ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Here's something you don't see often in bustling Orange County: A shopping plaza being demolished near a theme park.
Some of the businesses on Walt Disney World’s doorstep are getting a big check from the state in exchange for closing up shop, and it's offering a glimpse at what FDOT has planned for I-4 after the I-4 Ultimate project is complete.
Channel 9 first reported in 2017 that the Crossroads shopping plaza on S.R. 535 just north of I-4 will be bulldozed. The Florida Department of Transportation is buying the land for a future I-4 expansion project.
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In place of the shopping plaza, FDOT plans to expand I-4 and put a retention pond on the current property. It is part of a plan to expand the I-4 express lanes, which are currently being built in Orange and Seminole counties as part of the I-4 Ultimate project. It is part of a 5.7-mile extension from Central Florida Parkway to Osceola Parkway. It is estimated to cost $1.3 billion to build, according to FDOT.
The interchange of I-4 and State Route 535 will be completely redesigned to improve the flow of traffic. According to FDOT plans, it will eliminate the need for some traffic lights in an area that is often clogged with tourists and locals trying to get on and off I-4.
Previous coverage: Man hit, killed by car while crossing SR-535 near Disney World, FHP says
The project will also reconfigure two nearby intersections on S.R. 535 at Hotel Plaza Boulevard and Vineland Road. FDOT plans for the two intersections include elevated lanes and fewer traffic signals.
Court documents obtained by Channel 9 show the state will pay out a total of more than $146 million to clear the shopping center, in a first step to rebuild the area.
Based on those documents, the restaurant Johnnie’s Hideaway will likely receive the highest payment at $6.5 million. Goodings supermarket is estimated to receive $2.2 million. However, documents show the Pirates Cove Golf Course and the popular Uno Pizzeria will receive nothing.
“In [the golf course and Uno’s] settlement, they are not getting anything,” said Brendan Lynch, an attorney for Lowndes Law, which represents some of the tenants. “In the end, the lease always controls, so if the lease says you don’t get anything no matter how much you make, you get nothing.”
Part of the settlement allows the businesses to stay rent-free until August 2021., however tenants are allowed to leave before that time.
FDOT did not give Channel 9 a timetable on the construction and demolition of the property because other land deals are still being finalized in the project corridor. Construction will likely begin after August of 2021.
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