Mercury Advisors is looking to nearly double the number of homes within its planned Grassmere Reserve project — a switch to smaller lot sizes that will create more open space within the environmentally protected Wekiva Springs study area in Zellwood.
Earlier development plans submitted to Orange County last summer called for 98 homes with one-acre lots, covering almost the entirety of the 129 acres of land just south of the Apopka-Orlando International Airport near Apopka’s industrial center.
The county is now reviewing a change determination request by the developer to increase the number of single family dwellings to 200, reduce the minimum lot size from 70 feet to 50 feet, and reduce the side yard setbacks from ten feet to five feet.
The move to smaller lot sizes means that 70% of the property along the northeast side of Orange Blossom Trail/S.R. 441 will remain open space, a requirement for residential development inside the Wekiva Study area.
Governor Jeb Bush signed The Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act into law in 2004, at Wekiva Springs State Park in Apopka. The law authorized building the Wekiva Parkway and provides protection to the Wekiva River system. The Act requires a comprehensive approach to protecting the Wekiva River system involving local governments, state agencies and the St. Johns River Management District.
The original land-use plan for this property was adopted by the county commission in 2002, a few years before the adoption of that law. Orange County planners wrote in a July 21 report that 70% open space is required in the residential development area, while 25% of open space is required in new commercial developments.
County planner Douglas McDowell said that the new plan was initiated by the owner/ developer.
“I’ve been working with the county on this,” Frank Bombeeck, director at Mercury Advisors, told GrowthSpotter. “Instead of basically building on the whole 100 acres, now I’m only building on 30 percent of the site, on 30 acres. So now there’s a lot more open space, which is nicer and better for the environment. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Bombeeck said that homes inside Grassmere Reserve would also be less expensive now that smaller lot sizes are worked into the plan.
“This is what the market wants,” he said. “If I had done a one-acre lot if it would have been a much more expensive house; I would have been building bigger houses with 2,000 to 3,000 square feet.”
While application materials call for the construction of 200 homes, Bombeeck said he’ll only have space for about 160 homes. And while the property includes Lake Grassmere, none of the homes will go along the 12-acre body of water, he said.
In a future phase, Bombeeck also has plans to add as much as 32,670 square feet of commercial space on a 5-acre outparcel fronting on SR 441. Bombeeck said this commercial element makes even more sense now that a traffic signal has been recently installed at the intersection of Junction Road and S.R. 441.
“It makes absolutely no sense to put housing on the 441,” he said. “Way back when, we split off five acres for commercial. It will be kind of an outparcel for a restaurant or something like that.”
But Bombeeck wants to focus on completing the housing aspect first before moving on to the commercial phase.
Mercury Advisors paid a little more than $2.3 million for the undeveloped property back in 2007. Subdivisions border the site to the east, and it’s located less than two miles from the company’s Avion Pointe project which is being built out by multifamily developer Taurus Investment Holdings and homebuilder D.R. Horton.
Plans for Avian Pointe call for more than 750 residential units across of mix of single-family homes, townhomes and apartments. The master-planned community will feature a large amount of community/recreational space that will include multiple sports fields, courts and public parks.
Orange County Public Schools paid $1.8 million for about 15 acres at the southernmost tip of Avian Pointe with plans to develop a new K-8 school.
“They’re finishing up the townhomes and single-family homes now,” Bombeeck said. “They’ve started construction on a (276-unit) apartment. The townhomes are 50 percent complete.”
Both Mercury Advisors’ housing sites sit near a cluster of large-scale industrial job centers that are either under development or in some stage of completion.
On the opposite side of Grassmere Reserve on S.R. 441, Lakeland-based Blue Steel Development stands ready to build out its Apopka 429 industrial park. It covers 248 acres and can accommodate roughly 2.5 million square feet of warehouse space across three buildings, according to its website.
Blue Steel is also eyeing an adjacent assemblage of parcels to the south of that park for another trio of distribution hubs. This one is titled Alterna Logistics Park, according to site plans.
Further south, the Mid-Florida Logistics Park, developed by Missouri-based Blue Scope Properties Group, spans 180 acres with 2.3 million square feet of warehouse space and is home to distribution centers for global brands such as Amazon, Coke and Goya Foods.
Apopka is also bustling with residential development activity.
KB Home recently submitted plans to the city for 150 townhomes and 27 detached homes on 45 acres at the southwest intersection of Kelly Park Road and Chandler Road in the city’s Kelly Park interchange district.
Illinois-based Wingspan Development Group is teaming up with Tampa-based developer ABC Capital Corp to bring a mix-use village with restaurants, retail space and multi-family apartments to the Kelly Park Interchange.
Clearwater developer Mike Galvin is working on plans to bring 675 single-family residential units and 300 apartments to 180 acres between Effie Drive and Round Lake Road, just north of Kelly Park Road.
Pulte Homes is pursuing what could become its second residential community in the Kelly Park Interchange district, seeking to bring another 140 homes to 40 acres at 3100 Ondich Rd. and 5704, 5706 and 5708 Plymouth Sorrento Road.