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ORLANDO-Is Columbus, OH-based Pizzuti Cos. Inc. pulling out of Orlando after a 16-year stay? Published balloons sent up in the past 90 days appear to point that way.

Ronald A. Pizzuti, chairman/founder, Pizzuti Cos., couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to comment on growing speculation that at least three national developers are inquiring about his vacant Downtown 5.64-acre pad across the from the $200 million, 25-story Orange County Courthouse.

Brokers intimate with the Downtown office submarket tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity that Colonial Properties Trust Inc. of Birmingham, AL; Jones Lang LaSalle of Chicago; and Lincoln Property Co. of Dallas have chatted with Pizzuti on the sale of his trophy Downtown dirt and his eight-building, 996,000-sf Heathrow International Business Center and 92 adjoining acres in suburban Heathrow, FL, 25 miles north of Downtown Orlando.

GlobeSt.com couldn’t reach any of the principals at the three firms at publication deadline. Pizzuti has confirmed in published reports over the last three months that his two prime properties are for sale but he hasn’t disclosed names of potential buyers or the properties’ potential current market value.

In a Feb. 27 phone interview, Pizzuti told GlobeSt.com he wasn’t abandoning Orlando but is looking at other Florida markets, specifically Jacksonville, as a base for his growing industrial inventory.

But with the sale of the Heathrow and Downtown assets, Pizzuti is left with a scaled-down Central Florida portfolio of small retail and industrial properties that could be sold off easily if the developer chose to relocate to other Florida markets at this time, area brokers who have previously worked for Pizzuti tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

Pizzuti’s Downtown 5.64 acres have been undeveloped since 1995 when he paid Louisville, KY horse breeder William M. duPont $14.2 million or $1.31 million per acre ($30.10 per sf) for a 14.2-acre tract that was supposed to be part of a three-building, one million-sf office complex.

Pizzuti, a staunch civic booster, sold 5.19 acres of his 14.2-acre property, to the city of Orlando for about what he paid for the dirt–$7.23 million or $1.39 million per acre ($32 per sf). The city’s Lynx transportation system has been planning a central Downtown hub for the land for the past six years.

Based on recorded Downtown land prices of 1999, Pizzuti’s 5.64-acre pad could bring $2 million per acre or $45.9 per sf, brokers following the central business district’s dirt-price trail over the years, tell GlobeSt.com. That would give Pizzuti an estimated $11.28 million for the land.

The last large Downtown parcel was recorded in 1999 when Orlando Sentinel Communications Inc. paid locally based Vanguard south Partners and Orlando broker Robert P. Hold, acting as trustee, $1.72 million per acre ($40 per sf) for the $3 million purchase of a 1.74-acre parcel in the 1,000 block on the east side of north Orange Avenue near the Orlando Sentinel building at 633 N. Orange Ave.

Longwood, FL developer Jay Royall is negotiating with Sentinel Communications to buy the dirt for a planned 276-unit apartment building with 17,770 sf of ground-floor retail. The price wasn’t disclosed.

But Downtown brokers following that deal tell GlobeSt.com the estimated contracted price is in the $3.4 million neighborhood or $1.96 million per acre ($45 per sf). Joyall couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline.

In Heathrow, independent area commercial appraisers tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity the entire eight office buildings and 92 acres will go for at least $227 million. They base their ballpark assessment on the estimated replacement cost of the eight buildings at $200 per sf or about $199 million.

The appraisers estimate the 92 acres could bring $300,000 per acre or about $6.89 per sf. Pizzuti paid Chemical bank of New York $7.5 million or $21,429 per acre (49 cents per sf) for the land in 1994. Greenwich Group International LLC of Greenwich, CT is marketing the Heathrow portfolio.

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