The company that built ChampionsGate and Hilton Orlando plans to build a $200 million mixed-use project that would tie into SunRail's main station in downtown Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel has learned.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer plans to announce details of the project today during his annual "State of the Downtown" speech.
The Central Station project is slated for a 5.6-acre parcel adjacent to the Lynx Central Station and across Orange Avenue from the Orange County Courthouse. Rida Development Corp. bought the property for $15.1 million in 2008.
It would be the first example of transit-oriented development connected directly to SunRail, the 61-mile commuter train system scheduled to launch in 2014. A spine running through the center of the complex would link Orange Avenue with downtown's main SunRail platform at the Lynx center.
"With … Central Station, we have the emergence of the sustainable, walkable, transit-oriented development we've been talking about," Dyer said.
A hotel and midrise apartment buildings of seven to 10 stories would run along the north side of the property, along with ground-floor shops and restaurants. That's the first phase of the project, which would cost an estimated $100 million.
The second phase would feature office space on the south side of the property and cost another $100 million, but it would not happen until the office market improves.
The developer hopes to take advantage of the proximity of SunRail and the railroad tracks. They hope easy access to the rail system will be a selling point for apartment renters, and that downtown workers who take the train will provide retail traffic as they pass through the development going to and from the station.
"We're very excited," Rida Senior Vice President Marc Reicher said. "We have the best multimodal site in Central Florida. This is going to further establish transit-oriented development and further establish the central business district."
The property, bounded by Orange Avenue, Amelia Street, Livingston Street and the Lynx headquarters, is the last large undeveloped parcel downtown. More than one developer has had big plans for the site that never materialized.
It was once owned by Ron Pizzuti, who proposed Orlando City Center, a tower topped by a large open cube. The Federal Aviation Administration refused to allow the nearly 500-foot-tall building, saying it would endanger Orlando Executive Airport air traffic.
Pizzuti sold the property to Palm Beach Land Trust, which in 2006 proposed a $250 million mixed-use project with off-kilter architecture. It, too, would have tied into the commuter-rail system. That developer sold the property to Rida.
Reicher pointed to Rida Development Corp.'s history of completing large projects under trying circumstances as evidence the company will succeed with Central Station.
In addition to ChampionsGate and the Hilton next to the Orange County Convention Center, the Texas-based company built the Omni Resort, the first major hotel in the country financed and built after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Rida has a substantial portfolio in Texas, Florida, Poland, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.
"We're accustomed to finding paths to success in challenging economic times," Reicher said.
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