Demo begins on garage at site of future Magic Entertainment Complex; Rescue Mission land in limbo

The Orlando Magic began demolition work Monday morning on the brick parking garage along W. Church Street north of Amway Center, a four-month project that gets the ball rolling on future construction of the $200 million, 8.4-acre Orlando Magic Entertainment Complex.

The basketball club does not have a timetable for when vertical construction wil start, and has only scheduled demolition at this point, said Joel Glass, team spokesman.

Balfour Beatty Construction is overseeing the project, and Orlando's Pece of Mind is conducting demolition and on-site crush and recycling of the garage's concrete. Tear-down of the garage is scheduled to take up to four months, with demolition of the neighboring Orlando Police Headquarters on S. Hughey Avenue to potentially follow in First Quarter 2017. 

The Orlando Magic and its investment partners are still in the design process for the entertainment complex, taking its multi-phase plans from conceptual to final design, Glass said. 

Phase 1 of the entertainment complex involves tearing down the existing garage on W. Church Street in order to build a new six-story garage, 165,000-square-foot office tower, retail space and a public plaza. 

The proposed footprint of that Phase 1 construction covers not just the existing parking garage, but also the 0.6-acres occupied by the Orlando Union Rescue Mission's men's homeless shelter on W. Central Boulevard.

The shelter site is surrounded by 7.84 acres of police station and public garage property bought by a Magic affiliate SED Development LLC in November 2014 for $12.57 million, a city block bordered by W. Central Boulevard, S. Hughey Avenue and W. Church Street.

The club has an open contract with the mission to buy its property for $3 million. For that to happen, Orlando Union Rescue Mission must emerge from a quasi-judicial hearing process it is currently involved in.

Philip T. Cowherd, a veteran real estate broker and developer whose family owns 88 residential units and 4 acres of commercial property in Parramore, filed an appeal in January of the Municipal Planning Board's approval of a comprehensive plan amendment, which would allow Orlando Union Rescue Mission to buy city-owned land at Anderson and Terry streets in Parramore, and build a new 32,101-square-foot men's homeless shelter. 

"I'm a second generation property owner in Parramore, and for the last 50 years, in my view, the city has used Parramore to place whatever they couldn't put anywhere else," he told GrowthSpotter on Monday.

"In 1993, we helped get the city to adopt an ordinance to not relocate or expand a homeless shelter in the neighborhood. We've been fighting to maintain that rule since. We think if we're going to have these facilities in Orlando, every (neighborhood) should take one." 

The city has an appeal process that occur between an MPB hearing, when evidence for a project or change request is presented, and the City Council. Hearing officers then conduct a complete evidentiary hearing for the parties involved. 

This case has been assigned a hearing officer, and attorneys are trying to conduct discovery now but little progress has been made. No depositions have been held yet, and both parties have extended the hearing date twice, Miranda Fitzgerald, land use attorney with Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed representing Orlando Union Rescue Mission, told GrowthSpotter.

"Everything is just a bit on hold for now until we can get this appeal resolved," she said. "We don't know if that site (Anderson and Terry streets) will be available for where the men's center was expected to move." 

The Orlando Magic Entertainment Complex project "represents a $200 million-plus investment by the Magic and its partners that will create jobs and provide dining, hotel and entertainment options,and continue the revitalization of downtown Orlando and the Parramore neighborhood," Glass said.

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