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Real estate investor wants to transform Orlando’s Milk District – Orlando News Now

Jackie: Kayla, the Milk District in Orlando is going to look a lot different now. They’re going to be tearing down dozens of homes? Why is that?

Kayla: Yeah, exactly, Jackie. Like you said, the Milk District could soon see a makeover and I have Mary to talk about it. So, this one investor is coming in to revitalize the area.

Mary: That’s exactly right and we can see a video clip of him in just a second. When you see it, he will kind of explain a little bit about what drew him there. And pay attention to the background and you’ll see the silos that were part of the TG Lee dairy property that was the namesake of the Milk District

Adam: The Milk District has been here for a long time. It’s a young, fun, hip neighborhood. The rental market here is very strong and the opportunity to redevelop the area is strong as well.

Kayla: That was Adam Wonus and he’s only 33 years old and he’s got some big plans. So what is his idea?

Mary: Well, I’ll tell you, there are a lot of people out there with his idea, which is to buy rundown housing at a deal and either renovate it or tear it down and build new. The difference between him and some of the others is that he has a background in banking at Wells Fargo and he’s managed to draw millions of investor dollars. He’s targeted this area and when he moved here, he lived in the Milk District for a little while. He sees it as the next Thornton Park in 7 years. That’s his hope.

Kayla: So, make it a little trendy for the 20-something’s that are coming in to live and looking for temporary housing, not a settled-down area.

Mary: Right, young professionals, people in their 20’s, people that don’t want rent as high as downtown, people who want firepits in the backyard, and a place for their pets. Still, you’re two miles from downtown so pretty close.

Kayla: Different lifestyle, you’re not in the highrises, so you have your own space. So, instead of re-doing some of these older houses because some of them are from the 1940’s, they are going to knock them down and start fresh.

Mary: And he’s already started doing this. He has 50 to 60 properties right now. And if you go through this area, it’s between the municipal airport and Bumby. You can see the townhomes coming up. It seems like every block or two there’s bulldozers, no properties coming out. It’s changing pretty quickly.

Kayla: What do the neighbors that have these older houses think? What’s the general consensus among them?
Mary: When I asked Adam that, he said these are mostly older renters, which is true, but there are also people who have lived there for a long time, 30 to 40 years and they own their home. They don’t really like the idea of having a 2-story house looking down on them. They realize that some of the housing is pretty dilapidated there, but they like the feeling of the neighborhood as it is and they like their privacy.

Kayla: So, Thornton Park, going back to that comparison. A similar situation is happening where the houses were kind of old and developers came in and built around it, and now there are cute shops and restaurants. Do you foresee that happening in the Milk District?

Mary: Well, Adam certainly does. He reached out to one of the developers, Craig Ustler, who was largely responsible for the remake of Thornton Park. So, he’s getting some guidance from people who’ve been there, so that does increase the chances that that would happen.

Kayla: And Adam is slowing becoming the biggest landlord in the area so he has a lot of responsibility for what happens in the Milk District.

Mary: Yes, that’s his vision and his brand to remake that.

Kayla: Interesting. Jackie, I don’t know if you hang out there, but I go there fairly often to grab a bite to eat or go to a bar down there so we could see some big changes too.

Jackie: Yes, I used to run down there all the time living in downtown Orlando. I am curious, you were talking about some flak from people, have you had any comments like, “why, we want to keep it historic” or “leave it as-is”?

Mary: Yes, I talked to a woman. She was a nurse and she and her husband bought that property back when the Orlando Naval Training Center was where Baldwin Park is now. She had created this butterfly garden in her front yard and I asked her what she thought about what was happening. She gave a heavy sigh and said that it was probably time to organize a little bit and have a greater voice about what happens there.

Jackie: This might actually bring in more business owners. You know, you’re attracting the young folks and getting more foot-traffic for the business owners wanting to open shops there in the Milk District.

Mary: Yes, that is the audience that a lot of these retailers like, double-income, no kids, so they see people with some liquid assets there. There’s little bars, little restaurants, a bike shop. You know, there’s one other developer besides Adam in the Milk District, and he called it a “fringe” district and those can quickly turn into a “trendy” district.

Jackie: Yes, so we’ll definitely have to keep an eye open to see how the Milk District will transform.

Kayla: Thanks for watching this clip from Orlando News Now. You can watch us every weekday at noon at OrlandoSentinel.com.