Racing instructor envisions $50M tourist attraction on W192 for sports car lovers

All his life, Andy Bardar has had a love affair with fast cars. There's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of taking a tight turn at high speed.

"My business, my life, it all revolves around things with wheels," he said. "I’m watching the industry change with electric cars and driver-less cars, and I think people will need places to get their weekend driving in."

He's betting there are enough people like him -- who either own high performance sports cars or want to learn how to drive them -- to bring an auto-sports country club and test track attraction to the Greater Orlando market.

Bardar met Wednesday morning with Osceola County planning staff to discuss the project's potential fit on 217 acres of vacant land at the southwest quadrant of the U.S. 192-S.R. 429 interchange.

The thing that would differentiate Orlando Motorsports Park from the competition is that it would be the first private test track built in a major metropolitan area. "Nobody’s done it in a metropolitan area because of the noise issues," said Jim Hall, VHB planner on the project. "What we like about the property is it’s right next to the (Beltway)."

Bardar told GrowthSpotter the concept is modeled after a growing number of private test tracks, like the Atlanta Motorsports Park in Dawsonville, Georgia. The Orlando Motorsports Park (OMP) would be built in four phases, starting with 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants along the W192 frontage.

"The retail is a priority to get it opened first," he said. "It will all be automotive themed – we’re in discussions with Ferrari to have a retail store, and with Porsche. We’ll also have an automotive-themed restaurant."

But the highlight would be a 3.5-mile test track designed by Tilke Engineers & Architects. Bardar said the track would include anywhere from 17 to 22 turns, allowing top speeds of around 120 mph on the straightaways.

"Hermann Tilke is the top race track designer in the world, and we’ve hired him to design our track," Bardar said. 

Bardar owns The HPDE, which offers racing and driving instruction at Homestead-Miami Speedway and other locations. He said a full-day package at OMP would start at $600, which would include driving instruction and a choice of vehicles to drive on the test track.

"The tourism aspect is very essential," he said. "Retail is important, and repeat customers are important. We want to have a museum on the property and change the exhibits on a regular basis."

He also sees tons of cross promotional opportunities with the Mecum Auction, the which hosts the world's largest collector car auction each year at Kissimmee's Osceola Heritage Park.

The property, which is just across the beltway from the new Margaritaville Resort, has been owned by the same trust since 1970. Coldwell Banker Commercial Broker Paul Hoffman told GrowthSpotter the Bardar's company does not have the land under contract, but is “in discussions” with the trust.

The land is currently listed for $13.75 million, with entitlements.

Bardar has hired VHB to assist him with due diligence and permitting.

Bardar and his wife, Laurie, own a successful motor coach and limousine company, and are self-financing the project.

"I've got the capital to buy the land and to do Phase One," he said. "That's about $25 million."

His plan is to pre-sell club memberships -- at $50,000 per year -- as construction starts on the test track and club. He would build 20 high-end townhouses on the southern portion of the property, along Funie Steed Road, for club members. Each $1 million investor would have exclusive use of the two-bedroom, two-car garage townhouse and a pre-paid club membership for 20 years. 

"Each one of these townhomes will be a luxury mancave," he said. "I've joked with my wife that I'm going to build one for myself with a 16-car garage and one bedroom."

Bardar said he has visited multiple test tracks over the last several months in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Canada -- and he's taking the best ideas and concepts from each site. 

"Atlanta doesn't have retail, but they have the largest club membership in the country," he said. "Vegas does a great job with retail. The thing I like about Spring Mountain is the high-end design at their spa and clubhouse."

But the first step was finding out if the project would have support from county officials. The only concern raised by county staff was noise.

Zoning Manager Kelly Haddock said the use would be allowed, but the project would have to comply with the county's noise ordinance. "You’ll either have to do something to these vehicles to bring the noise levels down or ask for a variance," she said.

The land has active permits with the South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow development along the nearly 2,000 feet fronting the southwest corner of the interchange.

The project has been in the works since late 2015. David Buchheit, executive director of W192 Development Authority, told GrowthSpotter he had met with a group from United Kingdom, Germany and Brazil regarding the project. 

This project comes one the heels of another big coup for the tourism corridor -- a $400 million hotel, convention center and entertainment district. "I am thrilled at the prospect of another high quality entertainment destination choosing West 192 as its target location," Buchheit said. "It is a great time to be on West 192."

Hoffman said his initial meeting last December was with Brazilian investors who are no longer involved in the project.

“It has evolved over time,” Hoffman said. “Some of the names have changed. I'm glad they're moving forward with it. Talking to the county is really the first step, making sure the county likes it. It’s a great location for the use – the zoning is in place.” 

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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