Drive Shack’s planning at its Lake Nona location

7 things to know today!

Good morning, Orlando!

Since New York-based global golf entertainment company Drive Shack Inc. (NYSE: DS) will debut its $20 million-$25 million golf-themed driving range and entertainment complex in Lake Nona later this spring, you might be wondering if there will be any unique features at the new location.

Wonder no more: CEO Sarah Watterson talked with OBJ about how Drive Shack’s Orlando site will take fun to a whole new level with the most advanced technology in the business, as well as exceptional food and drink options.

What’s planned for $500M+ former Flea World redevelopment

The 111-acre site that once housed Seminole County’s iconic Flea World soon may begin its transformation into a new mixed-use project centered around nature. More here on what’s being envisioned for the site.

Lockheed Martin, SAAB Defense & Security win a combined $607M in contracts

A couple of global defense firms were awarded big U.S. military contracts for work on F-35 parts and U.S. Army training support, according a report from the U.S. Department of Defense. And some of that work that will take place in Orlando. More here.

Valet parking firm to cut nearly 100 workers

AAA Parking, an Atlanta valet and event parking services company, plans to lay off 99 employees on April 30 at sister properties Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando, according to a notice filed with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Images revealed of planned apartment buildings at Disney’s Flamingo Crossings

Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development Inc.’s related Flamingo Crossings LLC on March 19 filed an application and land-use plan in Orange County that included renderings and elevations of its “Flamingo Crossings West,” the nearly 1,300 apartment units planned for 93.3 acres south of Flagler Avenue called “Flamingo Crossings West.” More here.

A new study from Wallet Hub shows Florida ranks slightly below average for property taxes, coming in at No. 27 among the 50 states. Here in the Sunshine State, we pay on average $1,702 in real estate taxes on a median-priced home. See the full report here.

Gas prices rise in time for spring break

Gas prices are on the rise once again, after declining for nearly two weeks, AAA reports. The most expensive gas price averages in Florida are in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton ($2.65), while the cheapest can be found in Punta Gorda ($2.48).

KPMG’s revamped plans for Lake Nona center






Good morning, Orlando!

New York-based audit giant KPMG LLP is revamping the plans for its 55-acre training center.

If you recall, KPMG received $3.8 million in economic development incentives for the training center project, including $3.5 million in tax rebates from Florida and the city of Orlando for a seven-year period and a $320,000 Qualified Target Industries tax refund through the state, which is expected to create 80 jobs by 2019.

More here on what KPMG is requesting approval from the city to change.

The new KPMG center is expected to boost the local by bringing thousands of employees into the market, creating new jobs at the facility and hundreds of third-party contract operator positions.

And be sure to check out these other Thursday headlines:

Hard Rock HQ’s Orlando departure to result in 184 layoffs

Orlando-based casino, hotel and restaurant operator Hard Rock International Inc. told the state via a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification notice, that it will lay off 184 workers starting in April through July. The company said the layoffs will be permanent. More here.

First look: Lake Nona teaching hospital plans reveal future expansion

The University of Central Florida and HCA Healthcare’s application for a new teaching hospital in Lake Nona gave a first look of the new facility and the medical spaces it will create. More here.

Orlando ‘Shark Tank’ star to roll out products in Walmart this month

Hummus king Jesse Wolfe has scored one his largest deals yet. His company O’Dang Hummus, featured on CNBC’s show “Shark Tank,” last summer struck a deal with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT). And now, he will roll out his hummus salad dressing in 2,000 Walmart stores and neighborhood markets this month.

Ridership of Brightline — which eventually will extend to Central Florida — has exceeded expectations since the train began service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, CEO Patrick Goddard told an audience at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday. More here.

Florida House Speaker Corcoran says budget deal reached

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, indicated Wednesday afternoon that legislative leaders have reached agreement on a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. More here.

Disney opens StudioLAB to build VR, AI ‘entertainment experiences’

Walt Disney Studios is launching an initiative dedicated to virtual reality and artificial intelligence. StudioLAB will reimagine, design and prototype entertainment experiences and production capabilities to promote feature films, as well as music and stage plays.

