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Orlando’s MPB defers vote on Mariposa Grove mixed-income senior living project downtown

Rendering for Mariposa Groves.
Rendering for Mariposa Groves. (Fugleberg Koch)

Orlando’s Municipal Planing Board is delaying a vote for a proposed mixed-income senior living development that’s igniting controversy from its potential neighbors.

The project, called Mariposa Grove, would be the first of its kind in downtown’s urban core by reserving more than 75 percent of its 138 units for low-income and very low-income households.

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Alexander Kiss, a managing partner with the development company Banyan Development Group, told staff the affordability period of the program will last 50 years because the firm plans to use Low Income Housing Tax Credits to help finance the project.

“Principals with Banyan will manage the project for decades,” Kiss said. “We would love the chance to bring an unprecedented senior affordable housing building to the Lake Eola area.”

This the view of Mariposa Grove looking west (from the Star Tower). The alley between the two buildings will serve as the access point for the parking garage.
This the view of Mariposa Grove looking west (from the Star Tower). The alley between the two buildings will serve as the access point for the parking garage. (Fugelberg Koch)

Only a few affordable housing projects have been approved in the last two years in Orange County, and many of them lie on the outskirts of Orlando’s downtown.

But the contention surrounding the project stems less from what kind of residences are being proposed than from where the 13-story building is being planned to rise — a 0.7-acre site at 417 E. Jackson Street.

Attorney Darren Elkind from DeLand-based law firm Paul, Elkind & Branz is representing a group of residents who live in the neighboring 18-story Star Tower property at 260 S. Osceola Ave.

At the meeting, he asserted the developer would be violating an ordinance that claims a portion of the property is required to stay open space.

“These folks paid the prices they paid precisely based on the zoning codes the city established,” Elkind said. “They need to rely on those commitments.”

Currently, part of the development site is within the Orlando Lutheran Towers Planned Development. Banyan Group is seeking to incorporate the property in question into its Mariposa Grove PD.

April Fisher, a planner at Fisher Planning and Development Services, said doing that will violate the density rights of the buildings within the Orlando Lutheran Towers PD.

The city of Orlando’s planning division manager, Elisabeth Dang, said the density calculation does not include the donation of right-of-way.

According to the planning staff’s calculations, a previous donation of right-of-way brings the total area to 3.33 acres, which allows for a maximum 666 units — meaning the current 640 units within the Orlando Lutheran Towers PD is below the maximum.

The developer is keeping three mature oak trees on Jackson Street. At the city staff's request, they expanded the landscape areas around the trees to protect their root systems.
The developer is keeping three mature oak trees on Jackson Street. At the city staff's request, they expanded the landscape areas around the trees to protect their root systems. (Fugelberg Koch)

Rebecca Wilson, an attorney and shareholder with Lowndes, who is representing the developer, said the open space is only a small bit of the five parcels Banyan Group has under contract.

“We appreciate the neighbors concerns about open space, that’s again why we are providing significant open space of 25-foot setbacks,” Wilson said. “When you look at Star Tower’s setbacks they don’t have 25 feet setback for green space anywhere in their building, and we’re providing that along ours to give that open space the property never did. "

She adds the projects is consistent Housing For All plan adopted by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, which looks to add 11,000 new affordable housing units to Orange County within the next ten years.

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Board members voted unanimously to defer a vote to the next MPB meeting in July, with an added condition to add an amendment to the Orlando Lutheran Towers PD that requires a legal description with acreage for each of the three remaining parcels, as well as documentation for the right-of-way that was dedicated.

Elkind told GrowthSpotter his clients are pleased with decision, for now. The application “proposes to shoehorn a massive building on to a lot that is not designated for vertical development,” he said.

“When a project needs this many exceptions and forces the city to find stretched or alternative interpretations to its code, it’s a pretty clear sign that the building will not work in this location. We hope that the city will honor its prior decision that there would be no development beyond parking or open space on the subject property.”

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at arabines@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-5427, or tweet me at @amanda_rabines. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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