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ORLANDO-If big is better, the $1 billion, 1.1 million-sf Festival Bay retail/entertainment complex, scheduled to formally open in south Orlando at an undetermined date next year, will have the retail Oscar written all over its grand façade. Festival Bay won’t top the gross 1.3 million square footage of a competitor, The Mall of Millenia, scheduled to open in 2002, but it is preparing to emerge as the premier one-of-a-kind store destination for shoppers.

Memphis-based Belz Enterprises is the owner/developer of a venture that some industry observers say may give the conventional non-retail theme parks a run for the customer’s money.

Already signed to estimated 10-year leases with renewal options are four anchors–Bass Pro Shops-Outdoor World, 162,000 sf; Cinemark USA, 85,000 sf; Ron Jon Surf Shop, 50,000 sf; and Vans Inc., 50,000 sf. Belz principals do not disclose lease terms but seasoned retail brokers here tell GlobeSt.com they estimate the space isn’t renting for under $25 per sf. That would put the estimated value of the four leases signed to date at $87 million.

The park has 600,000 sf of conventional retail and 250,000 sf of specialty retail. The developer is banking on its own researched demographics to sell the project to tenants. Belz estimates a 53,458 population within the immediate three-mile radius of the property; 163,892 in a five-mile radius; 504,099 in a 10-mile scope; 940,099 within 15 miles; and 1.35 million individuals living 20 miles away.

Households, likewise, are projected at 20,540 within three miles; 59,434, five miles; 192,441, 10 miles; 355,463, 15 miles; and 505,688 homes within a 20-mile radius. Belz puts the estimated average household income at $54,035 in a three-mile radius; $55,992, five miles; $53,749, 10 miles; $52,612, 15 miles; and $55,026 within a 20-mile area of the park.

Located on tourist-heavy International Drive, Festival Bay expects at least 15 million visitors out of a total 40 million Orlando area tourists annually, to drive by its front door. Many visitors already shop at the one million-sf Belz Factor Outlet world and Belz Designer Outlet Centre nearby.

When Festival Bay is totally up and running next year, Belz will own the block, figuratively and physically. The developer’s 900-room Peabody Hotel already anchors the south end of five-mile International Drive. Festival Bay will anchor the north end. The retail extravaganza is situated in the middle of 25,000 hotel rooms, bounded by the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 4.

Besides Orlando, Belz has major projects under way or completed in New York, Boston, Dallas, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Greenville, SC, Jonesboro, AR and Pigeon Forge, TN.

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