Rendering of Lake Nona Town Center

Google helps develop a retail-oriented town center

December 4th, 2017

By Ben Johnson | Contributor, Shopping Centers Today

Tavistock Development Co. is working with Google’s Intersection division to create one of the most techno-centric retail centers in the U.S. — at Lake Nona, an 11,000-acre mixed-use community in Orlando, Fla. Locally based Tavistock has owned the 17 square miles for the Lake Nona project since 1996 and has been ramping up its development for the past 10 years. Today the developer sells about 500 homes per year in this community of roughly 13,000 residents. The project is adjacent to the south entrance of Orlando International Airport, which sees some 44 million passengers per year.

Tavistock has already completed about 10 million square feet of office, medical, research, residential, university, hospitality and other sorts of commercial space and is now focused on the centerpiece: Lake Nona Town Center. The $70 million first phase of the open-air lifestyle and entertainment center was completed in January 2016. It encompasses 85,000 square feet of class-A office space, a dual-branded Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott hotel, 16,000 square feet of fully leased retail and restaurant space and a multilevel parking structure.

For the next phase, now under construction, Tavistock is teaming up with Columbus, Ohio–based Steiner & Associates. The plans call for about 1.2 million square feet of mixed-use development, some 200 hotel rooms and 3,200 parking spaces, to be completed over the next 18 to 24 months.

Tavistock and Steiner are in negotiations with several luxury theaters and finalizing plans for a brewery, comedy club and live-performance venue, a bowling concept and several restaurants and retailers. Plans also call for about 80 specialty retailers and big-box users and restaurants at Lake Nona Town Center.

Tavistock’s development plans focused on technology in 2012, too, when the firm joined Cisco to create the first community in the U.S. to be designated a “Cisco Smart & Connected City.” “Every resident in our community has a gigabit in and out of their home, which is quite unique,” said Robert Thompson, Tavistock’s vice president of marketing. The Lake Nona Town Center build-out takes that technology to another level. “We realized that retail is changing very quickly, changing daily, and so we knew that we needed to stretch the limits on our thinking in terms of what type of technology or digital platform would be the future,” Thompson said.

“Retail is changing very quickly, changing daily, and so we knew that we needed to stretch the limits on our thinking in terms of what type of technology or digital platform would be the future”

Intersection is forging a digital master plan for the infrastructure build-out; it also seeks ways to use that infrastructure to help retailers create an innovative in-store experience bridging the physical and the digital, Thompson says. Conversations with prospective retailers are well under way, and Tavistock and Google representatives plan to devote an entire day at the ICSC New York Deal Making conference in December for meeting with retailers.

“It is really neat, because I don’t think traditionally a lot of these retailers have been able to have those kinds of conversations with landlords, quite frankly, and so I think they have been surprised,” Thompson said. “Once they hear a few of the ideas, I think they realize we are for real.”

The word is spreading. “The retail world is a very small world, and our leasing agents are starting to get questions now from more retailers,” said Thompson. “They would love to have the opportunity to chat too.”

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