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ORLANDO-It took five years, but the Saudi Arabian owner of the block-long, 2.29-acre Jaymont complex of empty storefronts in the center of Downtown has finally sold the conglomeration of desolate structures that has frustrated city planners for a decade. The transaction is by far the biggest and most intriguing deal of the year here.

A consortium of international investors led by reclusive Orlando billionaire Joseph C. Lewis paid an estimated $10 million or about $4.36 million per acre ($100 per sf) for the prime site. The transaction hasn’t been recorded at the Orange County real estate office but principals in the deal confirm the purchase but not the price.

They say a decision on the site’s highest and best use will be made over the next 12 months. The entire block, about the size of 1.25 football fields, will be razed to make room for a new enterprise, legal and real estate sources familiar with the deal tell GlobeSt.com.

A major department store is what city officials dream of to replace the former F.W. Woolworth and McCrory’s stores that anchored the property from the 1950s through the 1980s. New office structures are out since the city already has three towers totaling one million sf either operating or opening their doors within months. Multi-screen movie houses are also at the low end of the pecking order.

The block is bounded by Magnolia and Orange Avenues on the east and west, and Pine and Church Streets on the north and south.

The recorded owner of the Downtown tract will be Tavistock Allan, a limited liability partnership of Tavistock South Orange, the group’s majority owner, and FLA Developments, a Canadian team headed by Russell Allan. Lewis has investment ties to Tavistock and Allan.

For example, although Tavistock Group is the formal owner of the affluent Lake Nona Resort and Golf Course Community, Lewis has an equity interest, through family affiliations, in the asset, as he has with Isleworth, another high-end Orlando shelter property and Church Street Station, a Downtown nightclub and themed retail enterprise.

Lewis, a retired London industrialist, has never had his photo published locally and has never permitted a media interview. Rasesh Thakkur represents Tavistock Group.

The seller will be recorded as Jaymont USA Inc., a holding company controlled by Yousef Jameel, a member of a prominent Saudi Arabian investment family that bought the Downtown tract 15 years ago for an estimated $3 million or $1.3 million per acre ($30 per sf). Orlando-based Jaymont Realty represents Jameel who formerly had offices in Chicago and New York.

CNL Financial Group, Orlando’s largest commercial property owner headed by James Seneff, had the first bid in to buy the tract for a planned office tower. When the prospective lead tenant rejected the site, Seneff walked away from the table.

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