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Unicorp updates groundbreaking details for Orlando Fashion Square mall redevelopment

Groundbreaking may begin in mid-2021 on a roughly $1 billion redevelopment of the long-struggling Orlando Fashion Square mall northeast of Maguire Boulevard and Colonial Drive near downtown Orlando.

That’s according to Chuck Whittall, president of Orlando-based Unicorp National Developments Inc. which owns the roughly 46 acres of dirt beneath Orlando Fashion Square along with Orlando-based Maury L. Carter & Associates Inc. The mall, which opened in 1973, was in its prime in the 1980s and ’90s, but since has seen a decline.

Currently, the development team is negotiating with Philadelphia-based The Bancorp Inc. (Nasdaq: TBBK) whose related TBB Orlando LLC owns the mall’s improvements, or the buildings above the dirt. The development team must buy those buildings before it can start construction.

The mall itself appears to be 40-50% vacant, Whittall said. “Discussions have been good,” Whittall said. “I don’t think bank wants to keep it.”

A Bancorp representative wasn’t available for comment. But Orlando Fashion Square appears to be losing value, according to a May 11 Bancorp filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “The March 31, 2020, balance of other real estate owned includes a Florida mall which has been written down to $15 million. We expect to continue our efforts to dispose of the mall, which was appraised in September 2018 for $16.9 million,” according to the filing.

Dirt deal

In September, Unicorp’s and Maury L. Carter & Associates’ Fashion Square Land Trust bought the dirt beneath the improvements for $22.9 million, according to Orange County records. The development team is the latest to attempt to resuscitate the 838,865-square-foot mall, which has changed hands at least four times since 2004.

The redevelopment is expected to include:

  • 1,500-1,600 mid- to high-rise apartments
  • 500,000 square feet of retail and restaurants that may include a bowling alley, dine-in theater, indoor karting and high-end arcade
  • 200,000 square feet of office space
  • A parking garage
  • A hotel

The future Orlando Fashion Square, which will retain the name, will be built around plush landscaping, gardens and water features. No plans have been submitted to the city of Orlando.

The architect is Orange, California-based Architects Orange, and the engineer is Raleigh, North Carolina-based Kimley-Horn & Associates Inc.

Despite the challenges, a successful project’s payoff could be a big win for Unicorp and Maury L. Carter & Associates. The demographics around Orlando Fashion Square for a mixed-use project are favorable due to the area’s high population density and affluent residents. In addition, there are many families with kids and, with a dearth of nearby entertainment options, the redeveloped mall could attract them, too.

“Fashion Square is one of the greatest potential sites in Central Florida,” retail expert John Crossman, who isn’t involved in the project, previously told OBJ. “That said, it is immensely complicated and is not for the faint of wallet.”

Apartment, retail stats

The eastside apartment submarket, which includes Orlando Fashion Square, has a 9.1% vacancy rate, which is near the Orlando-area average of 8.3%, CoStar Group (Nasdaq: CSGP) reported. In addition, the submarket’s average apartment rental rate is $1,343 per month, slightly higher than the Orlando-area average of $1,310, showing demand for apartments.

Meanwhile, the downtown Orlando retail submarket, which includes Orlando Fashion Square, has a 6.9% vacancy rate, which is slightly higher than the Orlando-area average of 5.8%, according to Colliers International Central Florida. That shows demand for retail space in the submarket. In addition, the submarket’s average monthly retail rental rates are $29.76 per square foot, well above the Orlando-area average of $18.87 per square foot. That shows demand in the area for new shops and restaurants.


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