PFD has partnered with Unicorp in the acquisition, development and construction of Westside Shoppes and Venetian Isles

Unicorp closer to bringing $107M shops, eateries, homes project to Horizon West.

Unicorp National Developments Inc.’s planned $107 million Horizon West mixed-use development came a step closer to becoming a reality as the firm this week bought a chunk of land near Walt Disney World that it plans to turn into shops, eateries and homes.

Unicorp in two separate transactions spent about $12 million to buy a nearly 117-acre site on Winter Garden Vineland Road north of theLakeside Village shopping complex on Oct. 21 from North of Albert’s LLP, Orange County records showed. The firm’s related Westside Shoppes LLC spent $2.2 million on a piece of it, while its related Venetian Isles LLC bought the balance for $9.8 million.

President Chuck Whittall told Orlando Business Journal the firm expects to break ground in next year’s first quarter on two pieces of the project, including the 70,700-square-foot Westside Shoppes and a 346-unit high-end multifamily project dubbed Venetian Isle. Unicorp has had plans in the works for this development since late 2014, as previously reported by OBJ.

A third piece of this project, which will be a middle school, likely will be built by Orange County Public Schools in 2017, Whittall said.

Unicorp has chosen Roger B. Kennedy Inc. as the general contractor for Venetian Isles — which will feature 302 apartments and 44 townhomes — and is in talks with Scherer Construction to handle building Westside Shoppes.

Unicorp is close to signing on a grocer for Westside Shoppes, and so far tenants will include Gator’s Dockside, Tijuana Flats, AT&T, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s, Great Clips, UPS Store, Luxury Nails & Day Spa and Flippers Pizzeria.

The new retail complex will complement one of Central Florida’s fastest-growing and top-performing submarkets. Southwest Orange County boasted the region’s lowest retail vacancy rate in this year’s third quarter at 4.1 percent, down from 5.1 percent a year earlier, according to CBRE Inc.. Average asking lease rates also grew during that period from $16 per square foot last year to $17.22 this year, and the submarket had the second-highest retail absorption in the area so far this year, with 168,284 square feet being backfilled, CBRE reported.

Apartments also continue to be in high demand in Central Florida, which reported a 96.3 percent overall occupancy rate — the highest our region has seen since 2006, according to a report by Charles Wayne Consulting Inc. The Winter Garden/Ocoee/West Orange submarket — which includes Horizon West — led the way with a 97.8 percent occupancy rate, the report showed.

October 23, 2015
Anjali Fluker
Senior Staff Writer
Orlando Business Journal