Lake Nona teaching hospital plans reveal future expansion

The University of Central Florida and HCA Healthcare’s application for a new teaching hospital in Lake Nona give a first look of the new facility and the medical spaces it will create.

Development Co. is seeking approval to build the UCF Lake Nona Medical Center, which will include a three-story teaching hospital with 64 beds and shell space for another 16 beds, a 60,000-square-foot, three-story medical office building, a power house for utilities, a helipad and 592 parking spaces.

The plans, which are waiting approval for the first phase, show that would later expand the first floor of the hospital and build a future bed tower.

The hospital is slated to open in 2020 on undeveloped property adjacent the UCF Health Sciences Campus currently used for agricultural purposes.

The hospital would sit between the UCF medical school and the building housing the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute at , which UCF plans to take over once the institute vacates the property. UCF has waited for nearly a decade to establish a teaching hospital.

“Every great medical school has a teaching hospital, and great hospitals are affiliated with top-notch medical schools. If you’re sick and have exhausted all the treatments of your local hospital, where do you go for the next level of care? Many people say Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Cleveland Clinic. All of those are teaching hospitals,” Dr. Deborah German, UCF’s first dean of the College of Medicine in Lake Nona, previously told Orlando Business Journal.

Once completed, the hospital will be a living/learning lab for training medical, nursing, physical therapy, pharmacy and social work students in teamwork skills and communication.

The main access to the hospital will be provided from Lake Nona Boulevard with secondary access points from Laureate Boulevard, Humboldt Drive and Drive.

Top 10 States for Retirement


Florida found a place among the top 5 dream retirement is living in a location that’s affordable, safe and popular with older residents. These were the considerations that took into account while looking for the most retirement-friendly states in the U.S.

It ranked the states across the country on five parameters—healthy environment, personal security, local , weather conditions, and popularity with older residents. By averaging each state’s ranking in these five categories, determined the 10 best states to retire.

Coming in at a surprising No.1 position was Iowa, with its across-the-board consistency on all parameters. Despite its high cost of living, Hawaii was the second alternative for people looking to retire in style. The Aloha state’s tropical climate offered an attractive alternative as did its record of life expectancy at age 65, which is longer in Hawaii than in any other state.

With its maximum number of clear weather days, Arizona was ranked third on the list especially for people who valued sunshine. On the downside though, it wouldn’t be ideal for those looking at security. With some of the highest incidents of property crime, Arizona is one of the worst states as far as home security is concerned, the study found.

It’s no surprise that Florida found a place among the top 5 states in these rankings. At No. 4, Florida has been associated with retirement for a long time, with the highest portion of residents aged 65 or older. However, despite its favorable climate conditions, the study found that like Arizona, Florida too had a high incidence of both property and violent crime—fifth-highest across the U.S. to be precise.

At No.5 Maine trailed Florida only in the proportion of its population that is aged 65 or older. But unlike Florida, Maine is one of the safest states in the country with the second-lowest rate of violent crime.

While Idaho, Vermont, and New Hampshire came in at sixth, seventh, and eighth rank respectively, Kansas and Virginia tied for the ninth spot in these rankings.

What Does The 2018 Housing Market Look Like?

Oftentimes, it’s difficult to predict the . In the last decade alone, we’ve seen a market crash and slow rebound.

However, while some experts are focused on yet another housing bubble, real estate has been on the rise. In October, sales of new U.S. single-family homes hit their highest level in 10 years across the country.

What’s the market forecast for next year? Industry insiders and top experts have similar predictions.

As a future or current homeowner, it’s important to stay on top of the changes in real estate. Read on to learn what the 2018 housing market has in store.

Inventory Shortages

New home sales may be on the rise, but the number of available is on the decline.

Low home inventory has made home prices more expensive in recent years. This trend will continue in 2018, making it more difficult for first-time and budget-focused buyers to enter the market.

There are 12 percent fewer homes on the market than there were a year ago. If this trend continues, homebuyers will be faced with stiffer competition and higher prices. This will make the demand for home purchase loans even greater.

What’s contributing to this low inventory? There are several theories.

