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New classroom building in Osceola tops priority list for Valencia College

New classroom building in Osceola tops priority list for Valencia College
Valencia College owns 100 acres on E192, across from the Florida Tech Farm research park. The campus master plan adopted in 2002 calls for a total of 10 buildings circuling a campus quad. The college will seek funding for Building 5 in the next legislative session. (Valencia College)

Valencia College will open its new Poinciana campus next year, but that still won't provide enough relief for the swelling enrollment at the college's main Osceola campus in Kissimmee.

That's why the Board of Trustees on Wednesday named the $55.7 million classroom building in Kissimmee as top priority in its new five-year capital improvement plan (CIP). Enrollment at the Kissimmee campus is nearing 12,000 students.

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The CIP will be submitted to the Florida Legislature when the college officials make their official funding requests in the 2017 session.  Last year the project ranked sixth on the funding priority list.

The first two buildings for the new Downtown Orlando campus, totaling nearly $73 million combined, are the next highest ranked capital priorities for the college.

Valencia College opened a four-story, 179,000-square-foot building on the Kissimmee campus three years ago. The new classroom building would be the fifth on the campus, which has seen its enrollment grow more than 30 percent since 2008.

"The Osceola campus is Valencia's fastest growing campus and, though the new Poinciana campus will provide some relief for overcrowding at that campus, we still need more room at Osceola," spokeswoman Linda Beaty told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday.

At nearly 150,000 square feet, the project is more than twice the size of the new Poinciana building. It would house classrooms and may also have labs for the Hospitality, Entertainment and Digital Technology programs. In prior years, the funding request was spread out over three years, with $6.8 million requested in Fiscal 2017 for design.

"The Florida College System has asked all state colleges to request all funding in a single year," Beaty explained.

Valencia College owns 100 acres on the E192 corridor directly across from Osceola County's new Florida Tech Farm research park, home to the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center opening in 2017. The campus master plan calls for a total of 10 buildings.

The college and research park compliment each other, and will drive the redevelopment of the entire corridor, said Cheryl Schoolfield, vice president of Schoolfield Properties.

"Our family owns quite a bit of land -- parcels up and down 192 -- and all of those sites will be redeveloped," she told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday.

A key parcel is an 18.6-acre tract directly across from the college campus. "We're working in partnership with Osceola County and the City of Kissimmee to make that parcel the main entrance to The FARM," she said.

The parcel already has an approved PUD for retail and multifamily. It was on the market for $4 million.

Schoolfield said the family is in negotiations to donate 4 acres of right-of-way for the southern extension of Denn John Lane from the signalized intersection that also serves as an access road for the college campus.

"We're looking to do retail, office space and maybe a hotel," she said. "We feel this is a win-win. It's a win for the county because now they don't have an open canvas to design as they wish."

Flagship Companies, which owns two corner parcels at the intersection of E192 and Fortune Road, is also rethinking its plan to build strip retail at that location. The company was planning to break ground this summer on the shopping center but was stymied by the county's building moratorium.

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Flagship executives are scheduled to meet with county staff next week to discuss redesigning the project so it fits the urban design standards now being drafted for the area. Executive Vice President Mark Cooney told GrowthSpotter the proposed expansion at the college further validates that decision.

"We're open to going back and redesigning our project to allow for more density," Cooney said. "We were going to do a one-story strip center, but we could look at doing multiple stories and possibly a hotel. That corner is irreplaceable -- it's a trophy site."

Just west of the college is a 16.4-acre vacant commercial site. The land appears to owned by a trust managed by Jacksonville real estate investor Sam Easton.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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