by Ken Ibold
Updated 12 months ago
Coming soon to a languishing neighborhood in downtown Orlando: $1,150-a-month apartments and a showcase headquarters for an established firm.
By Ken Ibold
Hughes Supply plans to move its corporate headquarters just a few blocks, but for Orlando, the relocation is both the catalyst and the anchor for one of the city's most ambitious redevelopment plans.
A $53-million project in the troubled Parramore neighborhood is the first tangible result of a years-long effort to extend downtown Orlando's boom across the railroad tracks and I-4 and into the poor neighborhood rife with crime, drugs and neglect. The project includes the Hughes Supply headquarters, 254 apartments, a 1,000-car parking garage and 25,000 square feet of retail space on a single city block. Within walking distance are the proposed FAMU law school, a new federal courthouse building and the proposed new basketball arena. Construction may begin in the spring.
The plan is for Bank of America to head the team that will build the first phase of the project, which includes a ground floor of retail space with five floors of apartments above. The apartments will range from one to three bedrooms, with rents between $370 and $1,150. About 100 of the units will be set aside as affordable housing.
Nearly two years ago, Hughes Supply, a wholesale distributor of construction supplies and equipment, launched a search for a new headquarters.
When Downtown Development Board Director Tom Kohler asked if the company would be interested in staying downtown if the economics could be worked out, CEO David Hughes said sure.
"It looked like the best alternative was to go outside the city," Hughes says. "When we moved into our current space in 1990, there was a recession and we were able to get a great lease rate. But now we need more space, and downtown rates have gotten so expensive."
Hughes says helping the community was secondary to making the best decision he could for his company. But the fact that he may soon own a building where homeless people now gather is something he's thought about. "In the next 10 years, you'll see that part of town blossom. In fact," he says with a nervous chuckle, "we're counting on it."
Another factor in the viability of the plan is $10.8 million kicked in by Orlando's Community Redevelopment Agency and $2 million from state and federal housing grants.
Most of the land is owned by Carolina Florida Properties, a developer that amassed a large tract and demolished more than 40 houses and businesses several years ago in anticipation of a big project that never came. The new project also includes commitments from St. Joe Commercial and Trammell Crow.
In the halls of government, the project is seen as vindication for years of effort to unite west Orlando with east Orlando -- an effort that already has soaked up more than $40 million in tax dollars in the square-mile area just west of downtown.
"This is the catalyst that we've talked about for the last 18 months for Parramore," Daisy Lynum, the city council member whose district includes Parramore, told the council when it approved the city incentives.
In the News
Altamonte Springs -- Emerson International plans to build a hotel and two office buildings on Crane's Roost Lake just west of Altamonte Mall. The buildings will range from 11 stories to 14 stories. Adjoining the 11-story hotel may be a 20,000-sq.-ft. health club.
Kissimmee -- Tupperware is buying BeautiControl in a cash deal worth $60 million. The acquisition gives Tupperware a line of cosmetics, also sold through home parties, it hopes will help it grow from a $1-billion to a $2-billion company.
Lake Mary -- Publix Super Markets of Lakeland plans to build a 140,000-sq.-ft. warehouse and distribution center that will be the hub of the supermarket chain's new online grocery service. The facility will employ more than 275 and cost more than $17 million.
Melbourne -- SkyCross has landed $9 million in venture capital to bring its advanced antennas for wireless devices to market. The company, originally named ViaTech, was launched by Milcom Technologies, a Maitland business incubator.
Ocoee -- One of the most expensive Wal-Marts in the country is coming to Ocoee after the company agreed to a number of design improvements the city insisted on to prevent what one city official called "sight pollution." The store will sell standard Wal-Mart merchandise, but the building will feature a red tile roofline and a 50-foot tower at one end. The exact cost of the building was not revealed.
Orange County -- Marriott International said it will build a 15-story Ritz-Carlton and a 25-story Marriott Hotel at the same south Orange County location as part of a project called Orlando's Grande Lakes Resort. The resort will include an 18-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman and a 40,000-sq.-ft. full-service spa. The two hotels will have nearly 1,600 rooms.
Orlando -- Two longtime landmark businesses in the Orlando area have closed. Rader's Relics, a 23-year-old Winter Park antique-car lot, shut down to make way for a Hess Mart gas station and convenience store. Across town, Townsends restaurant ended a 20-year run on Michigan Avenue and is scheduled to reopen this month as Jarrett's Grill.
Banco Popular sold its Orlando-based credit-card operation to Metris Co. of Minneapolis, which retained all 136 employees and will continue to market and support the Banco Popular secured credit card. The bank said running the operation itself didn't make sense because the average balance was so low.
Central Florida tourism officials have teamed up to launch a $500,000 promotional campaign aimed at getting Canadians to return to the area. Statistics show the number of Canadians visiting central Florida had declined by nearly 50% in the last eight years.
Darden Restaurants (NYSE-DRI) is going to the bond market for $150 million to pay down short-term debt and provide working capital, leading some analysts to predict the chain plans to make an acquisition.
Osceola County -- A hacker penetrated a computer system at Walt Disney World, sneaking a peek at the private records and photographs of about 1,200 Epcot visitors who paid to leave an engraved image of themselves on the granite stones next to Spaceship Earth. The company said the guests' financial information could not be accessed in that database.
Smart City Networks will buy Vista-United Telecommunications and take over the phone service to Walt Disney World, which has been operated by Disney and Sprint for more than 25 years. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Nursery Supplies has purchased 25 acres in the Poinciana Industrial Park for a 105,000-sq.-ft. expansion that will mean 140 new jobs.
Port Canaveral -- More than 600 passengers were stranded in the Bahamas when Premier Cruise Lines' S/S Oceanic was seized by creditors in the middle of a cruise, forcing the company to shut down. The episode happened only a week after Cape Canaveral Cruise Lines laid off most of its workers when it couldn't come up with money to make needed repairs to its Dolphin IV ship.
Sanford -- A jury has ordered Sarasota-based Taylor Woodrow Communities, the construction company building ritzy Alaqua Lakes, to pay $18 million in damages to a competitor, Heathrow Land Co. Actual damages were about $3 million, while the rest was awarded as punitive damages because Taylor Woodrow allegedly defrauded Heathrow after a proposed business deal fell through.
Winter Park -- LaserSight International (Nasdaq-LASE) has garnered two private stock placements that pumped about $11 million into the company, which develops and markets vision-correction technology. San Francisco's BayStar Capital and BayStar International bought 1.7 million shares for $3.50 a share and may buy another 600,000 at $3.60. The 2.3-million shares are 11% of LaserSight's outstanding stock. LaserSight also obtained a $5-million credit line with Huntington National Bank.
Beer Distributor: Keep It Flowing
City Beverages, an Anheuser-Busch distributor, has expanded into a 125,000-sq.-ft. distribution center in Airport International Park in south Orlando.