$30M Restaurant Row Proposal Changed by Charles Whittall, Unicorp After Locals Protest

One of Orlando’s busiest developers changed a $30 million commercial project in response to Dr. Phillip’s homeowners’ complaints.

After a community meeting last month, Unicorp National Developments Inc. President Chuck Whittall told Orlando Business Journal that two major changes have been made to the redevelopment of his bank property at 7625 W. Sand Lake Road in Orlando’s Restaurant Row.

He stated one level of structured parking was eliminated from the designs to decrease the project’s height in response to criticism. Whittall stated that the adjustment may eliminate the need for the height limit waiver while addressing those concerns.

He claimed the project’s architecture, which was initially modern, had become Italian.

“I’m a resident [in the Dr. Phillips area] and the concerns of the neighbors weigh deeply on us,” said Whittall. “We’ve made changes to the project to accommodate the voices of the community.”

Apopka-based Finfrock, whom Whittall previously said was in discussions to be the project’s general contractor, created a depiction for OBJ that reflects the revisions.

Whittall said the amended designs may lower the project’s construction cost to $25 million or $27 million, but his total expenses, including the 2002 property acquisition, will be $40 million.

He stated the project’s target of three to four high-end restaurants with new-to-market ideas continues. “We’re talking to a high-end Mediterranean restaurant and we’re also talking to a famous chef about a concept.”

Whittall noted that many residents are already dissatisfied with New York-based Kimco Realty Corp.’s plans to redevelop part of the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, Unicorp’s bank property’s 35-acre out parcel, with hundreds of apartments.

“I think they kind of stirred up the hornets’ nest if you will – the neighbors really don’t want apartments there, and I believe Kimco probably is going to move forward under the Live Local Act.”

The next phases include Orange County’s development review committee, planning and zoning, and county commission, depending on how Unicorp’s changes influence the Restaurant Row project’s waiver and rezoning needs. A date is not disclosed.

After WalletHub named Orlando the top gastronomic city in America, industry insiders say initiatives like Unicorp’s on Restaurant Row are crucial for the city’s eating scene.

OBJ quoted Colliers senior vice president Alexie Fonseca, who is not engaged with the plans but works for Unicorp, as saying “If we want to continue to elevate our dining scene, it starts with Restaurant Row and Winter Park.”

“It takes a visionary like Chuck to redevelop a site like that,” said Fonseca. “I’ve worked with many developers, but Chuck and Unicorp stand out because of his global travels, where he receives amazing ideas and inspiration.

“If these higher-end concepts are going to come to Orlando, then the development has to be something very elevated.”

Central Florida restaurants have been busy.

Recent Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation data shows that Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia counties granted 1,105 food licenses to various establishments and operations in fiscal 2022-23, up 11.1% from 994 in 2017-18.

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