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ORLANDO-After pledging to underwrite $100 million of infrastructure costs at the planned $1.1 billion, hotel-retail-convention center World Expo venture, Osceola County commissioners have killed the project after developer Rob Miller missed his Oct. 29 deadline to come up with a private financial backer.

Miller had six months to find the money. The location is 20 miles south of Downtown Orlando.

The county now plans to build its own $35 million, 140,000-sf convention center and is expected to issue bids before the end of year, county staffers tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. Legally, Miller could bid on that project, too, staffers tell GlobeSt.com.

Miller couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline for comment on his future plans. He has previously not denied having $70 million of his own money committed to the World Expo vision.

He also hasn’t denied having a $40 million personal mortgage on the project. Miller is a former car dealer who made his money in South Florida developing shopping centers for Kmart Corp.

But the one element of the four-year planned project he has never been able to assemble is the financing. In April of this year, he cut a deal with Osceola County that could have made him a billionaire if the World Expo enterprise succeeded, brokers familiar with the deal’s timeline tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

He convinced the county into setting up a special taxing district that would have issued bonds to pay for an estimated $100 million worth of roads at World Expo located at Osceola Parkway near State Road 535, the back road to Walt Disney World.

The bonds would have been repaid by Miller from special property taxes assessed on hotels and retail after they were built and operating. Under the deal, if Miller didn’t pay the taxes, the county would seize the developers’ prime land, estimated at 500 acres and valued at $100 million or $200,000 per acre ($4.60 per sf).

But Miller also had a plum in the deal. He would have received up to $62 million back over an unspecified period of time from tourist taxes generated by the project after it was operating.

Miller had counted on the first phase of the 10-year undertaking breaking ground by December of this year. It would have comprised a 1.2 million-sf World Expo Center; a 1,200-room Hyatt hotel; and a 142,000-sf Osceola County Convention Center.

The final phase would have entailed 1.2 million sf office; 1.1 million sf of retail; 900 timeshare units; expanding the World Expo Center to 3.6 million sf; and increasing the hotel room count to 9,000.

Local Osceola County government insiders tell GlobeSt.com the project has been controversial and doubtful from the beginning because it never had the firm financing local governments like to see in a venture where taxpayer funds may have to be used, even temporarily.

The State Attorney’s office for Orange and Osceola counties unsuccessfully sued the county to block the project, alleging Osceola County commissioners were pledging taxpayers’ money to finance a private enterprise.

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