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Controversial ChampionsGate-area upzoning earns Osceola staff approval

This is the view of the proposed 3-story apartment buildings from Goodman Road.
This is the view of the proposed 3-story apartment buildings from Goodman Road. (Rj Whidden & Associates)

Osceola County’s Development Review Committee recommended approval Wednesday for a rezoning to allow a 355-unit apartment complex just north of ChampionsGate Resort after the project was revised to assuage concerns of nearby residents from the Bella Trae condominiums.

Orlando developer Brian Martin has a purchase contract on the 18-acre site and is partnering with Atlanta-based Cortland Partners to develop the luxury community at the northeast corner of Goodman Road and Masters Boulevard. The property is part of a larger 104-acre parent parcel, known as the Dewan Property. The owners applied in late 2019 for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment to change the future land use from Low Density Residential to Tourist Commercial to position the vacant property for sale.

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Osceola Commissioners voted on Feb. 17 to transmit the CPA to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity after the sellers changed the land use and zoning requests to High Density Residential. This followed a community meeting that drew an estimated 140 residents, many of whom complained about the existing traffic congestion in and around ChampionsGate.

The 18-acre multifamily site is at the corner of Masters Boulevard and Goodman Road, just north of the ChampionsGate resort.
The 18-acre multifamily site is at the corner of Masters Boulevard and Goodman Road, just north of the ChampionsGate resort. (Osceola County)

“The other big thing that was really important to the ChampionsGate group was when we were going for the Tourist Commercial land use, that allows you to do pretty much everything,” Martin said. “They were concerned about what could come in, so we changed it all of High Density Residential. They were comfortable with multifamily."

Martin has also submitted a Preliminary Subdivision Plan with his rezoning application for the multifamily site. The plans by Rj Whidden and Associates, call for a single 4-story residential building at the center of the property with lower-profile buildings around the perimeter of the site.

The apartment buildings facing Goodman Road, across from Bella Trae, would be three stories and set back from the property line. The primary entrance would be from the north, according to the plan.

The preliminary subdivision plan for the new Cortland apartments calls for a resort-style pool with tanning shelf, fountain and swim up bar.
The preliminary subdivision plan for the new Cortland apartments calls for a resort-style pool with tanning shelf, fountain and swim up bar. (Rj Whidden & Associates)

There’s also a small, 2-story building with a small number of “guest house” units that will be available to tenants who have out-of-town visitors. “I think it’s a really neat amenity,” Martin said. “I don’t know of anyone else who offers that."

Renderings of the project show an abundance of social spaces, including a central resort pool with tanning shelf and swim up bar, grilling station, a fitness trail, sand volleyball and a rooftop lounge overlooking the pool and courtyard. A pond on the eastern boundary of the project is amenitized with a fountain and boardwalk.

Cortland currently owns eight Class A apartment communities in greater Orlando, including Cortland Reunion, which it purchased last year soon after completion for paid $71 million. This would be the company’s first new-build in the market. Martin said they have a team of architects in house.

“They are definitely on the upscale side of the multifamily industry,” Martin said. “This project will be comparable to the new multifamily sites going on in ChampionsGate – not over in Polk County.”

The conceptual plans include an indoor-outdoor social space on the fourth floor of the main Cortland apartment building.
The conceptual plans include an indoor-outdoor social space on the fourth floor of the main Cortland apartment building. (Rj Whidden and Associates)

Having cleared the Development Review Committee Wednesday morning by consent, the rezoning now advances to the March 17 Planning Commission. Martin said the CPA, rezoning and subdivision plan would all be scheduled for hearings at a single commission meeting in April. He doesn’t anticipate a lot of opposition, since no one spoke against the HDR land use at the February hearing.

“We met with the neighborhood HOAs and the ChampionsGate development group and have worked everything out,” Martin said. “It ended up being a great, collaborative effort, and everybody involved seems to be happy and is getting what they wanted."

In its recommendation, the county’s transportation planning staff noted the upcoming road improvements, such as a the redesign of the C.R. 532 (ChampionsGate) interchange at I-4, the Westside Boulevard extension underway by Lennar Homes and the future extension of Sinclair Road.

“The potential development of the Dewan Property would allow for the County to provide a critical connection from the eastern terminus of Bella Citta Boulevard to a roadway alignment with Sinclair Road. The connection of Bella Citta Boulevard to Sinclair Road will allow for an alternative route to the north and east,” the report reads.

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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