Long-promised Magic complex set to begin construction in ’19
Downtown entertainment center has new design
More than a decade ago, a group of architects presented the Orlando Magic with an enticing concept: Build an all-in-one entertainment complex across the street from the Amway Center.
Ten basketball seasons later, shovels are finally scheduled to go into the ground next year as the Magic sees that dream come to fruition.
“It’s taken a little bit longer than we had hoped or anticipated, but I think it’s still going to have the same effect ... of being a real catalyst for development downtown,” said Alex Martins, CEO of the Magic.
Martins gave an update on the development Tuesday, along with new renderings that show a revised plan for the 8.4 acre project — and a new price tag. Martins said the district will likely be completed by about 2021.
In renderings by HKS Architects, the sports and entertainment district — as it’s being called for now — features a 250-room luxury hotel, a 300-unit high-end residential tower, 80,000 square feet of event space, 100,000 square feet of retail space bordering a
“I think it’s still going to have the same effect ... of being a real catalyst for development downtown.” Magic CEO Alex Martins
large, open-air plaza and a 200,000-square-foot, seven-story class A office building that will be the Magic’s new headquarters.
The final cost of the development will be “significantly higher” than the $200 million that has been touted for years, Martins said, but he wouldn’t be more specific.
Bordered by Church Street to the south, Division Avenue to the west, Central Avenue to the north and Hughey Avenue to the east, the complex will primarily cater to basketball fans and other visitors to the Amway Center across Church Street. But the goal is to make the complex a destination as well, Martins said.
The new design now includes a plaza entrance on Division Avenue, too, connecting the development to the University of Central Florida’s downtown campus now under construction. The two smaller plazas allow the space to cater to different interests and be more nimble for events, Martins said.
The planned location of the hotel and the office building also have been flipped in part to improve the flow of traffic, with the hotel now at the corner of Church and Division and the office building at the corner of Church and Hughey Avenue.
Also new: The new entertainment district will have a major focus on technology and sustainability. A 2,400-space parking garage, for instance, will include a “mobility plaza” on the bottom floor, which will process Uber and Lyft drop offs and a Lynx stop. It will accommodate autonomous vehicles in the future.
Martins said he hopes the technology will set the Magic’s complex apart from other sports entertainment districts in the country.
In terms of retail, Martins revealed that apart from restaurants and bars, the team is also targeting options such as high-end bowling alleys that offer bowling, food and beverages in a social atmosphere.
“Our interest all along has been for this development to sustain itself without having to rely on an event going on in the evening at the Amway Center,” he said.
The trend follows one that sports teams have played with across the country by building full-service entertainment complexes next to their arenas. The examples abound in more than a dozen cities across the U.S., from Sacramento to Charlotte, that have built mixed-use sports complexes in an effort to revive their urban cores.
In Sacramento, for example, a new Sacramento Kings arena and 1-million-square-foot entertainment district have pumped life into a dead corridor of the city’s downtown. A year after the facility opened in September 2016, a city economic development group, Downtown Sacramento Partnership, found that 26 new groundfloor retail businesses had been created and another 23 new businesses were set to open in the coming months. Downtown employment had ballooned by 38 percent since the arena’s construction began.
“What’s driving it is that owners of professional sports franchises have come to realize that they are more than owners of sports teams — they are in the entertainment business,” said Scott Zolke, a Los
Angeles-based partner in the sports and media practice at law firm Loeb and Loeb. Zolke was involved in the Sacramento arena deal.
“It’s really looking at your building as more than just a gymnasium or a hockey rink, and really looking at is as an entertainment attraction and that’s why we are seeing these owners add the bells and whistles that go with creating a destination,” Zolke said. Next steps
To bring its vision to reality, the Magic have had to clear multiple hurdles to get the area’s old tenants into new accommodations. The parking garage on the lot has been torn down and the Orlando Police Department, whose headquarters the Magic bought for $12.7 million in 2013, has relocated to a new 94,000-square-foot headquarters at South Street and Orange Blossom Trail as of early last year.
Perhaps the most challenging piece of the puzzle, relocating the Orlando Union Rescue Mission men’s home, will be completed when the mission’s new location at the former Parkwood Inn on West
Colonial Drive is completed by the end of the year. The mission is expected to move out in early 2019 and construction for the entertainment complex will begin next year, as well.
Up next for the development: Pinning down office and retail tenants for the project.
If done well, the district could also uplift the Parramore neighborhood it sits in.
The kind of massive growth it will spur will likely create some gentrification in Parramore, said Sean Snaith, director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, but he said it will ultimately result in a net positive for the area with a new crop of hospitality jobs just walking distance away.
“Neighborhoods or areas of cities that have sort of fallen into disrepair, as development happens, people and money pour back into these areas and help improve them,” Snaith said. “It’s another step in the right direction in terms of boosting downtown Orlando’s economy and creating opportunities for jobs.”