Feb. 12--Orlando officials this week discussed a developer's plans to construct the first buildings at the five-year-old Creative Village property that bridges downtown and the historic Parramore community.
Premier-Nelson Group Inc. President Thomas Nelson said he intends to purchase land for a hotel and apartments on the 68 acres that has been envisioned as an urban hub for tech companies and a downtown campus of the University of Central Florida.
"Our current interest is in the hotel and multi-family sites," Nelson said. "Capital and funding is not a problem or issue."
The development community, Nelson said, has largely sat on sidelines of Creative Village with the idea that it was controlled by Ustler Development Inc. The city selected Ustler's Creative Village Development LLC as master developer in 2011, but the city kept control of most of the property. Nelson said the developers are now seeing opportunities to buy land and build there.
Orlando Economic Development Director Brooke Bonnett briefed Nelson this week on project requirements. While the city is open to proposals from developers, it also wants to ensure those ideas have the necessary roadwork, utilities and funding to become realities, she said.
Interest in the vacant land has heightened as UCF sharpens its pitch to the state for a downtown campus.
A partnership with Atlantic Housing Partners and Bank of America is seeking tax-credit financing from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to construct an affordable apartment community that would be called Amelia Court at Creative Village.
Developer Chuck Whittall, who has brought to Orlando developments including Trader Joe's grocery and the Orlando Eye attraction, said he has been considering Creative Village land for residential, shopping and dining but said the downtown campus is "essential" to development there.
"Without the campus, we don't have any interest," Whittall said.
Central Florida's higher-ed institutions want to make their mark on downtown Orlando by the fall of 2018 with a 165,000-square-foot building for 7,700 UCF and Valencia College students. UCF is seeking approval for the project from the Florida Board of Governors and $20 million in funding from the state Legislature.
Craig Ustler, president of Ustler Development, describes Creative Village as his legacy project. He cautioned that the project should evolve deliberately with an eye toward igniting Orlando's tech community and spurring the long-struggling Parramore area instead of being built too quickly in an attempt to catch an upward-swinging market.
Ustler, who partnered with a Bank of America affiliate on the project, said the new interest in the project is understandable now that UCF is poised for a campus there.
Partnered with the city and UCF, Ustler said the project will continue with or without a UCF campus.
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