NewsCity Center West Orange was approved for more than 172,000 square feet of shops and restaurants. SCOTT + CORMIA ARCHITECTURE & INTERIORS LLC

By Steven Ryzewski

A lawsuit regarding a contract dispute related to the $1 billion-plus City Center West Orange mixed-use project in Ocoee was settled after two years in court and just before its jury trial was to begin.

On Sept. 20, less than 24 hours after a jury had been selected, attorneys for plaintiff Tom Nelson, of Premier Nelson Group Inc., and defendant David Townsend — developer of City Center West Orange — informed Ninth Judicial Circuit Court Judge John E. Jordan that the parties had reached a settlement, and the case was closed, Orange County Clerk of Court records showed.

Nelson initially had filed suit on Sept. 11, 2020, alleging that Townsend and his related City Center West Orange LLC and CCW Development Management LLC had breached a contract for Nelson’s services in arranging financing, and that Nelson was owed $5.5 million, court documents showed. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Nelson declined to comment on the settlement through his attorneys, John Zielinski and Richard Smith of NeJame Law.

Townsend also declined to comment on the lawsuit’s closure. He was represented in the case by Howard Marks and Sheena Thakrar of Burr & Forman LLP. Requests for comment by Marks and Thakrar were not returned by press time.

However, Townsend did offer an update on the project. The first phase broke ground in January 2017, but has since mostly only done site work, Townsend told Orlando Business Journal. “Right now we are waiting for a price decrease in concrete and steel, which are projected in the next six months, and then we will resume.”

Two buildings are being revised to create smaller apartment units, given the current market dynamics with rent growth, to keep the apartment homes affordable, he added. The entire project is being re-bid, and interested general contractors can contact Townsend at

The 60-acre development on West Colonial Drive and Bluford Avenue will feature 450 apartments, 200,000 square feet of retail, 35,000 square feet of office space, a hotel and a 1,900-car parking garage in Phase 1, Townsend previously told OBJ. A later phase will add more than 1,000 multifamily, condos and 55-plus units.

That said, the project’s long road to ramp-up has some questioning its viability, considering its large scale. In fact, it may have missed its window for success, given the unprecedented wave of projects that entered the pipeline in the last couple of years and the possibility of an economic slowdown, according to Angel de la Portilla, president and owner of government consulting firm Central Florida Strategies Inc., a former Ocoee commissioner who advises the city as a consultant.

“It has been a bit frustrating given the length of time that’s been involved with this project. I am concerned they may have missed the market, given the delays.”

De la Portilla also noted the unique zoning the project was approved for, which includes permissions for short-term rentals. “The developer has not been able to capitalize on that.”

The project would rise within the West Orlando multifamily submarket, which CoStar Group data shows as having 526 apartments under construction in addition to 890 delivered within the trailing 12 months.

The average asking rent is $1,625 per unit and average vacancy is 6.4%. Those metrics compare to those of metro Orlando, which has an average asking rent of $1,810 per unit and average vacancy of 5.6%.

Source: Orlando Business Journal

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