Rising housing costs have added emphasis to high-end construction. More expensive homes are being built, which is making it more difficult to find affordable homes.

Homeowners might also be less likely to sell their homes than they were pre-crash. Despite it being a seller’s market, they aren’t looking to enter the market. They’d rather stay locked into their current mortgage.

Whatever the reason, the inventory shortage is expected to continue. Low inventory and high prices will force new homebuyers to get creative if they want to find an affordable home.

Housing Market Opportunities

Certain demographics have seen an abundance of housing opportunities. They can expect these opportunities to be even greater in 2018.

One such demographic is sellers of mid-priced single-family homes. These are some of the most in-demand homes across the nation.

Developers and sellers can make big money on this valuable sector of the market. More millennials are seeking to buy starter homes while baby boomers are scaling back.

The housing shortage isn’t all bad for buyers. Experts are predicting that housing prices will slow down in the coming year.

Forecasts show that the average U.S. house price growth will be 4.9 percent in 2018, which is lower than the 6.6 percent growth seen in the second quarter of 2017.

Prices might be curbed thanks to mortgage rates. A moderate increase in mortgage rates should help decrease refinancing activities.

You can still expect higher growth in big markets such as Seattle and San Francisco. Yet good mortgage rates, limited refinancing, and market stability will still help buyers in 2018.

Your Next Move

Predictions show low-inventory, high-prices, and market stability in 2018.

You don’t have to wait until these predictions come to fruition. Contact us now to learn more about buying your dream home. We offer free loan advice with no cost or obligation.

Orlando voted the No. 1 spring break destination


Good morning, !

Orlando roadways and area attractions are going to get a whole lot busier next month because we have  been named the No. 1 spring break destination for 2018, AAA reports.

Three cities are among AAA’s 10 Most Popular Destinations for the month of March, based on air and tour bookings made with the travel agency. Besides Orlando, Fort Lauderdale came in at No. 2, while Miami is No. 8. Other popular destinations include Honolulu, Cancun, Maui and Montego Bay.

A recent Consumer Pulse survey of Floridians who are planning a vacation in 2018 revealed that:

  • 55% of Florida travelers will take a spring break vacation of three days or more.
  • 43% will travel with family.
  • 12% will travel with friends.
  • 80% of Florida millennials will take a spring break vacation of three days or more.
  • 61% of millennials will travel with family.
  • 19% will travel with their friends.

Church Street Plaza hotel developer shares latest plans





The new hotel component inside Lincoln Property Co.’s $100 million Church Street Plaza tower is starting to determine how it will look.

That’s according to Scott Webb, president of Kolter Hospitality, which will own and operate the 180-room AC Marriott hotel in the tower. “We have appointed the design team and started working with Marriott on the perfect design,” he told  Journal. The team includes Hunton Brady Architects, TLC Engineering for Architecture, Baskervill and Technology Research & Consulting — all from the Orlando area.

The 601,225-square-foot tower, which broke ground last August, will feature not only the AC Marriott hotel, but also 217,000 square feet of Class A office space, 7,500 square feet of ground-level retail, an integrated parking garage and a Grand Central Station-like lobby that eventually will connect to a relocated SunRail commuter rail station.

of the hotel won’t kick off until June 2019 after the tower gets its certificate of occupancy, which will allow Kolter’s teams to get inside and start work, said Webb. The company may seek contractor bids as early as the beginning of 2019, based on industry standards.


The new hotel is expected to open just before summer 2020 with a slew of amenities that should appeal to both leisure and business travelers. The hotel will offer meeting space, a gym, food services and an exterior bar on the 19th floor overlooking the city, Webb added.

The downtown Orlando market is still prime for more hotel growth, according to a study from CBRE Group Inc. That submarket is home to more than 7,000 hotel rooms and a 73 percent occupancy that has room for more inventory.

That’s good news for investors interested in the market and looking to potentially expand their footprint — something Kolter Hospitality hasn’t overlooked. “We are very committed to the Orlando market and we continue to look to expand there as opportunities present themselves through both acquisition of existing assets and development,” said Webb.

