More than two decades after construction started, Majesty building sits uncompleted

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			More than two decades after construction started, Majesty building sits uncompleted
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When construction began on the Majesty skyscraper, derisively known as “The Eyesore on I-4,″ George W. Bush had been president for only a few months.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were months away. The iPhone had not yet been invented.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were still years from being launched. And NFL star Tom Brady had not yet won a Super Bowl.

Yet, today, the 18-story tower looming over Interstate 4 at East Central Parkway in Altamonte Springs continues being built with no date on its expected completion or official opening.

Countless memes have surfaced on social media over the years deriding the building, including one last September that seemed to urge Hurricane Ian to knock it down.

Claud Bowers, founder and president of WACX SuperChannel 55, the religious broadcast station that owns the Majesty building and the surrounding four acres, did not return several calls for comment.

In 2003, Bowers told the Sentinel that construction would be completed that year. In 2006, he said it would take another year to finish the project. And in 2016, he said it would be another year. Then a year later, he said it would be completed by late 2018.

But in a 2019 interview with the Orlando Sentinel, his most recent, Bowers admitted he did not know when the building would open its doors. He noted that the I-4 Ultimate expansion project and the new access ramp to Central Parkway — which were completed early this year — delayed progress on the building’s construction. Bowers called it the “most challenging time,” primarily in the difficulty in finding workers.

When plans for the Majesty were first announced in 1998, Bowers estimated the project’s cost would top $40 million. Because he wanted the building to be debt free, he has relied on the generosity of SuperChannel 55 viewers to fund the pace of construction.

On the air, Bowers has called it “a project of faith,” “a miracle in the making,” and “a pulpit to the world.” At one time, a large sign alongside I-4 told motorists that the construction was “Faith at Work.”

“I want you to help me build the Majesty tower,” Bowers often told his viewers.

The Majesty building was designed by several architectural firms over the years. Its distinctive curving top is made to resemble the full sail of a large ship. The glass panels, installed in early 2005, brightly reflect the morning and afternoon sunlight.

If ever it is completed, the Majesty building will have 300,000 square feet inside and stand 307 feet high, making it the tallest building in Seminole County.

Plans show a banquet hall, conference center, restaurant, retail space, a theater and 200,000 square feet of office and retail space available for leasing. The top floors will offer studios for SuperChannel’s station. It also will include a 1,000-space parking garage, which is nearing completion.

The end to the tower’s construction could not come soon enough for many in Seminole County.

“The city is really looking forward to its completion,” said Frank Martz, Altamonte Springs city manager. “It’s a signature building in the region. … We believe it will be a tremendous resource for the area.”

Officials with the Seminole County Property Appraiser’s Office last visited the property in January. They reported that much interior work still needed to be completed before it could be deemed finished and open for business. That includes a ground-floor rotunda.

The parking garage did not have required sprinklers or fire alarms, according to county documents. The entry and exit lanes were unpaved. And the building still needed substantial electrical work.

Still, Martz said the building’s construction, despite its slow pace, has satisfied all inspection and building code requirements over the years.

Martz praised the building’s owner, SuperChannel Centre, for taking on a project without any debt. That will benefit the owner because it will be able to offer competitive rates on leases after the building is completed.

“The fiscally conservative approach of the developer is in line with the city’s philosophy of not going into debt,” Martz said.

Lisa McNatt, director of market analytics for CoStar Group, which tracks rental rates, said the availability of office space in the Orlando region is different today than it was two decades ago, when construction on the Majesty building began. And the building’s owner will have to compete with other nearby office complexes to lease its space.

Also, there is still uncertainty among many employers about how much space they will need in the coming years as they offer remote work.

“The building is going to be delivering [office space for lease] in a very different environment than existed when it started construction,” she said. There is currently 2.4 million square feet of available office space in the general Orlando market. There is 31,000 square feet of rental space in the Altamonte Springs area and just over 200,000 square feet in nearby Maitland Center.

Even so, the top floors of the Majesty building will generally offer more attractive offices than almost any building in the region, McNatt said.

“The building offers terrific views alongside Interstate 4,” McNatt said. “The upper floors could offer an opportunity for tenants that can’t be found elsewhere in Seminole County. That may be the best value proposition for potential tenants. On a clear day, you could probably see all the way to downtown [Orlando].”

It’s unclear whether a real estate firm is handling leasing for the Majesty building. SuperChannel’s website states that “pre-leasing activities will begin once a final move-in date has been determined.” It also offers individuals or businesses wanting to lease space to submit their names to an “interested list.”

The Majesty property’s taxable value was assessed at just over $1.5 million, according to county records. The tax bill this year is $27,789, a $4,210 increase from 2021. However, the assessment is only on the land, and the tax bill will rise substantially after the building is completed.

In recent years, other large construction projects nearby were started and completed.

In 2018, Centerpointe III LLC finished a five-story parking garage on Centerpointe Circle adjacent to the Majesty building for its nearby office complex.

In 2021, Sanctuary Altamonte LLC completed its eight-building, five-story, apartment complex also on Centerpointe Circle.

But others say the empty, partially constructed Majesty skyscraper has been around for so long that it’s now become part of Seminole County’s landscape.

“I don’t even notice it anymore or even pay attention to it anymore,” said Magda Garcia, a Seminole County resident for more than 20 years as she completed her daily walk around Cranes Roost Park on a recent morning. The tower, just a few hundred yards away, loomed in the background.

“It’s just there,” she said.

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