Over the past ten years, nearly 1,000 new residential units have emerged in Longwood’s historic downtown district.
Not only have an influx of people moved into the area, particularly around the city’s SunRail station, but the overall downtown area near the intersection of S.R. 434 and County Road 427 has seen a boost in foot traffic lately. After the city redeveloped Reiter Park in 2017, the space routinely began hosting popular food truck events, concerts, festivals, and more.
The problem isn’t getting people into downtown Longwood. The problem is getting them to stay when they’re ready to grab a meal.
“We’ve got many more people downtown than we used to,” Chris Kintner, the city’s community development director told GrowthSpotter. “But we really want restaurants downtown, we really want retailers downtown. We have the people now.”
Kintner sees opportunity in two prime pieces of real estate: city-owned land where a soon-to-be-defunct fire station now stands and a 15-acre chunk of property owned by Orlando Health.
Orlando Health is in the midst of a plan to redevelop its South Seminole Hospital campus located on roughly 17 acres between S.R. 436 and W. Warren Avenue, across the street from Reiter Park.
With the healthcare system building a new, six-story, 180-bed acute care hospital in Lake Mary and a new two-story, 144-room behavioral health hospital in Apopka, the nonprofit’s Longwood campus will get a makeover.
Plans call for the construction of a new free-standing emergency department. Hospital leaders have expressed a desire to work with the city to transform some of the property into a town center with a high-quality mix of multi-family residential, retail, restaurants, and office uses.
“We’re very proud of our nearly 40-year history here in Longwood as a hospital caring for so many people in our community and as one of the largest employers in the area,” Shawn Molsberger, senior vice president of Orlando Health’s northeast region and president of Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital, said in a September news release. “Working closely with the city, we’re making an investment into our community that allows us to continue providing a high level of care while bringing in new amenities that will further enhance the quality of life for Longwood residents.”
The hospital has yet to submit plans for the town center concept, but city leaders are excited about the prospect of a mixed-use development project moving in.
There’s no bigger piece of property within the downtown footprint that could accommodate this type of vision.
“While ultimately, this is the hospital’s property, we certainly see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the type of development envisioned by the City’s Gateway District – which is quality retail and restaurants as part of a good mix of uses within easily walkable distances,” Longwood City Manager Clint Gioielli said in an email. “We’re excited to hear the hospital discuss a town center concept and think that it could build on the success of Reiter Park and add tremendous value to Historic Downtown Longwood by bringing quality tenants that will also benefit from the site’s visibility on State Road 434.”
A plan involving a fire station could also open up the door to commercial growth near Reiter Park.
In 2021, the city of Longwood purchased property along Warren Avenue, to the west of Reiter Park, for roughly $1.5 million. The city commission, at its most recent meeting on March 20, voted to move forward with the construction of a new fire station on this land.
Once this project is complete, the city will no longer have use for the old fire station at 301 West Warren, at the southeast corner of Reitner park.
“We’ve discussed bringing in a restaurant of some type to the old fire station site because it’s adjacent to Reiter Park and could really play well into that,” Kintner said.
Downtown Sanford is an example of a local city that has seen a former fire station redeveloped into a restaurant concept.
“We’d love to see something like that,” Kintner added. “When we start construction on the new station, probably at the same time we are going start working on the old station and what we can do to bring in a tenant and operator for that site.”
Longwood’s Historic District encompasses roughly 190 acres and has 37 contributing structures, according to the city’s website. It became part of the National Register of Historic Places in October 1990. The District, the heart and soul of the city, is well hidden near the intersection of State Road 434 and County Road 427.
Today, city planners consider the SunRail station, within walking distance of city hall, to be a part of the downtown core as well.
The area has seen the arrival of several apartment projects over the past decade.
These include the 208-unit Weston Park at Longwood Station, the 260-unit Alta Longwood, and the 123-unit senior living facility Heritage Village Commons.
Altamonte Springs-based developer Contravest is currently wrapping up work on the 277-unit Addison Longwood, which is expected to open by the summer of this year, according to its website.
Meanwhile, America’s largest homebuilder, D.R. Horton, is constructing a 53-lot townhome community on each side of the Weston Park apartments. Monterey South is going at the southeast intersection of E. Church Avenue and Myrtle Street while Monterey North would rise at the southeast corner of E. Palmetto Avenue and John L. Mica Way.
Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at (407)-800-1161 or dwyatt@GrowthSpotter.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.