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ORLANDO-Vivendi Universal has abandoned plans for a third theme park here with the sale of its last large land holding, 1,800 acres, to shopping center developer Stan Thomas of Smyrna, GA-based Thomas Enterprises, for $70 million, area industrial real estate brokers in a position to know tell GlobeSt.com.

The 1,800 acres along Sand Lake Road near Universal Boulevard, about 12 miles from Downtown, were part of a 2,100-acre package Universal bought from Lockheed Martin Corp. in 1998 for $63 million, according to Orange County real estate records.

Officials at Universal and Thomas Enterprises couldn’t be reached by GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to learn what Thomas plans to do with the land. Brokers tell GlobeSt.com Universal’s gross profit on the 1,800 acre sale is about $16 million, based on Universal’s original $54-million cost.

Brokers intimate with Universal’s land program over the years tell GlobeSt.com the theme park operator made a wise investment in the Lockheed Martin land by selling off 230 acres to Orange County for $69 million in 1999. The county used the land to expand its four-million-sf Convention Center.

Another 70 acres were sold for $1 million per acre to Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Hotel Corp., according to county real estate records. Hyatt paid $44 million for 44 acres; Hilton, $26 million for 26 acres.

The sale of the 1,800 acres comes as Universal is battling with Orange County Property appraiser Bill Donegan on the taxable value of the land. Universal has paid about $390,000 a year in taxes on land that has been granted an agriculture or farm zoning–right in the middle of the state’s busiest tourist corridors.

Donegan has rejected the agriculture classification and has hiked Universal’s tax bill to $1.8 million, a move the theme park operator is expected to fight in state court, real estate lawyers familiar with comparable tax assessment controversies tell GlobeSt.com.

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