September 2, 2014

Around the State- Central- July 2000

Ken Ibold | 7/1/2000
On the Approach
Growth is taking off in southeast Orlando -- with upscale homes planned close to an airport runway.

By Ken Ibold

The expansion of Lake Nona on the edge of the airport is well on its way to transforming southeast Orlando from a rural landscape dotted with small, simple houses to an upscale development bigger than the city of Winter Park.

Plans under way call for the community -- home to such sports stars as Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Ernie Els and Nick Faldo -- to include more than 1,000 homes and 250 townhouses from $130,000 to $600,000. Construction on the second phase, NorthLake Park at Lake Nona, is already under way. Eventually, 8,150-acre Lake Nona will have as many as 9,000 homes, 950,000 square feet of retail space, 1.5 million square feet of industrial space and about 300 secluded mansions.

Orlando, expecting that up to half of the city's future population growth would be in the southeast, annexed Lake Nona in 1994. And thanks to the ever-expanding airport, the city has been steadily improving infrastructure in the area.

"For many years, we were known as a great rural location," says Randy Lyon, president and CEO of Lake Nona Property Holdings, the developer. "What's happened over the past four years is that the attitude has been, 'Let's put the infrastructure in place and shape the growth that way.' "

The community's proximity to Orlando International Airport could prove to be ticklish, however. With some homes to be built just 2,500 feet from a planned runway, how will upscale buyers respond? Lyon downplays the significance of jet noise, saying many buyers will find the proximity of the airport an asset. In addition, Lyon points out that the residential areas are off to the side of the flight path and outside the heaviest noise corridors.

But the airport authority requires an air-use easement over some of the land, meaning there will be overflights. Homeowners in parts of the new development will be required to waive the right to sue. Still in other areas, developers are required only to notify homeowners that the airport is there.

The new phase, where homes will average about $225,000, will be wired for high-speed digital lines, plumbed for irrigation with reclaimed water and served by roads being put into place for an expanded airport. City planners believe that investment in infrastructure may free the community from many of the growing pains evident elsewhere in Orlando and lead to a growth boom in southeast Orlando.

The project also includes three world-class golf courses and a luxury resort hotel modeled after The Breakers in Palm Beach. Already up and running is a YMCA joined with an elementary school.

In a May presentation to real estate agents at the YMCA/school, Lyon fielded numerous questions about the community's school and amenities. Not one asked about airport noise.

In the News

Daytona Beach -- Bed-tax collections along the World's Most Famous Beach increased 10% in the first quarter over the same period last year, indicating that the conversion from party hotels to timeshare resorts is working and that the recent ban on beach driving hasn't deterred visitors.

Lake Buena Vista -- Walt Disney World announced plans to build its fourth Disney Vacation Club timeshare resort, set to open in 2002. The 205-unit development joins two that are completed -- Old Key West and Boardwalk Villas -- and a third called Villas at Wilderness Lodge that is scheduled to open in January. Disney's Beach Club Villas will be located next to Disney's Beach Club Resort.

Lake Mary -- Phoenix International said it would lay off 55 workers to boost the company's bottom line. The banking-software developer reported its fifth consecutive quarterly loss, $3 million in the first quarter alone. The move is expected to save $3.5 million a year.

Maitland -- GoCo-op Inc. said it has landed another $21 million in venture capital financing, allowing it to add about 100 positions by the end of the year. Investors had already pumped about $11 million into the company, which provides web-based purchasing services for hotels.

Orange County -- Orange County commissioners stomped on plans for Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede & Dinner Show by denying a land-use change the project required. The 14-acre site on Turkey Lake Road was zoned for a hotel, but nearby residents thought a dinner show would bring massive tourist development.

Orlando -- Bank of America Corp. has entered the used-car market, setting up Price Auto Outlet, a used-car superstore near Orlando International Airport, to sell vehicles coming off of leases.

A bevy of financial ills plaguing Sunterra Corp. led the timeshare developer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, lay off 930 people and halt construction on a new headquarters building. Sunterra defaulted on a number of loans, and its stock dropped below 50 cents a share.

Milcom ["Central Florida's Tech Powerhouse," March 2000, www.FloridaTrend.com] has launched two new businesses. ViaTech is a Melbourne-based company that will design and manufacture a new generation of antennas for wireless phones. Interpretive Information Systems LLC has developed a software package that will allow new mainframe computers to run applications designed for old mainframes. It will also allow IBM mainframes to run the Linux operating system.

Showquest Studios President Hugh Darley resigned after his attempts to buy the company from its Dutch parent failed. Darley said he joined Showquest two years ago with the understanding that an equity position was likely. The deal fell apart, however, and the parties aren't talking about why.

The former Princeton Hospital has been sold to Lakeside Alternatives in a storybook battle for the shuttered hospital. Lakeside had offered to buy the property, but Morningstar Healthcare of Little Rock, Ark., swooped into bankruptcy court at the last minute and prompted an auction. The bidding saw Morningstar win with a $4.2-million bid, but the company could not get financing in place. Lakeside then paid $3.9 million. Princeton had debts of $47 million.

PuertaBella.com, an online furniture gallery, shut its virtual doors after eight months in business.

Miami virtual bank startup BancoInternet.com dropped its planned acquisition of Orlando's Metro Savings Bank, one of only two African-American owned financial institutions in the state. BI decided it doesn't need Metro's charter to open a virtual bank. One-branch Metro wanted a buyer so it could offer customers more services. With BI gone, it will look to internal growth and perhaps a private stock sale to raise money for additional services, says bank President Vernon Braddock.

Ormond Beach -- Memorial Health Systems said it would merge with Adventist Hospitals of Winter Park. The merger leaves Halifax-Fish Community Health as the only independent hospital company in Volusia County.

Sanford -- Parts.com said it would dramatically refocus its business, shifting from an auto-parts exchange between garages, dealers and manufacturers to leasing its industry-leading software for tracking such parts. A few days after the announcement, plans fell through to have the stock listed on Nasdaq's Small Cap market.

What Now?

With $30 million in investment capital and a $25-million line of credit, Planet Hollywood International is reaching for the stars again. After emerging from bankruptcy protection in early May, the company set about crafting a turnaround.

The first step came when former Sizzler USA CEO Christopher Thomas joined the company as president and CFO. Thomas was credited with leading Sizzler out of bankruptcy and orchestrating its comeback before resigning last summer.

New Planet Hollywood stock has begun trading on the Nasdaq Bulletin Board, and the company says it will try to get the shares on the Small Cap listing.

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