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Lake Nona plans for more growth with increased focus on aviation, offices

As new construction continues to rise at Lake Nona — including a trio of high-rise apartment buildings, a Disney office complex for roughly 2,000 employees and the future national headquarters of a Dubai-based air and travel company— Tavistock Development Company is preparing for even more growth near the Orlando International Airport.

The developer has submitted a request to the city of Orlando seeking approval of a revised long-term plan that’ll guide development over the next 40 years.

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In its proposal, Tavistock is seeking entitlements for an additional 7,225 housing units, in addition to the 13,592 currently approved for the area.

In addition to the promise of more housing units, it includes a greater emphasis on attracting retail options and corporations, particularly within the aviation and aerospace sector.

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The current development plan for Lake Nona dates back to the early 1980′s, when the land was occupied by a golf course, citrus groves and cattle fields. At that time, it was viewed as a suburban, rural location.

A lot has changed.

“We are adjusting to a model that is looking to be more dense than previously envisioned in the early 1980s,” Jessi Blakley, Tavistock’s Vice President told GrowthSpotter. “As a thriving city within a city, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth across the board.”

After purchasing its first tract of land in 1996, Tavistock would eventually acquire a total of 11,000 acres. In doing so, it also inherited long-term permitted plans for the construction of 13,592 housing units, 2,250 hotel rooms and 7.6 million total square feet of airport support space. The original entitlements granted to Tavistock by the city also included 1.8 million square foot of retail space and 1.2 million square foot of office space.

Today, the area is the top-selling residential community in Orange County, adding 685 rooftops in 2021. Last year the community ended the year ranked 18th among the fastest-growing master-planned communities in the nation, according to RCLCO. In 2021, the area got another economic boost with the arrival of the UCF Lake Nona Hospital.

But as Central Florida continues to grow, Tavistock is exhausting all of the original land entitlements it’s permitted. Not counting 2,739 acres of conservation land that cannot be developed, Tavistock is currently with 1,500 acres of vacant property near the town center that can be built on but doesn’t come with an entitlement.

That’s why the developer sent a request to the city aimed at amending the Lake Nona Planned Development so that necessary entitlements can be added “to ensure Lake Nona can continue to build out in a cohesive and sustainable manner over the next 40 years,” the document reads.

The application says that the region’s growth has caused Lake Nona to experience a surge in requests for industrial, retail, office, and residential product. The developer is calling for “a more modern and urban landscape that differs from the suburban design initially planned.”

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“To meet this demand, future development will feature higher density areas and promote a live-work dynamic in a new, mixed-use district and in plans for the energetic Lake Nona Town Center that continues to attract the latest industry innovators and host some of the city’s most-attended events.” the application reads. “

“Looking ahead for the next 40 years, Tavistock wants to ensure Lake Nona can continue to grow in a way that’s smart and innovative with careful attention to architectural merit and uniqueness, while serving and benefiting residents and visitors,” the application says. “Careful planning allows Tavistock to be nimble and bring innovative ideas to life to Lake Nona. It also allows for appropriate infrastructure planning to ensure Lake Nona grows in a smart way that will enhance the area and best serve residents and visitors,” according to the application.

Under the current plan, Tavistock has less than 25,000 square feet remaining in office space entitlements, meaning the developer would run out of entitlements before completing the halfway point of its town center. So the developer is seeking an increase of 7.2 million square feet of office and civic space. That’s more than 7-times the amount allotted for that purpose under the original plan. All total, Lake Nona would have space for 8.5 million square feet of office/ civic space if the new plan is approved.

As for aviation and airport space, the developer is seeking new entitlements totaling 6.5 million square feet, nearly double the amount currently granted. In total, Lake Nona would have space for 14 million square foot of airport support space if the new plan is approved

“Aviation and aerospace is certainly an industry that has seen tremendous growth,” Blakley said. “The proximity to the airport and the Space Coast, all of those things play into that industry being one that we foresee to grow.”

The updated plan calls for entitlements of an additional 1,408 hotel rooms. Currently, Tavistock has the OK for 2,220 hotel rooms.

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On the residential side, Tavistock has built 8,049 housing units and has 1,066 units in the pipeline. Under the current plan, the developer would be entitled to another 4,477 dwelling units. The updated plan, pending city approval, would increase that figure to 11,702 — a 53% in the total housing stock for the community. A new school is proposed along Luminary Boulevard to accommodate the proposed residential expansion.

The plan request is expected to go before the city’s Municipal Planning Board on May 16 for a special hearing, according to city spokeswoman Samantha Holsten.

The plan amendment request comes as several construction projects are underway within the Lake Nona community.

In October 2021, Tavistock announced plans for a new music-themed Aloft Hotel, part of Marriott Bonvoy’s brand portfolio. Construction is expected to start in early 2022 on the 6-story hotel, which is just north of S.R. 417 and next to Drive Shack.

In March, after the City of Orlando granted a request for taller buildings in Lake Nona, Tavistock filed a site plan for a trio of apartment towers as high as 18 stories consisting of 625 residential units.

Emirati air and travel services provider dnata announced in January it had selected Orlando’s Lake Nona neighborhood as the location for its new U.S. headquarters and will set up shop on the fifth floor of a newly finished office building there.

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Walt Disney World will soon have a home in Lake Nona. The entertainment and media conglomerate in September paid $46.42 million to secure a 60-acre development site with plans to build 1.8 million square feet of office space across multiple buildings, with a minimum height of four stories. Upon completion, 2,000 employees will be relocated from California.

“I don’t think it’s anybody’s surprise (Lake Nona) has grown like this,” Blakley said. “We’ve certainly grown from what it was —a county club owned by a British family — to become this very vibrant place that has become one of the fastest-growing communities in the area for the last several years. And that’s because we’ve been so thoughtful with our approach to planning by putting all the pieces together.”

The planning never stops, she added.

“Plans are always adjusting,” Blakley said. " You have to adjust to the market; you have to be nimble. One thing we’ve always done a really good job of is being thoughtful about the future and not just looking at the next five to ten years, but looking 50 to 100 years out.”

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at (407)420-5058 or dwyatt@GrowthSpotter.com, or tweet me at @DustinWyattGS. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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