Fort Lauderdale-based BTI Partners is under contract to buy roughly 1,400 acres in Osceola County's East Lake Toho district and expects to close on the property this summer.
"We're pushing forward to make that happen," BTI Vice President Kevin Mays told GrowthSpotter. BTI is well into its due diligence phase and filed a revised Concept Plan today.
The land is near the Kissimmee Park Road exit on the Florida's Turnpike and comprises about half of the county's approved Edgewater Development of Regional Impact, a mixed-use district entitled for nearly 11,000 homes. That turnpike exit is scheduled to be converted into a full interchange in 2022.
BTI, best known locally as the owner-developer of The Grove Resort & Spa, specializes in master-planned, mixed-use communities. The firm has engaged Rj Whidden and Associates to lead it through the initial planning andpermitting.
"It will take us through the entire due diligence phase to get the Concept Plan approved," Mays said.
Rj Whidden Vice President John Adams said the primary goal of the revised concept plan would be to ensure the new master developer complies with the requirements of the East Lake Toho Conceptual Master Plan (ELTCMP) which was adopted in 2010, while recognizing property lines, existing infrastructure and changes in ownership.
The property is also in the St. Cloud Joint Planning Area, so the master developer would have to negotiate a utility service agreement with the city.
"We're anxious to get the property to market as soon as possible. We plan to build relationships with some builders who have lots of experience with the county and city, because they can bring the property to market sooner."
The contract includes all or portions of seven of the 11 designated Edgewater neighborhoods, including the proposed Urban Center at the Turnpike interchange. The urban center is entitled in the current master plan for 1,200 dwelling units, 1 million square feet of commercial space, 1.9 million square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of civic space and 600 hotel rooms. BTI is under contract to buy 83 percent of the designated urban center, so the CP would include a proportionate share of those entitlements.
"The focal point for Edgewater East is the urban center," Adams said. "That urban center is in fact going to be marketable -- but not initially. There needs to be rooftops first to support the other uses. The plan will maintain the integrity and allow that to evolve over time as the market demands."
The urban center would be reoriented to fit the new road alignment, which would include a traffic circle at Kissimmee Park Road and the Cross Prairie Parkway.
"We think demand is going to be tremendous in this area, especially with the new turnpike interchange," Mays said.
The first residential neighborhood, located on the northern boundary of the community, would connect to a future extension of the Cross Prairie Parkway. BTI is under contract to buy 98 percent of the that neighborhood and is seeking density approvals for 686 single family homes and 373 multifamily units (townhomes or apartments). Just 3.5 acres would be set aside for non-residential uses.
The CP also outlines the density program for each of the seven neighborhoods involved for a total residential count of 6,148 dwelling units (including 994 in the urban center.)
Much of the balance of Edgewater -- the western half of the DRI -- is listed for sale with Maury L. Carter and Associates.
Mays said the project scope is similar to master-planned communities BTI has developed in the Tampa area, specifically the Westshore Marina District on Tampa Bay. Edgewater wouldn't have its own marina, but the developer will be introducing new strategies in revised CP aimed at capitalizing on Lake Tohopekaliga.
Neighborhoods would be designed to utilize existing canals to provide boating access to the lake and two boat lifts are also on the drawing books. The CP calls for a redesign of some residential neighborhoods to incorporate an interior canal or pond system with the boat lift.
"It would be similar to what we did at BellaLago," Adams said, noting that all of the plans would be subject to permit approvals. He said the firm also improved wildlife corridors and greenways between Goblet's Cove and Friar's Cove as a part of the redesign.
The East Lake Toho CMP regulates five large-scale developments, beginning with D.R. Horton's Kindred community, as a single element of the county's comprehensive plan and links them all via the Cross Prairie Parkway. The master plan also incorporates Mattamy Homes' Tohoqua, Bella Terra and Fontana Lakes. The five communities comprise more than 11,000 acres and have combined entitlements for 18,200 single family homes and 15,300 multifamily units. The master plan also calls for multiple schools, parks and neighborhood commercial centers.
BTI was founded in the late 1950s and focused on building residential and multifamily communities, as well as hotels. In 2010, the company and its institutional partners acquired $650 million in debt secured by 8,000 acres of improved land. BTI Partners has monetized that investment by securing national homebuilders and forming joint ventures with local builders.
Some of those investments included The Grove Resort & Spa. BTI opened its $16 million Surfari Water Park there in 2018 and is wrapping up renovations at of the final 300 condo-hotel units at the resort while it also looks to expand across the street with a vacation townhouse development.
In addition to its holdings in the Four Corners area, BTI also owns 100 acres in Posner Park, at the U.S. 27 - Interstate 4 interchange. In 2017 BTI sold 30 acres to Intram Investments, which will deliver another 200,000 square feet of big box retail this year.