ORLANDO – Miami-based developer Michael Dezer and his partner, second-generation Argentine arcade mogul Sebastian Mochkovsky, are confident that Dezerland, a 450,000-square-foot entertainment hub in a twice-quirky mall on the north end of Orlando, is promised International Drive.
Although they kicked off a gentle opening in December, the interior of Dezerland is still swirling with more construction and staff than visitors. Its extensive car museum lacks important elements such as information about the cars and the right works of art in the exhibits.
The attraction includes bowling alleys, an arcade, a pinball arcade, a trampoline park, go-karts, and the Dezer Prize, a car collection that has consisted of the Orlando Auto Museum for the past half century.
Dezerland is located on the former site of the Festival Bay-Artegon Shopping Center at 5250 International Drive, Orlando. Artegon closed in 2017, and Dezer bought the 104-acre property the following year for $ 23.7 million. This comes from a report by Growthspotter.
The deal didn’t include two anchors: Bass Pro Shops and a Cinemark cinema. Both are still in operation, even though Bass has closed its entrance from the mall.
As a billionaire, real estate developer, and longtime employee of Donald Trump, Dezer sees value in the two anchors and outlet stores across the street, all of which have drawn customers through the mall’s various incarnations.
Dezer is building three apartment buildings with a total of more than 1,000 units on site. The first is scheduled to open in January.
In the first two years after the purchase, the project was fraught with production delays. In February 2019, the city issued a work stop order due to a lack of permits. “That wasn’t a big deal,” said Mochkovsky. “We cleared everything up with the city.”
In the next year, several opening dates were announced, but these were repeatedly pushed back due to construction delays. Then hit COVID-19.
“We couldn’t go on working,” said Dezer. “We were all very concerned because no one was going anywhere.”
In the summer, construction work began again in earnest. In December, when the US COVID deaths soared to their highest peaks, Dezerland was opened to the public.
“We wanted to open at Christmas time,” said Mochkovsky. “We didn’t want to miss the holidays.”
Mochkovsky, whose family has been building entertainment centers in his home country since 1957, runs the Dezerland Front with activities such as bowling and video games.
Mochkovsky opened the pinball arcade in March and is soon planning to set up a 6,000-square-meter augmented reality center where visitors can play virtual games without goggles or headsets.
Plans like this can feel far away depending on where you’re looking in Dezerland. Most of the old shop windows are shuttered, although Mochkovsky claims to have found tenants for all but three.
Cars are at the heart of Dezerland even before they even enter the museum. A model of Tow Mater from the film “Cars” greets the guests in front of the main entrance. Through the doors, one of the first sights you see is a replica of the city car from “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” the film that made Sean Connery stop acting.
Dezer’s car collection is extensive, including the world’s largest private collection of Vespas and the world’s first selection of James Bond vehicles on display in an upcoming Bond museum within the attraction.
Dezerland has more than 2,000 Dezer cars that he has been buying for over 50 years.
This collection was gathered in two locations in South Florida before Dezer bought the mall. He also maintains the Hollywood Cars Museum in Las Vegas. Another Dezerland in Miami has games and entertainment, but no cars.
Some of the cars in the open part of Dezerland are interesting, such as the tribute to Marilyn Monroe and the Rolls Royce built for the classic British puppet action show Thunderbirds.
Goldeneye’s Russian tank is in a Bond-themed restaurant.
Finally, Dezerland plans to open a car dealership. “I don’t really want to sell that much because I love her,” said Dezer.
The app, which is supposed to give guests information about the cars, contains entries that are missing information or that are complete for the wrong vehicles. “The guy who did it got corona (virus),” said Dezer. “So I’m waiting for him to come and finish.”
In the Hollywood section, only some of the cars have been used in movies while the others are replicas, but poor signage makes it impossible to tell which is which.
Prize money is given to a sedan that Trump made in the 1980s, one of two ever made. There’s a flag next to the car, but the eagle on the flagpole has a broken wing.
Dezer, who turned 80 on April 1, admits that the museum needs work.
“It’s my hobby, but I’m very, very busy in Miami right now,” he said.
However, these problems do not appear to be limited to work under construction. Negative reviews on TripAdvisor for the Hollywood Cars Museum and its previous locations in South Florida complain about “poorly executed” displays, dirty cars and an “unappealing” layout.
Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.