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Appetite for condo eateries has vanished

The restaurant industry is rough enough. It's even rougher when your primary business is real estate during a monster recession.

Steve Kodsi found out the hard way last week when he closed two restaurants he operated in the bottom of one of his downtown Orlando condominium towers called The Sanctuary.

Kodsi, president of HC Design and Development, sent out a news release Friday with an optimistic spin, saying the restaurants were "ahead of their time" and "the future is very promising." But it's hard to ignore the present.

Graze and Sanctuary Diner were trendy — Graze was named as "best small bites" for its tapas by Florida Trend — but the costs to operate them just kept rising, and that was eating into a bottom line that didn't have much room to give.

"It's a tough industry to be in — the margins are so tough," Kodsi told me. "People aren't going out to eat as much."

The closings, he said, will allow him to focus on selling units in his condo towers while he looks for tenants or buyers for the empty restaurant spaces.

At The Sanctuary, which opened in 2005 on South Eola Drive during the real-estate boom, there are just five or six of 173 units left to sell, he said.

At his nearby Star Tower, the picture is a lot bleaker. Only half of the 100 units in the luxury building have sold, he said.

"I have clients putting 20 to 25 percent down, and they can't get financing because it's a condo in Orange County in Florida," Kodsi said. "I hope these next couple of months we'll have some closings."

One thing that may help, he said, are recent assessments by Property Appraiser Bill Donegan.

Donegan released figures last week that showed condos dropped 33 percent in value. The silver lining there is that taxes will drop for some buyers, possibly making the units more appealing.

Kodsi also has a hand in a new condo building along with his father, homebuilder Albert Kodsi, called Fairview Grande. It's the first of three buildings planned to overlook Lake Fairview off U.S. Highway 441. The building is to receive its certificate of occupancy soon, he said, but sales are slow.

"Sales have been tough everywhere," he said.

Magic fever boosts season-ticket salesForget three-point-shooting percentages. The Orlando Magic continues to rack up some notable off-the-court stats.

The team sold 1,300 new season tickets for next year during the month of May. That's more than half of total number sold during all of last year. Last week alone 500 new season tickets sold, bringing this year's total to 2,300 and surpassing last year's total of 2,000, said team spokesman Joel Glass.

The team's playoff streak turns out to be timed perfectly to coincide with the construction of its new $480 million arena set to open in the fall of 2010. Next year's season-ticket holders will get first dibs on seats around the new ball court.

And the team continues to capitalize on its playoff run in other ways, too. Last week it opened what it calls the "Official Magic Playoff Headquarters" shop at Altamonte Mall. It's not the first time the Magic have opened a special store — they did so last year during the playoffs at Florida Mall.

Darden CEO to speak at Williams CollegeSounds like an impressive party: John Glenn, James Taylor, Anne Garrells and Clarence Otis.

The CEO of Darden Restaurants is to give the commencement speech on Sunday at his alma mater Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.

Otis and the former astronaut, musical artist, National Public Radio foreign correspondent and Pulitzer winners Tracy Kidder and James McPherson will all receive honorary degrees.

Otis graduated magna cum laude in 1977 before heading off to law school at Stanford University.

Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers said Otis wrote his speech himself and plans to talk to the graduates about leadership and his belief that higher education is a privilege that should come with a strong desire to give back to the community.

Beth Kassab can be reached at 407-420-5448 or bkassab@orlandosentinel.com. Read her blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/thebottomline.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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