Here’s how Orlando-area home prices, sales did in January





Orlando’s median home price increased in January year over year, while sales held steady with a 0.5 percent uptick compared to January 2017, a new report from the Orlando Regional Realtor Association shows.

The overall median price of Orlando homes sold in January was $225,000, a 12.6 percent increase above the January 2017 median price of $199,900 and 2.2 percent below the December 2017 median price of $230,000.

In addition, 2,225 sales of all home types were recorded in January, 0.5 percent more than the 2,213 sales in January 2017. However, sales declined by 26.9 percent when compared to last month.

“The nearly 27 percent drop between December and January is a decline that historically follows a big push to close in December as buyers seek to take advantage of homeownership tax benefits,” said ORRA President Lou Nimkoff. “While low inventory conditions remain a significant challenge, Realtors anticipate an improvement in month-to-month sales. In fact, the January pending sales tally increased by more than 1,000 compared to December 2017, making it the greatest month-to-month increase since ORRA began tracking pendings in 2006.”

Meanwhile, the overall inventory of homes that were available in January — 7,604 — represents a decrease of 11.1 percent when compared to the year-ago period and a 1.3 percent decrease compared to last month.

Current inventory combined with the current pace of sales created a 3.42-month supply of homes in Orlando for January. There was a 3.86-month supply in January 2017 and a 2.47-month supply last month.

UCF-area lands Orlando’s first booze-serving Taco Bell Cantina


In the spirit of the weekend getting started, have you ever had a hankering for a craft beer to go with your Cheesy Gordita Crunch? Well, you’re in luck because a new millennial-focused, booze-serving Taco Bell Cantina will debut across the street from the University of Central Florida’s main entrance.

The fast-casual concept, a first for Central Florida and second statewide, will take up 2,846 square feet at the $100 million Plaza on University complex, a building that blends student housing units with ground-level shops and eateries on the northwest corner of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail in east Orlando. JLL’s Brandon Delanois represented the landlord in the lease deal.

Taco Bell Cantina, which only has a handful of locations — including one near the University of Florida in Gainesville — features a more hip, urban-style decor than a typical drive-thru Taco Bell, like polished wood and exposed brick. It offers tapas-style menu items, USB ports, and serves beer, wine and sangria, as well as the option to get Taco Bell’s frozen drinks spiked with rum, tequila and vodka.

“Taco Bell Cantina is a great example of a brand evolving to cater to today’s millennial tastes and preferences,” said Delanois, JLL associate of retail brokerage, in a prepared statement.

No word yet on when the new restaurant will open, but check out these photos of a Taco Bell Cantina from our sister paper in Cincinnati.

3 medical marijuana dispensaries to open in Osceola County


Three medical marijuana dispensaries are headed to County even as the county had placed a moratorium on dispensaries.

On Feb. 19, Osceola County Commissioners approved a settlement with one of Colorado’s largest marijuana dispensary chains, The Green Solution, that grants them three certificates to open the dispensaries. In return, the company agreed to take no legal action against the county. The Green Solution asserted it had a “vested right in the issue” because it was poised to receive the certificates prior to the county’s moratorium, according to an Osceola County news release.

Previously, the commissioners enacted a temporary moratorium to consider changes in state law. The changes to state law essentially preempted the county ordinance and certification process and limited the county’s powers to banning dispensaries or allowing an unlimited number in the county.

 “This is an equitable solution to this matter and it gives us, as the local jurisdiction, the power to prevent an out-of-control proliferation of these facilities,” said Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins in a prepared statement. “When voters approved Amendment 2, I don’t think they wanted dispensaries on every street corner in the community. This agreement and our ban cements this intent while allowing those who need this service the ability to access it.”

In a separate action, the county voted to ban any other new facilities in unincorporated parts of the county.

The Green Solution didn’t specify exactly where the locations would be, but told Orlando Business Journal via email that it’s currently identifying possible locations for the dispensaries and working with the county to obtain required permits.

The company intends to open dispensaries as soon as possible to begin servicing patients.

Currently, the number of total centers in the state is capped at 25 until 2020.

The Green Solution has 15 Colorado locations and offers cannabis-infused products from sugar scrub to lip balm, lotions and edibles like truffles and sodas.