Osceola changes course on NeoCity office building, issues new RFPs

Osceola County Manager Don Fisher told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday the county has broken off negotiations with Tennessee-based Century HealthRealty (CHR), which had been chosen to develop the first office building at NeoCity.

"They did nothing wrong," Fisher said. "We worked in good faith for several months. It just became clear to us that this would be a better project for us if the county were the developer of the building."

The county issued two new Requests for Proposals (RFP) Tuesday night for an architect/engineer and construction manager at risk (CMAR). Fisher said he hopes to award contracts within 60 days.  

County Commissioners had selected CHR six months ago over three other development teams for the 100,000-square-foot Class B+ building that will serve as headquarters for Bridg and imec at the high-tech office park.

Originally, the county would have deeded this property next to the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center to the developer, who would have owned and managed the office building.

The CHR team included construction partner Skanska USA (which built the FAMRC), and SchenkelShultz architects. At the time, Fisher said he considered speed and affordability in each of the proposals. The CHR/Skanska team offered the fastest completion date and best price.

CHR had issued two financing options: either a $18.50/square foot NNN lease rate if the county -- Bridg and imec -- committed to lease 50 percent of the building. If the county agreed to lease the entire building, CHR offered a discount at $14/square foot at a lower rent escalator. 

"That was the option we were pursuing, but it got to the point where we were dealing directly with their lender," Fisher said. "We could go get a bank loan at rates they couldn't match. So we realized we'd save a lot of money if we did it ourselves."

The new strategy means the first office building at NeoCity won't be added to tax rolls, but Fisher said that wasn't the priority for this project. With the opening last month of the FAMRC, it was more important for the county to get the first building completed and move imec's Nanotechnology Design Center to the research park as soon as possible.

"All the subsequent buildings at NeoCity will be added to the tax roll," he said. 

Both RFP packages are due on May 30, and Fisher said there's no reason the architects who submitted in December shouldn't apply again. "We want to encourage them to respond to the solicitation," he said. "Everybody can submit what they did before, but we don't want to limit them to their prior submittals."

Perkins+Will, which is completing the NeoCity master plan, and Baker Barrios were among the firms that teamed up with developers for the first solicitation.

Fisher said he expects an even higher response rate now that the architect-engineer can file independently. And unlike the earlier solicitation, this RFP does not require a conceptual rendering -- just examples of similar work.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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