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This site plan shows the existing Marden Ridge apartments and the proposed second phase of the community. A new K-12 private preparatory school is shown in red.
This site plan shows the existing Marden Ridge apartments and the proposed second phase of the community. A new K-12 private preparatory school is shown in red. (Appian Engineering)

A $15 million non-profit, private school is slated to be built next to 536 existing or soon-to-be-built apartments on the west side of Marden Road and north of State Road 414 in Apopka.

The K-12 Central Florida Preparatory School, with an existing campus in Gotha, plans a second location on a 6.39-acre parcel now owned by MMI Development. The parcel is next to the 272-unit Marden Ridge Apartments, which MMI built two years ago as part of a larger development plan for 43 acres on the west side of Marden Road.

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MMI president Mike Wright said he has had a pre-application meeting with Apopka officials for the next phase of 264 apartments, adjacent to the existing units.

Though MMI is not building the school, Wright welcomes the project as a value-enhancer for the apartments and for whatever he decides to build on 71 acres MMI owns on the east side of Marden Road.

“It wasn’t really my vision, but I’m excited to see them there,” Wright told GrowthSpotter. “It’s going to give more of an educational choice for the area. It will 100 percent add value to that property. Having a good school within walking distance of our property will always add value.”

Winter Park-based MMI Development closed the last of four parcel sales for future apartment development to Ohio-based NM Residential on Thursday, with ground to break on projects in Apopka and Maitland in the coming weeks.

Rowena Ramos-Flanders, president of the preparatory school’s board of directors, could not be reached for comment. It’s not clear when construction will start or when the school will open. Wright said he will eventually sell the land to the school with a closing near the end of 2020. The civil engineer on the project is Appian Engineering of Winter Park.

The 53,000-square-foot school will include a 12,563-square-foot gymnasium, according to a site plan submitted to the St. Johns River Water Management District. The district is reviewing drainage and stormwater retention plans for the property. The plans also call for 232 parking spaces, including six handicap-accessible and 80 spaces in an overflow queue lane.

School officials are planning to enroll 600 students to fill 35 classrooms. The building also will feature specialty spaces to support programs such as robotics, bio-medical, calculus, a STEAM (science, engineering, arts and math) lab, arts, music, drama and engineering, according to the school website. The school will employ an estimated 40 employees.

A full complement of sports will also be offered, according to the school website. Wright said students will use a running track and soccer field that MMI will build north of the school property.

Context on the project's size and scope, what road extension will be built because of it, and what other growth it's following in this corner of Apopka.

“Phase 3 (of the overall development) will be a track and soccer field that will be used by the school,” Wright said. “But when the school’s not using it, anyone in the apartments can use it. That’s the intention.”

Wright paid $2 million in September 2014 for the 72-acre parcel on the east side of Marden Road. He planned to rezone that property for a 300,000-square-foot retail power center fronting Apopka Expressway (S.R. 414).

Key to the success of the development was a half-diamond interchange at the Marden Road-S.R. 414 intersection that MMI financed for $6.5 million. Apopka’s city government contributed $2.5 million to the interchange costs.

Since the interchange was finished two years ago, market factors changed, and Wright said he no longer plans to build the retail center.

“I don’t really know what we’re going to do over there,” Wright said. “It depends on what the market is. A definitive plan or development has not been decided.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version referred to the school as a charter school. It is a private school.

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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