When developer Cameron Kuhn and some business partners bought the long-dead Jaymont block for $10.8 million last month, they promised a project that would "change the city." They weren't kidding.
Shortly after the deal was announced, Kuhn filed an application for a demolition permit for the South Orange Avenue property, located between Pine and Church streets, once home to McCrory's department store and the Terror on Church Street attraction, which closed in 1999. A source close to the mayor's office tells Orlando Weekly the decision to demolish the strip of empty storefronts will be announced in the coming week, and the buildings may come down before Christmas.
In its place could go a high-rise, mixed-use residential building, says Orlando city commissioner Patty Sheehan, which may include storefronts, condos and perhaps the long-rumored downtown movie theater. There are no announced plans yet.
Kuhn's construction manager, Bob Thornley, who filed the demolition application, says: "We tear `the buildings` down. We're not putting them back up."
What's assured, however, is that the Jaymont block is coming down soon.
Which will rile some historic preservationists, and perhaps reignite the preservation-versus-progress debate Lou Pearlman started last month by removing iron railings as part of his Church Street Station renovations. Whatever claims preservationists lay to the long-dead block will be trumped by the fact that the place is falling apart. Termites have eaten into the facades, says Sheehan, who says the building is home to "rats as big as cats."
"If you look at the big holes `in the structure`," she says, "you can see the building's about to fall down."
And as a nod to preservationists, Kuhn will donate the McCrory's sign to the Orange County Regional History Center, says Sheehan.
The city's computerized records indicate that the Downtown Development Board, one of the agencies that has to sign off on the demolition permit, has refused to do so. DDB director Frank Billingsley referred phone calls on the matter to the mayor's office, but no one there got back to us.
The DDB's thumbs-down appears to be a computer glitch. In fact, Sheehan says, the DDB is all for the project, and expects the city to dole out incentives similar to those being offered to developers of a high-rise condo at 55 W. Church Street. That project is still in negotiations.
Cameron Kuhn, the Jaymont's new owner, could not be reached by press time to comment on his plans.
The biggest obstacle now, says
Sheehan, is demolishing the building without unleashing monster rats on downtown.