Provided by Wendover Housing Partners
Orange County Property Appraiser
Taurus Investment Holdings/GrowthSpotter Edit
Renderings by Slocum Platts Architects
With some financial assistance from Orange County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund Program, Wendover Housing Partners is set to develop a 195-unit multifamily community within the Apopka City Center mixed-use development.
Scheduled to go before the city’s development review commission Wednesday, site plans for the future housing community at 461 E 7Th Street show three, four-story apartment buildings with a pool, community garden and gazebo.
Engineering and planning firm Avcon Inc. and architecture firm Slocum Platts Architects are involved in the project, titled Southwick Commons.
The 10-acre parcel sits less than a mile southeast of City Hall, on the southeast corner of the intersection of S.R. 424 and E. 6th Avenue —across the street from the Hilton Garden Inn Apopka — within the 35-acre master-planned Apopka City Center.
Global private equity real estate firm Taurus Investment Holdings entered into a ten-year contract with the city in 2016 to develop the 35 acres of mostly vacant land situated between the intersection of U.S. 441 and S.R. 436.
A development arm of Taurus — City Center Development Group led by Clearwater native Craig Govan — is designing and constructing the Apopka City Center mixed-use project with help from architecture firm Eleven18 Architecture. The master plan honors the historic lakefront Highland Manor, which remains on site as a prominent wedding venue.
The project consists of a five-story 114-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel, which opened in July 2020; 200,000 square feet of restaurant, retail and office space, and up to 250 multifamily apartments.
Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson told GrowthSpotter in August of 2021 that the next phase of the master-planned community entails building a 42,000-square-foot Winn-Dixie grocery store north of U.S. Route 441, as well as a new 12,500-square-foot food hall west of the recently opened Hilton Garden Inn hotel at 580 E Main Street
GF Hotels & Resorts is a limited partner and manager of the hotel in this project, and TCII Capital Group is a limited partner in the retail parcels, according to City Center Development Group’s website.
The website says the company has invested $25 million into the project thus far, but is expected to spend $100 million through completion.
The site of the future Southwick Commons apartments was owned by the city of Apopka from December 2007 to November 2021, when an entity affiliated with Taurus Investment Holdings bought the property for $1.92 million.
Taurus then sold it days later to an entity affiliated with Wendover Housing Partners for $3.25 million, property records show.
A Wendover Housing spokeswoman declined to comment on the latest project, which is expected to cost $52.8 million. The county is contributing a $2 million financial incentive. According to the grant application, Wendover will reserve 35 units for very-low-income households, which earn 30% of the area median income.
Orange County commissioners voted in September of 2021 to award more than $13 million to developers proposing to build four multifamily affordable housing communities, including Southwick Commons. These were the first large-scale projects to win financing from the housing trust fund.
When completed by 2023 the developments will add more than 600 apartments for low-income renters. The four projects combined carry a price tag of $128.9 million, according to county figures.
The taxpayer-supported trust fund was a key recommendation of the Housing For All Task Force, a 38-member advisory panel Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings created to address the region’s scarcity of affordable housing for low-wage workers and help lift Orlando from the bottom of rankings by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
As of 2020, the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse showed that among all income levels, more than 86,000 Orange County households spent more than half their monthly income on housing, along with nearly 27,000 in Seminole County and more than 17,400 in Osceola County.
As of April, the Orlando metro area saw the second highest jump in rent year over year in the nation, according to data released by Apartments.com. Only Palm Beach saw a higher jump between April of 2021 and April of 2022 with an increase of 24%. According to the report, Orlando’s rent prices increased 23% during that timeframe.
The housing dollars committed by Orange County are intended to provide financial assistance to advance and facilitate new construction of affordable, multi-family rental housing with an emphasis on serving families, especially in low and very low-income households, according to a county news release at the time.
“This is the first large-scale production of affordable housing sponsored by Orange County’s Housing Trust fund and I am proud that 525 new affordable housing units are on the way,” Demings said in a statement following the investment. “Each of these projects are in areas of high access and opportunity, with proximity to transit, employment centers and community resources.”
In addition to Southwick Commons, other projects in the pipeline that will benefit from the first wave of trust fund allocations include:
A $31.5 million project by Banyan Development Group to build 156 units west of downtown Orlando, at the northeast corner of West Colonial and North Pine Hills Road, walking distance to Barnett Park.
Miami-based Related Group $21.6 million plan to build another 90 affordable housing units for phase 3 of its Emerald Villas project. The first phase consisted of renovating 264 units for families at the cost of about $21 million to complete. The second phase consists of 96 housing units set aside for very low-income seniors.
$1.68 million to SouthPort Development for its 192-unit Whispering Oaks community.
The county is set to release a request for proposals this week for developers hoping to secure another wave of funding. This time, $16 million is available, according to Sarah Elbadri, the county’s senior development coordinator with the housing and community development division.
“In the past we’ve only been able to rely on (state funding) for affordable housing projects, but now we have something locally we can count on every year in Orange County,” she said.
She added that “it’s exciting” to watch projects from the first wave of funding begin to move toward the finish line.
“It’s huge,” she said. “It shows the success of the housing trust fund program. We are excited about these projects.”
Meanwhile, Wendover Housing Partners is working on several other affordable housing communities in Central Florida.
The Altamonte Springs-based company is under contract with Universal to build its 1,000-unit mixed-income housing community on land near its theme parks, next door to the Orange County Convention Center campus.
The development company is also planning to bring 84 more affordable units to Sanford’s historic Goldsboro neighborhood as part of Somerset Landings. That community would be phase two of its 60-unit, three-building Monroe Landings apartment community that opened here three months ago.
Benefiting from a lot of vacant former farm land and its proximity to four major state roads, the city of Apopka is seeing a surge in development.
The city of Apopka, overall, has 84 development projects either in the planning phase or under construction, according to city records provided to GrowthSpotter. All told, they’d add 9,900 housing units and more than 14 million square feet of commercial space to the city’s inventory.
Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at (407)-800-1161 or dwyatt@GrowthSpotter.com, or tweet me at @DustinWyattGS. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.