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Tower tiff: Appeal over proposed $200M+ downtown project reaches conclusion

Tower tiff: Appeal over proposed $200M+ downtown project reaches conclusion
by Sean Sonnenberg

November 29, 2018

By: Jack Witthaus

Orlando Business Journal

A downtown property owner — which objected to plans for the largest proposed residential project in the central business district — has dropped its appeal.

UBS Realty Investors LLC, owner of the adjacent Central Station apartment complex, no longer is appealing New York-based Property Markets Group Inc.’s proposed 900-unit Golden Sparrow project at 434 N. Orange Ave. A quasi-judicial hearing to resolve the appeal was cancelled Nov. 28 and 29, according to a city of Orlando document. The appeal’s resolution helps pave the way for the project potentially to be approved by Orlando’s city council at an undetermined date.

Attorneys for both parties couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Central Station was represented by Miami-based Akerman LLP’s Cecelia Bonifay and Samual Miller; Golden Sparrow was represented by Orlando-based Lowndes’ Melody Lynch, Michael Piccolo and Rebecca Wilson.

UBS Realty Investors had 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. Representatives with UBS Realty Investors said Nov. 16 at a city of Orlando appearance review board meeting that they also planned more appeals. Cecelia Bonifay, an attorney with Akerman representing UBS Realty Investors, said Nov. 16 that UBS Realty Investors was concerned about the traffic, the shadows and the height of the towers.

Despite the objections, Golden Sparrow on Nov. 16 received conditional approval for its final two phases of the three-phase Golden Sparrow or X Orlando project from 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 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 project 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. It’s estimated to cost north of $200 million to build, according to industry standards.

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.

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