A potential real estate deal in Ivanhoe Village could significantly alter the tone of the neighborhood in the coming year.
The owner of a number of warehouses in the neighborhood – R-Kid Properties – is planning to sell multiple buildings in the area. Most of them are located along the Alden Road corridor, Ivanhoe Village’s industrial-chic warehouse district located directly behind the neighborhood’s Orange Avenue commercial strip, though a handful are located on adjoining streets. The party who has expressed interest in purchasing the properties is Orlando developer Chance Gordy of Real Estate Inverlad, which has completed several projects in Orlando, including 101 Eola condominiums, which houses Mucho Tequila & Tacos, and the Jackson in Thornton Park. Those who’ve been alerted to Gordy’s interest in the neighborhood say they believe his plans for Ivanhoe will also include multi-story residential buildings and that the properties are already zoned for that use.
“We are looking at developing a mixed-use property with neighborhood retail, a lot of outdoor courtyard space that goes with this retail, and multifamily living as well,” Gordy says of the project. “And we are going to integrate it into the neighborhood, trying as much as we can to keep the feel of the neighborhood.”
Several tenants of buildings that may be affected by the sale have confirmed that they have received letters telling them that their leases may not be renewed. One of those businesses is performing-arts space the Venue, owned by Blue Star, who says she’s fortunate that the building she is in “happens to be out of the strike zone right away.” So she has a little more time than most (many businesses say the letters give them approximately a year once a sale is complete to find a new home) to figure out what to do – and some are hoping that Gordy and Inverlad will try to respect the independent, creative character of the neighborhood, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years.
“From what I’ve been told, they are trying to preserve the artistic integrity of the neighborhood,” she says. “And I hope that works out in my favor … But that warehouse feel? [Will] that really cool artsy neighborhood feeling you get from Ivanhoe be gone? Probably. And that’s sad.”
Gordy says he plans to reveal the details of his project to the neighborhood on Oct. 21 at a Lake Formosa Neighborhood Association meeting. (This issue goes to press before the meeting happens. Visit orlandoweekly.com for updates.) He does say that he wants to work with the tenants to make sure there’s still space for those who would like to stay. “But the design is obviously going to be different,” he says. “The warehouses are going to be gone.”
Gordon Spears, vice president of the Lake Formosa Neighborhood Association, says that the properties Gordy is interested in are already zoned for high-density mixed-use development, so he can indeed develop with multi-story condominiums if he should choose to do so – and Spears says that a 500-plus residential mixed-use development is essentially what Gordy has in mind.
While that may strike fear into the hearts of some – particularly those who embrace the small-village feeling the neighborhood has now – Spears says that early conversations with Gordy indicate that the developer is willing to discuss concerns with neighbors and perhaps work arts and creative spaces into his plans. “We have a lot of creative industries that have grown up in the warehouse district,” Spears says. “We have Steadfast Brand, an international clothing brand, we have artists, we have two or three print shops, and a lot of other stuff going on as far as creative industries go. It’s a real economic engine for our district. … I expressed to him that we don’t want to lose that.”
And, from what Gordy says, he doesn’t want to lose that, either. In fact, he says, the neighborhood vibe is, in part, what drew him to want to do a project in Ivanhoe in the first place.
“I’m from Orlando. I grew up in College Park. I know this area very well,” he says. “This is a place I like to hang out myself. It’s always nice and fun to do a project in a place where you like to spend time.”
Spears says that he’s hoping the meeting will be an opportunity for the neighborhood to offer constructive input on the proposal – and that Gordy is open to taking the concerns to heart, as the developer won’t have to jump through as many hoops as some to get his project approved by the city.
“It’s a very different situation than in Mills Park or in College Park on Princeton, where the developers have to go for variances to get things done,” he says. “Chance doesn’t need that, he’s already got it. So our only chance with this is to convince him that there’s a better idea, other than what he’s already thought of. We are not opposing his development because we know that’s futile. What we’re trying to do is come up with an idea that solves the planning issues in our district and makes a space for the creative industries to stay.”
Some of those creative industries, though, are going to have some tough decisions to make in the coming months. Star, for instance, says she had actually hoped to grow the Venue. “We had plans to be bigger,” she says. But now she has to decide whether to relocate. “I have not made the decision for myself and the business and the Venue. However, I would like to stay in the neighborhood.”
Spears says he’s trying to see the interest from a major developer as a good thing for Ivanhoe Village. He says that over the years, he has wanted to see the city address the area’s long-term issues.
“I’ve been pushing the city to revise the comprehensive plan for our area for a long time,” he says. “I hate to see things done piecemeal when we really need a total overhaul of our district plan. But every time I mention this to the city, they say, ‘Oh yeah, we don’t have budget for that.’”
He says that a significant development project could be good news for the neighborhood because it would force some attention to its problems.
“Whatever happens on that property is the key to what happens in our district, like fixing the traffic flow,” he says. “So I see this as a way to jumpstart getting the city back engaged and planning for the long-term vision for our district.”
Plus, he says, Gordy has a good reputation when it comes to developing with the community in mind.
“Really, if we could have a real, true mixed-use project that incorporates commercial, employment opportunities in the district, as well as more housing, I think that’s a win-win for everybody,” he says. “I would love for this to be a happy ending story, where we can work with the developer and help him bring a world-class, mixed-use project to our area.”