Florida’s largest utility made a massive, record-breaking land buy this year in Osceola County while the nation’s second largest homebuilder was busy scooping up property all over Lake County in what ultimately ended as a banner year for land sales.
Florida Power & Light Company paid $212 million on Nov. 10 for the 40,000-acre El Maximo Ranch in south Osceola County’s Kissimmee River Valley. The utility company has not confirmed the future use for the property, but it’s expected to house a solar farm. And it’s large enough to accommodate the largest solar array in the U.S.
The ranch, which stretches from S.R. 60 to the Osceola-Okeechobee county line, was once part of a 150,000-acre cattle operation run by the iconic Florida rancher Latt Maxcy. The land was sold over two transactions in 2018 to the Investment Corporation of Dubai in 2018 for $144.4 million and was operated by its subsidiary, Generation Farms. The previous owners kept the “El Maximo” name to honor the history of the ranch that had been run by the same family for four generations and added new crops such as potato, broccoli, tomato and watermelon while also planning for the possibility of a solar farm on the property.
The sale to FPL comprised 88 individual parcels and represented a $67.6 million appreciation over the five years between sales.
FPL has opened 10 new solar centers so far this year, including this one in Miami-Dade County. (Image courtesy of FPL)
The second-largest land buy of the year took place in Orlando’s I-Drive tourism corridor, where Intram Investments acquired 460 acres between World Center Drive and S.R. 417 with plans to deliver a mix of retail, multifamily, and entertainment options in the shadow of Disney theme parks.
The company paid $96 million for the property on Jan. 5 for the land, which sits within the World Gateway Center PD and had been owned for decades by long-time developer George C. Barley, who died in a 1995 plane crash. The vast property touches I-4 to the west, World Center Drive to the north (stretching across both sides of I-Drive), S.R. 535 to the east, and S.R. 417 to the south.
Of the total tract, 138 acres are developable, said Randy Hodge, Intram’s executive vice president. “Intram has had its eyes on the property for a long time,” he told GrowthSpotter. “The property is just so well-located—in the middle of everything, and there isn’t a parcel of this size remaining in the tourist district.”
An estimated $400 million project, the seven-story Fairmont Orlando is expected to open in 2025 with 550 rooms. (Smallwood)
Intram filed plans in July for a Marriott-branded resort community with a mix of timeshares, condos, and hotel rooms rising as tall as 400 feet. The developer also has sought to convert some hotel entitlements to multifamily to build up to 900 apartments on 33 acres within the PD.
Right across the street, an affiliate of DEVEN Development Venture Group paid $16 million in May for 30 acres that will be home to Orlando’s first Fairmont Hotel. The seven-story hotel is expected to open in early 2025 with 550 guestrooms, including 90 suites, 12 unique villas, and 87 Fairmont Gold rooms. The 5-star hotel will have a full spa and signature restaurant. This deal didn’t make the year’s top 10, but it was the most expensive land sale for a future hotel.
Top 10 land sales of 2023
Source: Laura Kinsler GrowthSpotter.com