Kissimmee City Commissioners this week approved two major property acquisitions totaling more than $9 million, including nearly 20 acres downtown in the city's Medical Arts District.
Craig Holland, the city's development services director, said Kissimmee has been pursuing Osceola County's Beaumont Avenue property for at least a decade. The county has finally agreed to sell it for $4 million.
"They're trying to finish Hoagland Boulevard, and they need some money," he told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday.
The 19-acre parcel contains a handful of county Human Services offices, among them Veterans Services, Pre-Trial Diversion and Probation Services. Holland said at one time the county had explored developing affordable housing on the site -- a plan the city resisted.
"We want market-rate housing downtown," he said. "For a downtown to thrive, we need people with expendable income."
The property also abuts Osceola Regional Medical Center to the south, making it ideally suited for medical offices, Holland said. The purchase contract, which still must be approved by county commissioners, allows the county offices to remain -- rent free -- for up to three years.
That should give the city enough time to conduct a thorough environmental study of the site and seek a public-private-partnership to develop the property. The city wants an arrangement similar to the deal it has with Mosaic Development, which is developing market rate housing downtown on Toho Square.
"The plan would be to do something very similar to what we did with Mosaic – to do an RFQ and find a developer who will pay us for the land," Holland said. "Right now, it's limitless what we can do on the property."
The hospital, which is currently adding two floors to its main building, will be a major stakeholder in helping shape the future of the site, Holland said. He anticipates the whole process could take up to five years, unless the county chooses to vacate the site before its lease expires.
City Spokeswoman Melissa Zayas-Moreno said Kissimmee isn't in a rush, and added that the city would allow a youth football team that practices on the property to remain until it's developed. "With the county remaining in the property for the next several years, it affords us time to get additional direction from the City Commission on what to do with the property," she said.
City Manager Mike Steigerwald said the city would use a bank loan for acquisition of the Beaumont property. The debt service will be paid from CRA funds. He called the deal a win-win for the city.
"We wanted Hoagland Boulevard done, and we wanted the property, so we're getting both, essentially," he said.
Also on Tuesday, the City Commission approved a contract to buy the remaining 53.5 acres of the Lancaster Ranch property for $5.2 million. The acquisition completes the ranch purchase that started in 2001, when the city paid $5.3 million for first 100-plus acres.
Clyde Wells, a broker for Maury L. Carter & Associates, represented the sellers. He said the Lackey family had been approached by multiple developers and homebuilders, and had received written offers for the property.
"They had sold the front end of that property for a park, and the owners really wanted to maintain the remaining 53 acres as a park," Wells said. "It's a really nice piece, and it runs along Shingle Creek all the way from Pleasant Hill to John Young. We're glad it's going to be preserved."
The city and its parks consultant, AECOM, had included the 53 acres in its Lancaster Ranch Park master plan. It's also a critical link in the Shingle Creek Regional Trail. The regional trail project spans 32 miles across both Osceola and Orange counties and through the cities of Orlando and Kissimmee.
City Attorney Don Smallwood told commissioners that although the land was appraised at $90,000 per acre, the $97,000 per acre price falls within the 10-percent range allowed by Florida law.
"They actually wanted more -- I talked them down from that," Smallwood said Tuesday night. "They wanted what the county paid. They wanted ($104,000) and I told them that was more than the 10 percent."
Osceola County had paid $104,000-per-acre last year for a 3-acre taking in connection with the widening of Pleasant Hill Road.
The Lancaster parcel is across from another large undeveloped track on John Young Parkway that extends to Lake Tohopekaliga. Broker Daryl Carter told GrowthSpotter that 194 acres, which was listed for $7.5 million, is under contract to a developer who plans to build a trail-centric residential community.