November 21, 2018
By: Jack Witthaus
Staff Writer, Orlando Business Journal
A New York-based development group behind a trio of downtown apartment towers — which may feature a living green exterior with a sheath composed of plants — saw the final phases of its project move ahead in a city committee despite continued objections from an adjacent property owner.
Property Markets Group Inc.’s Golden Sparrow, or X Orlando project, received approval Nov. 16 for its final two phases of the three-phase project with some conditions at the city of Orlando’s appearance review board. The board serves in an advisory capacity to Orlando’s city council and is necessary for obtaining building permits. The single largest residential project downtown, it will feature three towers with 900 apartments, 85,000 square feet of commercial space, 35,000 square feet of co-working space and 1,516 parking spaces. The project is estimated to cost north of $200 million to build, according to industry standards.
UBS Realty Investors LLC, owner of the adjacent Central Station apartment complex, has objected to the planned development. UBS Realty Investors has appealed the approval of the project’s first phase, which included 262 apartments in a 17-story tower, 45,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and the co-working space. The appeals are expected to be resolved at a hearing later this month.
Representatives with UBS Realty Investors said they also plan to appeal the project’s Nov. 16 approval. Cecelia Bonifay, an attorney with Akerman representing UBS Realty Investors, said Nov. 16 that UBS Realty Investors is concerned about the traffic, the shadows and the height of the towers.
In response, Tim Baker, a principal with Baker Barrios Architects who is representing the Golden Sparrow development team, said the Golden Sparrow property’s zoning encourages high density. “If there’s a nonconforming use in this neighborhood, it’s their project,” Baker said of the roughly six-story Central Station, which debuted in late 2015. Orlando-based Lowndes law firm represents Property Markets Group Inc.
The 3.57-acre Golden Sparrow project is slated to be built on one of the largest undeveloped tracts downtown and is near a Lynx SunRail station and across the street from the Orange County Courthouse. The project will “significantly influence” the central business district’s physical and social landscape “for decades,” according to city documents.
The proposed downtown project adds to Orlando’s hot apartment sector, which has a low 3.4 percent vacancy rate, according to a September report from Charlotte, N.C.-based Real Data Inc. Occupancy rates are expected to remain higher than 95 percent over the next year, well above average among Southeastern cities, which should trigger rent growth, according to the report. There are more than 9,700 apartments in the local construction pipeline, and one-third of those are being built near downtown Orlando.
“Apartment demand in Orlando’s core continues to be strong due to record job growth, which is really exciting for the city,” Adam Wonus, who owns Lake Mary-based Atrium Management Co. and isn’t involved in the project, previously told Orlando Business Journal. “Orlando is one of the few metro areas that currently has a healthy demand and supply. We are currently in the equilibrium phase of the cycle, which attracts capital from all over the world. We are seeing strong year-over-year rent growth, which makes us a very attractive city to live and invest.”