ORLANDO-RMC Property Group Inc., a Tampa, FL-based shopping center developer whose principals have been in the business for 32 years, will be attempting a Downtown feat that has frustrated a half dozen other developers in the past decade–bringing a full-service supermarket to Downtown.

Downtown has had no movie theater, major department store or supermarket for the past 20 years, even though an estimated 35,000 people go in and out of Downtown daily to their jobs, according to Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce.

Headed by CEO Mitchell F. Rice, RMC has filed preliminary development plans with the city for a 303-unit, 16-story condominium complex that will have 38,000 sf of retail, 3,100 sf of office space and inside condominium parking for 625 vehicles.

The project requires a rezoning approval and couldn’t be completed before 2006, even with all the paperwork in place, city hall staffers tell GlobeSt.com. “I don’t know them personally but I do know of their reputation and track record, and if anyone can succeed with a major grocery store development Downtown, it will be this group,” Dean Fritchen, a senior associate in the Winter Park, FL office of Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT, tells GlobeSt.com.

Local construction industry sources tell GlobeSt.com the condos probably can’t be built for less than $200,000 per unit and the retail may be as much as $75 per sf. That would bring the estimated hard construction cost to about $75 million.

The undertaking would be developed on a tight 1.95-acre site in the historic Thornton Park historic district. The block is bounded by Central Boulevard on the north, Pine Street on the south, Lake Avenue on west and Osceola Avenue on the east.

Publix Supermarkets Inc. is rumored to be the grocery anchor for the retail component of the project. Area brokers tell GlobeSt.com they are banking on that speculation because RMC has developed or redeveloped more than 17 Publix-anchored shopping centers in the two years since it merged with Tampa-based FOG Development Inc. Rice, a former New York Stock Exchange broker, co-founded FOG in 1993.

The last major supermarket Downtown was a store operated by Jacksonville, FL-based Winn-Dixie Inc. Winn-Dixie pulled out in the 1980s after its customer base dwindled, area brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

The nearest grocery to Downtown residents is a 30,000-sf Publix located on East Colonial Drive, about three miles from the central business district. A larger Winn-Dixie, about 40,000 sf, is located about three miles east of the Publix store. An Albertsons store also services Downtown residents from its Michigan Street and Orange Avenue location, about six miles from the CBD.

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