Old Navy facility in disrepair owned by Orange County Public Schools

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Neighbors living on South Summerlin Avenue say an old Navy facility has been sitting in disrepair for years.


It was once a sonar laboratory after World War II. Before that, the land was the site of Fort Gatlin, a U.S. Army fort, where historians say the city of Orlando was founded.

But now, the site is described by neighbors as an “eyesore.” 9 Investigates found that property is owned by Orange County Public Schools. We found other government-owned properties around the county in disrepair.

A three-story building sits vacant on the lot with paint peeling and windows boarded up.

“it’s just been sitting here and sitting here,” said John Huebner, who lives across from the building.

Neighbors describe it as magnet for crime. It’s been a hub for illegal dumping.

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9 Investigates found Monday the doors were unlocked, and some were propped wide-open.

“Anybody can walk in. Anybody can be in there,” said Cheryl Kennedy, a concerned neighbor. “We have young children! So, it’s kind of it’s kind of a safety issue at this point.”

So, who owns the property? 9 Investigates found this property is owned by Orange County School Board. The U.S. Department of Defense gifted it to the school district in 2010.

When asked why the property has fallen in disrepair and what the district is doing to maintain the property, Orange County Public Schools said in a statement, the property is “unfortunately unusable by the school district. We have been working with several partners to find new use for the property, including city and county governments and the Department of Education.”

Monday, 9 Investigates could see the lights were still on throughout each floor of the building. Neighbors says they see the property lit up every night.

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“You have tons and tons of lights that somebody’s paying for. And it’s the citizens of Orange County was paying for it obviously!” Huebner said. “It’s sickening. It really is. It’s just crazy. Just such a waste of taxpayer money.”

Huebner not only lives next to dilapidated government-owned property. He used to work next to one.

For the past 30 years, he’s owned his real estate brokerage company located off Semoran Boulevard.

Next door, a commercial lot is in disrepair with paint peeling. The roof was caving in at one point.

“The roof was deteriorating to such a point where water was actually intruding inside the building,” Huebner said. “It’s an eyesore. What it’s doing, it’s bringing the value of my property down.”

Huebner blames Orange County’s lack of maintenance for the condition of the building.

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The Board of County Commissioners sold this property for $600,000 last year after buying it in 2017 for a little over $1 million. The county took over a $400,000 loss.

“It’s sickening. It really is,” Huebner said.

Huebner questions if the county or school district had plans for the properties when it acquired the properties.

“Every single building out there that’s owned by the county needs to have some kind of plan to it, this makes sense,” Huebner said.

Orange County Government did not respond to our questions.

Orange County Public Schools said in a statement in part, “OCPS puts extremely high value on being the best neighbor possible to the communities we are in and regularly inspects the Fort Gatlin property. Any maintenance needs found during these inspections, along with concerns presented by the local community, are collected by our maintenance department and acted on accordingly in the most expedient and cost-effective manner possible.”

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