange County Courthouse, GrowthSpotter reported on Dec. 31.
That property is roughly one block south of the newly acquired Sentinel property.
At $35.1 million, Vadia arguably got a volume bargain on the 18.69 acres.
Property sales downtown were running near $2 million per acre at the start of 2016, putting Tribune's total property value near $40 million, Trevor Hall, director and land specialist at Colliers International in Orlando, told GrowthSpotter in late January.
Vadia's various Midtown Opportunities affiliates have made millions in recent years redeveloping, entitling and selling property in Midtown Miami.
Vadia is the lead developer behind Miami's Midtown neighborhood, after purchasing 22 acres there in December 2010 and gradually selling off portions that have contributed to development of the area.
Midtown Development's current projects there include joint ventures with Magellan Development like the Midtown 5 luxury apartment tower, which was completed in April of this year, and the recently announced Midtown 6 mixed-use building.
Midtown Opportunities will own the full 18.69 acres that are home to the Sentinel newspaper's main building, production facility, and three buildings on the southern block of property that was studied for development last year by Fort Lauderdale-based Stiles Development, GrowthSpotter first reported in August 2015.
GrowthSpotter first reported in late January of this year that Tribune Media was dropping efforts to redevelop the land with Stiles, and had made the 18.69 acres available for sale.
Midtown Opportunities told Sentinel officials they have no immediate plans to redevelop the property, and plan to honor current lease agreements that Orlando Sentinel Media Group has had with Chicago-based Tribune Real Estate Holdings, LLC, the property's seller and a subsidiary of Tribune Media.
A spokesman for Tribune Media declined to comment on the sale Tuesday evening.
Developer Craig Ustler, whose Ustler Development has led redevelopment of the North Quarter neighborhood just north of the Tribune property, told GrowthSpotter in January that the size of the property (18.69 acres) would likely require a developer to have a clear, multi-phased development program in place, with new apartments favored first because of their proven returns over office and retail,
"To buy in bulk, any developer will be programming a long development timeline there," Ustler said in a previous interview. "But an investor buyer could see this as an opportunity to build off the master plan work already done by Tribune (in 2014), and could create added value by moving the development plan forward, then subdivide the property and sell off in pieces."
The Orlando Sentinel is currently in the second year of a nine-year lease and has two five-year extensions on its main building. The production facility is also in its second year of a nine-year lease and has two 10-year term extensions, company officials confirmed.
Development plans would require those lease contracts to be bought out. A future move is possible for the newspaper, but the company is not currently looking to relocate, officials said.
GrowthSpotter reported in early February that any buyer of the 18.69-acre property in downtown Orlando shouldn't face liability for ongoing cleanup of contaminated soil underneath the site, a responsibility that will remain with the property's tenant, the Orlando Sentinel Communications Co.