Starflyer developer compromises on timeline to get 450-foot height limit

The parcel highlighted in blue is the proposed site for the Starflyer spinning swing attraction, directly north of the parcel that's home to I-Drive 360 and the Orlando Eye.
The parcel highlighted in blue is the proposed site for the Starflyer spinning swing attraction, directly north of the parcel that's home to I-Drive 360 and the Orlando Eye. (Orange County Property Appraiser)

Developers of the 420-foot Starflyer are closer to having the "amusement" use and 450-foot height limit they'll need to build a spinning swing directly north of I-Drive 360 but have compromised on their time line to please critics.

Site owner Unicorp National Developments and Starflyer developer Ritchie Armstrong made a concession Wednesday at Orange County's Development Review Committee meeting.


In exchange for DRC's recommendation to change the Goodings Plaza PD where Starflyer will be built, and allow Convention Plaza District Overlay Zone rules apply, those updates will only face final approval in December from the Board of County Commissioners. That's opposed to a natural progression onto BCC's agenda, which could have come as soon as September or October. 

It will be the same BCC meeting in December in which the I-Drive Visioning Committee presents its final report and recommendations on future growth of International Drive.

The DRC also included a condition on the Gooding's Plaza PD that Riley Park Way -- an interior road built through the center of the I-Drive 360 property -- be extended by Unicorp through the 8.9-acre parcel being developed to the north for Starflyer. The goal is to eventually connect Riley Park Way farther north into what is now a parking lot behind the Wyndham Resort & Convention Center.

"I think this (Starflyer attraction) is in line with the future vision for I-Drive," said Chuck Whittall, CEO of Unicorp, which will lease the property to Armstrong. "There's a lot of money now coming in to redevelop parts of I-Drive, and that's a direct response to what we started with (the Orlando Eye)."

Armstrong presented DRC with examples of more than 30 tall spinning swing attractions around the world, most of which are overseas and succeed as stand-alone attractions in urban settings. He and Whittall are optimistic the Starflyer project will be in line with I-Drive's master plan come December.

The current year-long visioning initiative for the Convention Center and I-Drive wraps in December. A handful of stakeholders in the tourism corridor have become critical of DRC for approving major land-use changes in recent months to parcel owners before a master plan for the corridor is ready.

Universal Orlando sent local attorney Peter G. Latham, of Latham, Shuker, Eden & Beaudine, to speak on its behalf at DRC against what he called "spot zoning" on height restrictions for new attractions on I-Drive. He and Universal also encouraged Orange County government in June to not allow Wallack Holding's Skyplex project to avoid the 200-foot height restriction, but Wallack's project got its recommendation from DRC.

This time Latham was joined by Chrissy Martin-Foglesong, head of Efficient Transportation for the Community of Central Florida (ETC), which lobbies for a select group of I-Drive business owners on a range of issues, along with Herb Von Kluge, vice president at Brooksville Development Corp., which administers the restrictive covenants of the district around the convention center known as Plaza International.

"I'm amazed we're back at this table to discuss height requests. Our (ETC) board has heartburn over the fact that the (Orange County) mayor has put considerable resources into developing a master plan this year for I-Drive," Martin-Foglesong said. "Unless it's a joke, I think you should wait for that process to finish."

Whittall's Unicorp has a hand in roughly 77 acres between I-Drive and Universal Boulevard directly south of W. Sand Lake Road, including the Wyndham Resort property, the I-Shops retail center west of the Wyndham, King's Plaza parcel (where Starflyer is planned), and the I-Drive 360. He also has an offer in for at least 20 acres on Universal Boulevard directly east of the Orlando Eye for a "dense urban" project.

Unicorp will draw up a master plan in the coming months to show Orange County planning and the County Commission what its long-term vision is for all the properties it's involved in developing in that area, Whittall said.

bmoser@growthspotter.com or (407) 420-5685

Note: This article was updated on July 24 to include the I-Shops retail parcel in the second-to-last paragraph.