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Condo projects lure Zom back to Orlando

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Condo projects lure Zom back to Orlando

Noelle C. Haner

Senior Staff Writer

ORLANDO -- After a nearly three-year hiatus, Zom Inc. is diving back into the Orlando multifamily housing market.

The last time the Orlando-based development company worked in Orlando, it built The Waverly on Lake Eola. That was 2001.

Now, on the heels of Zom's announced participation in one of downtown Orlando's newest condominium projects -- The Paramount -- along with partners RMC Property Group and N-K Ventures of West Palm Beach, Zom officials also are working with Lake Mary's Pelloni Development Corp. on its proposed mixed-use development for the old Mills & Nebraska Lumber site.

Greg West, senior vice president of Zom, says downtown Orlando's recent surge in new development is what brought the homegrown company back to its roots.

"The downtown market has been very good to us," explains West. "We've had wonderful success with The Waverly, and we want to repeat that with our new projects."

Zom's history in Orlando dates back to 1977, when the company was founded by Dutch businessman Joost Zyderveld.

From the beginning, the company specialized in developing and investing in multifamily rental properties in Orlando and throughout the state of Florida. Today, Zom has developed nearly 10,000 residential units, 2,595 of which are located in Orlando.

However, the company took on a new direction after its 20th anniversary. In 1997, Zyderveld was bought out by a partnership comprised of Zom's current CEO, Steve Patterson, Hans Van Veggel and the largest bank in The Netherlands, ABN Amro.

Shortly after, Zom officials began looking outside Florida for new development and investment opportunities.

"We were looking for markets with economies that were countercyclical to Florida's service-based tourist economy," says Patterson.

The search began in earnest after 2001 when available land on which to develop multifamily housing projects in Florida began to become scarce, especially in the Orlando area.

Bob Miller, senior vice president of CB Richard Ellis' Central Florida Multi-Housing Group, says Zom virtually dropped off Orlando's radar screen after it completed downtown's first new residential high-rise in more than a decade -- The Waverly.

"For a while, Zom had a red X on Orlando. The project or property would have had to have been really special for them to get involved," says Miller, who worked with Zom to try to find properties during that time.

Careful market research took Zom to Washington, D.C., and Texas, where, to date, Zom has embarked on five apartment projects in the Dallas, Houston and Austin markets.

It was the condo craze that eventually brought Zom back home to Florida and Orlando.

In 2004, Zom converted The Waverly from apartments to condos, beginning the company's love affair with conversion projects. All told, Zom has converted and sold out five of its former Florida apartment projects to condos.

Currently, Zom is working on construction drawings and getting building permits for The Paramount. The $125 million, 314-condo mixed-use project is set to break ground in December. And Pelloni's Mills & Nebraska project is on the Orlando City Council's list of projects to approve.

Even with this new local work, though, Zom is not taking its eyes off the national market. In fact, company officials are tracking 20 markets right now to see where they will take the company next.

"Expect us to go somewhere else in the next few years," says Patterson. "We're really interested in markets with strong second-home markets and with a focus on live, work and play environments."

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