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Richland Communities buys former orange grove with potential for over 700 new homes

Richland Communities, which specializes in master-planned communities, purchased 370 acres in Groveland with entitlements for up to 740 homes.

The City of Groveland may see hundreds of new homes rise on 370 acres of former orange groves after land was sold to a pair of holding companies affiliated with California-based Richland Communities.

The land, located on East Dewey Robbins Road north of the Florida Turnpike and east of U.S. Highway 27 in Groveland, was once a profitable orange grove but now has a Village Core future land use in the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Assigned a “Hamlet” designation, the land use would allow for the development of 740 residential units and a village core.

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Although plans for the Groveland property have not been disclosed, the land was voluntarily annexed in 2020 for development under the “hamlet” designation, which requires half of the land to be preserved as open space such as community gardens, agriculture, solar farms, or other passive uses. Under the new city land use code, properties assigned the hamlet land use must have three zoning districts – a small hamlet core with retail, office and attached housing, a hamlet center with smaller-lot housing and a hamlet “edge” with larger lots for housing.

Richland specializes in master-planned communities and mixed-use projects. In Orlando, the company developed Southchase and Maitland Summit. More recently, the company sought approval for a 460-home subdivision in Minneola. Richland Vice President Matt Young declined to comment on the firm’s plans for the Groveland site. Currently, the land is zoned for agricultural use with a cattle tenant in place.

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“We used to call it the fruit factory,” said Trevor Hall, Executive Manager Director of Colliers, who represented the sellers, Loma Linda Corporation, along with Tommy Pinel. “Then the greening hit hard. My client’s vision was for me to monetize it under the best circumstances.”

Daryl Carter, of Maury L. Carter & Associates, represented the buyers. He was unavailable for comment.

Hall said “wet utilities” for the site are far away. But he added that as part of the larger development picture, Groveland is going to see some “good quality growth” out there in time. The property sold for $4.6 million.

“We’ve worked with this seller for more than ten years and helped them take the land through the Abandoned Grove Initiative process after more than six decades as a profitable orange grove,” he said. “We also worked with the city to change the comprehensive land use plan and annex the land into Groveland, which more than doubled the value of the property.”

Currently, the land is zoned for agricultural use with a cattle tenant in place, but it’s surrounded by recently approved developments. The Loma Linda property is located south of the proposed 1,088-acre, 2,932-unit Whispering Hills and the 147-acre, 449-unit Hodges Reserve. Mattamy Homes also recently purchased a 132-acre plot of land for a 430-home subdivision in Groveland.

Four miles to the south is Villa City, a 2,500-acre assemblage on U.S. 27 just north of the Turnpike interchange with approved plans for a mixed-used development that could add over 7,000 homes to Groveland. Villa City also has entitlements for retail such as grocery store, restaurants, drug stores, banks, entertainment, and medical office space.

Groveland Community Development Director Tim Maslow said he was surprised the Loma Linda land had been sold because it is beyond the north end of the city’s utility service area. But he added that the purchase was a further signal that Groveland is “red hot” for development. The city’s current population is 18,505, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.

“Groveland’s forecast is not as aggressive as reality,” Maslow said. “Things are happening faster than we expected. The market is very aggressive and bullish.”

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Maslow said the city hasn’t received any formal applications from the buyers and that usually buyers get preliminary site improvement plan approval before they close. He added that it will “take at least a couple years just to work out the platting and site development plans before construction begins.

“There is no preliminary plat approved,” he said. “We didn’t expect this northern plat to be getting this kind of attention for the next few years.”

Pinel said the new development will play a “pivotal role” in Groveland’s future as it “re-creates itself as a destination city.”

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at Newsroom@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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