ORLANDO – Four years after the Central Florida housing market went into a tailspin, taking the local construction industry, home prices and sales with it, the city of Orlando marked a milestone today with the groundbreaking ceremony for the first new high rise apartment complex getting built in the city’s downtown.
Skyhouse Orlando will be a 23-story high rise located at 90 E. Livingston St., right in the heart of downtown, next to the Taylor Building. A $63 million project, it is a significant economic investment “that will strengthen the economic core of downtown,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
City leaders gathered at the site today for the groundbreaking and to stick the first shovels into the ground. This residential development will be a luxury high-rise apartment building offering 8,300 square feet of ground floor retail space and an eight-level parking garage. It will be located just two blocks from the LYNX Central Station near one of Downtown Orlando’s planned SunRail stops, and is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2013.
“The Skyhouse is the first major high rise to be built in Orlando since the recession hit,” Dyer said.
And Dyer noted that to those who fear this is a risky project in a still-shaky economic environment, the apartment occupant rate in downtown Orlando is now at 97 percent full.
Jim Borders, president and CEO of Novare Group Inc., which is bringing this project to the city, said it promises to be a significant addition to the downtown area.
“As you can see, we didn’t wait to get started,” he said, as a construction crew was working about 20 feet away from the site of the groundbreaking and press conference. “We can’t tell you how excited we are to get started in Orlando.”
The luxury complex, he said, would be constructed to look like “the classical buildings built in downtown cities in yesteryear, with eyes looking down.”
The apartments would offer “dramatic skyline views in every window,” overlooking both Lake Eola Park and the rest of downtown, Borders added.
It would also be a fast project, he said, and has been so far.
“We were able to conceptualize and start Skyhouse Orlando in less than nine months,” he said.
Dyer said this project demonstrates that developers and the construction industry still believe in the future of downtown Orlando.
“What a great day in our downtown,” he said, noting that the project would bring hundreds of jobs to the city.
Frank Nelson, senior vice president for development in the Tampa office of Batson-Cook Company, the construction firm building the high rise, added, “This is a day to celebrate, not only a dramatic new day in downtown Orlando, but also celebrating construction workers getting back to work. The city of Orlando is getting a project they not only need, but one they deserve and can get excited about.”
He agreed with Dyer that this project marks a hopeful sign for not just the city but for the regional economy, particularly considering how badly the construction industry was hit by the national recession and the collapse of the housing market in 2008.
“For someone who has been in the business for 25 years, the last few years have been very difficult,” Nelson said.
Now, with this project, Batson-Cook will be employing local vendors and subcontractors, he said, and “We’ve got 450 manhours to complete.”
Rev. Jeffrey Moore, pastor of the neighboring Trinity Lutheran Church, said it was encouraging to see that this apartment complex would be built close to bus and rail lines.
“I like all the talk about the people living here, and walking,” he said.
Borders said he hopes to have those tenants in by next year.
“We look forward to watching the building go up – very quickly,” he said.
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