You may have seen the banner hanging in front of the historic Church Street train station reading, “What would you like to see here?”
Now, we know what’s coming. Around Orlando Tours, formerly Mosquito County Tours, is moving into the property at 78 W Church St., which was most recently home to Ferg’s Depot. The tour company, which holds guided tours across Orlando, will be headquartered in the building with a 130-year history.
“Having our headquarters here in this historic train station is an advantage to us because we do historic tours of Downtown Orlando,” said Robert Soviero, chief operating officer of Around Orlando Tours. “So, in the near future we will have, say, the ‘historic Downtown Orlando tour,’ and our guests will start off their tours in this building which already has a story.”
Around Orlando Tours is calling the building The Floridabilt, and will also operate a general store and bar on the ground level, which will feature finds from thrift stores across Central Florida and a 20-tap bar featuring Florida-only beers. Soviero said they aim to open for business by the end of November.
Think Washburn Imports or White Wolf Café as an example of what to expect. Mandy Longo, the owner of Around Orlando Tours, said her love of thrifting is making shopping for the furniture of the general store/bar enjoyable. Much of the furniture and antiques in Floridabilt will be on sale, and Longo said the reason for this format was to fill a much-needed void of places to shop in Downtown Orlando.
The name Floridabilt pays homage to two other historic buildings in Orlando: the Angebilt and Wellsbilt buildings. The name also pays homage to “the two Henry’s”: Henry Plant and Henry Flagler, whose two railroad lines connected at Church Street Station.
“It was the first time it connected across the state, and those railroads are what built Florida. They’re what really brought people and goods into Florida,” Longo said. “So that train station is where the two Henry’s met. The two men who built this state. It is the Floridabilt.”
The upper floors of the building will serve as the office for Around Orlando Tours. As for the rest of the property that encapsulates Church Street Station, FBC Mortgage owns it and were the ones behind the community vote to find out what the community wanted to see.
Soviero said the results of the survey overwhelmingly showed support for a “Chelsea Market concept,” and that his goal was to see that come to fruition eventually, but with a food hall opening across the street, the future of the rest of the property is uncertain.
“I think that the owners want to do what the city voted on. I really do think that,” Soviero said. “We’ve talked about it and they mentioned it. So, it’s just a matter of us being the catalyst for that, and that’s my goal, at least me personally. My goal is to then work with the owners to make it what the people have voted on.”
According to an article by the Orlando Business Journal, Joe and Robert Nunziata purchased FBC Mortgage in 2015, which returned FBC to local ownership.
“The guys who own the building live and work in Downtown Orlando. They have businesses in Downtown Orlando, and they can see a need for something like this,” Longo said. “They see that Orlando is going through a transformation right now, and it needs to wake up and come back to life in certain ways.”