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Dyer fallout -- condo tower nixed


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oh no....

Developer Kuhn nixes plans for office tower

By Jack Snyder

Sentinel Staff Writer

March 18, 2005

Orlando developer Cameron Kuhn said Thursday he's scuttling plans for a 10-story office tower in a downtown block targeted for redevelopment, though he's pushing ahead with retail plans that include a luxury-car dealership.

Earlier this year, Kuhn said he would build a 400,000-square-foot office tower atop a city parking garage in the block bounded by Orange Avenue, Washington Street, Jefferson Street and a city parking lot.

Kuhn said "several factors" prompted his decision to cancel the tower, including rising construction costs and the political uncertainty caused by Mayor Buddy Dyer's indictment and suspension from office last week.

City Commissioner Patty Sheehan said she was surprised at Kuhn's decision and she wonders if he had "too many balls in the air" with his other development projects downtown and is "using this as an excuse."

Nevertheless, Sheehan said Kuhn's action is something of deep concern to the city.

The political and economic ripples from Dyer's indictment has created "tremendous uncertainty. Investors get leery. My hope is that we can get this behind us very quickly. I'm hoping that the council can create a level of certainty for the community."

Kuhn insisted he doesn't think the area's office-condominium market is overbuilt, despite several projects in the pipeline. "I may yet do a tower on another site in the future," he said.

Redevelopment of the block's retail space and the former JC Penney department store will continue, he said. The JC Penney building is being renovated for office-condo and retail space. Work is to be finished in June.

The developer said he has a deal for an "exotic car" dealer to open a showroom in 25,000 square feet of retail space within the block. He said Exotic Cars Inc. of New York plans to open dealerships for such cars as Rolls Royce and Bentley in Orlando, Miami and West Palm Beach.

The car dealership would be the second to locate in the city center in recent years. Downtown Mini Inc., which sells the British Mini cars, opened in 2001 at 131 N. Orange Ave.

That dealership moved into retail space renovated by Kuhn.

Two other dealerships -- one for cars and another for motorcycles -- are considering locating downtown, he said. He would not identify those dealerships.

When Downtown Mini opened, it was the first center-city car dealership in more than a decade.

Kuhn's redevelopment of the so-called Jaymont Block at Orange Avenue and Church Street is under construction. That project -- called Premiere Trade Plaza -- includes two office-condominium towers; a residential tower with 306 condominiums; 105,000 square feet of retail, and a 12-screen movie theater.

The city provided $22.5 million in incentives for the project.

Rich McKay of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Jack Snyder can be reached at 407-420-5094 or [email protected]

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If I had a choice I would take that residential tower any day over the Benchmark. If they build the garage and retail that's still a huge plus.....I think a high end auto dealership is a good thing....

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree...anything to get people downtown is a good thing..and auto dealerships, especially for brands unique to the area, do just that. The Mini dealership is always packed. I'm a proud Mini owner, BTW, so don't be knocking the Minis.

And isn't that parking garage supposed to be fairly big? Did they ever have renderings of that?

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I was not fond of the Benchmark design at all, and I have a feeling a large part of this building not getting built was not only due to increased materials costs, it was also that feedback on the design was mostly negative. Short, stubby, and a gaudy sun visor... that tower sucked.

I think something else would be better off in its place

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