- January 11, 2023
For entrepreneurs hoping to make their small business dreams come true, West Orange County and its various communities are a popular place for a new storefront.
West Orange’s booming residential real estate market combined with demographics make the area a prime spot for businesses to call home, said InVenture Group LLC Principal Mike Bagdonas, who has been helping businesses find space for more than 20 years.
“Right now, I don’t think we’re seeing a slowdown at this point in time,” Bagdonas said. “I’m hopeful that this growth boom in Central Florida — particularly the West Orange area — continues to happen.”
From established developments to up-and-coming projects, here’s a look at different areas in West Orange County as far as retail.
Downtown Winter Garden has grown more popular for retail over the years ever since a streetscape project back in 2003, City Manager Michael Bollhoefer said.
“Now, it’s considered one of the top spots in the state for people wanting to bring retail to a small downtown,” he said.
There’s currently a six-month waiting list for many of the spaces in downtown Winter Garden, Bollhoefer said, but more space is on the way in downtown Winter Garden — the City Commission recently approved a 45,000-square-foot building with office and retail on the eastern side of City Hall.
“After that, we’re slowly but surely reaching buildout where there won’t be any more room,” Bollhoefer said.
There might be a waiting list because of the influx of interest, but Bollhoefer said that was part of the goal.
“When we were doing our redevelopment, it was to make Winter Garden the place you want to be,” Bollhoefer said. “We’ve had a whole thing about creating place and increasing that desirability and we’ve been very successful at it. I’d rather have a waiting list than a list of places that aren’t rented.”
Executive Managing Director Jorge Rodriguez, of Colliers International, said Winter Garden Village at Fowler Groves is another major destination for retail space — if you can find a vacancy.
“Winter Garden Village continues to be a monster in our market — I consider it to be the Waterford Lakes of west Orlando,” Rodriguez said. “Hardly any vacancy comes up there, and when it does, typically it’s already been leased. I have been very surprised, positively, on the amount of interest and growth that I’ve seen in the Colonial and Daniels area.”
Central Florida as a whole is a hot market, and Ocoee is no exception, Bagdonas said.
Ocoee Deputy Development Services Director Ginger Corless said the vacancy rate is extremely low in downtown Ocoee, with nearly every building being leased or occupied.
The Fifty West Redevelopment District located between State Road 429, and Clarke Road is thriving as well, with less than 2% vacancy, she said.
“The economic outlook for the Fifty West Redevelopment District is strong, stable and expanding as new development comes online, such as City Center West Orange and at Maguire (and) 50,” Corless said.
The Ocoee City Commission recently approved a project in June adding more residents and retail space. The Ocoee Village Center includes 196 townhome units, 316 apartment units, 120 hotel units and 150,000 square feet of retail.
Abbott’s Frozen Custard is one of the newest businesses to join the Hamlin plaza off New Independence Parkway, celebrating a grand opening July 21.
It was a decision made by co-owners Steve and Jennifer Pelcher, because of how close the plaza was to their home.
“Hamlin is right down the street from our house,” Jennifer said. “We live really close by in Summerlake, and with this being our first location, we wanted to be right here. We felt really strongly that we wanted to be immersed in a community that we already knew.”
Jennifer noted she and her husband had looked at locations in Winter Park and along Colonial Drive, but none of them seemed like the right fit for a first shop.
The fact that Hamlin is up-and-coming also played a major role in the decision, she said.
According to HamlinFL.com, the Horizon West population within five miles of Hamlin has doubled since 2010 and at least 50% of new home closings in Orange County happened in Horizon West between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2016.
“There’s homes being built everywhere,” Jennifer said. “It was really a no-brainer because of how many people that are moving in.
“The rent is quite honestly a little higher than other areas,” she said. “That’s understandable considering where we are and the new development. When we looked at the numbers, we knew that we could do well enough in this location to make up for the higher rent. If we were to go up on (State Road) 50, sure we’d get lower rent, however, that wasn’t the market we were aiming for with our first shop. In the long-term — looking five to 10 years down the road — we knew that we wanted to be in this development. … We’ve been busy every day since we opened, so we can’t complain.”
Rodriguez said Hamlin is one of the most desirable retail cores at the moment, because it sits in the middle of Horizon West and is protected through numerous regulations.
“The development is protected by X amount of square footage ever to be allowed or be built in those markets,” he said. “The highest concentration of commercial entitlements are really in the Hamlin core. That’s why they’re able to build as much as they’re building.
“What that does is it prevents over-saturation of commercial real estate, and it kind of protects the neighborhood to be more residential, not to be over-populated by commercial,” he said.
The area has limited space for commercial and retail because of the zoning in the area, Bagdonas said, but when the space becomes available, it doesn’t last long on the market.
That has driven the rent up to where it sits today, with $45 per square foot as a base rent, Bagdonas said.
Bagdonas said there’s always a demand for Dr. Phillips and Restaurant Row.
“There’s a constant desire from tenants that I know that are looking at Dr. Phillips as a premier location — it’s definitely (a) flagship location,” Bagdonas said.
He added the area is already well established, so redevelopment is the typical route.
Bagdonas said the average rent sits at around $45 per square foot.