In spite of ongoing litigation with environmental groups, developers of the Princeton Oaks industrial project in western Orlando are pressing forward with the next phase of the 1.1-million-square-foot business park.
Moses Salcido, a principal at development firm Foundry Commercial, said the company is commencing the permitting process for the second phase, which will consist of more than 515,000 square feet of industrial space across five new buildings.
Princeton Oaks and Fern Grove, an assisted living facility being proposed across the street, have been at the center of a dispute brought along by neighboring residents and environmentalists who assert the projects allegedly pose an adverse affect to the surrounding neighborhood and what they claim to be Little Wekiva River’s drainage area underneath.
While developers of Fern Grove are still seeking approvals for a modified version of its plans, Foundry won zoning and development plan approvals from the city and state for the entirety of the Princeton Oaks development in early 2017.
That same year Foundry affiliate, Princeton Oaks Industrial Investors LLC, along with the United States Army Corps. of Engineers and Colonel Jason A. Kirk, chief engineer of the Jacksonville District, were sued in federal court by Save the Wekiva River and Headwaters, Inc. and Bear Warriors United, Inc. That case was dropped about a year later.
A second lawsuit filed in Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit by Save the Wekiva River and Headwaters, Inc. and Speak Up Wekiva, Inc. against the city and Princeton Oaks Industrial Investors LLC is still ongoing. The plaintiffs argue the city’s rezoning and are challenging its ability to enact and follow environmental protection ordinances.
Mayanne Downs, an attorney representing the city, previously told GrowthSpotter the lawsuit was "based on a substantial misunderstanding of the law and the facts.”
Just across North John Young Parkway, the city was gifted more than 100 acres of land from Dr. Phillips Charities for a new $12 million YMCA Family Center. The property lies just east of Fern Grove and Princeton Oaks.
An adjacent tennis center poised to feature 16 full-size, lighted tennis courts and a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse is also being planned by the city.
Salcido said Foundry will continue to move forward with the project despite the litigation.
“There’s anywhere to 20 to 30 permits on a project like this… you can’t pull those permits without mitigating impact or avoiding it,” Salcido said.
“All we can do is what the law requires. At this point, we’re going to follow the same process that we have to follow and people who oppose the project may certainly voice opinions and concerns.”
The first roughly 230,000 square feet of Princeton Oaks was completed last year and is 100 percent leased to companies including Ferguson HVAC Supply, Ultimate Auto and Trane Supply.
The final portion of its first phase, which contains about 280,000 square feet across three buildings, is 10 percent leased and expected to be completed soon, Salcido said.
VHB is the civil engineer and landscape architect.
Next door to the site, Orlando auto dealer Don Mealey has a purchase contract on 71.5 acres of vacant land, stretching from Judge Drive to Princeton. He’s filed plans with City of Orlando to rezone it as an activity center called “District West" that would be home to a new Subaru dealership plus a mix of commercial and industrial uses, if approved.