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Tampa developer planning Crystal Lagoon community in Osceola’s East Lake Toho district (updated)

A Crystal Lagoon would anchor the 20.5-acre community center on Kissimmee Park Road. It's proposed as part of the first phase of the mixed-use Whaley Platt community.
A Crystal Lagoon would anchor the 20.5-acre community center on Kissimmee Park Road. It's proposed as part of the first phase of the mixed-use Whaley Platt community. (Rj Whidden and Associates)

The Tampa developer who built North America’s first Crystal Lagoon amenity is under contract for the 752-acre Whaley Platt property in Osceola County’s East Lake Toho district.

Metro Development Group is the named applicant on a recently filed Concept Plan (CP) for the project, which is seeking entitlements for 2,663 homes to be developed over six construction phases.

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Metro opened the Epperson Community in Pasco County in 2018 and has three more in Metro Lagoons development in the Tampa Bay market. It also was one of the first developers in Florida to introduce ULTRAFi high-speed internet throughout its communities, offering speeds of up to 1 gigabit to all residents.

This would be the firm’s entry into the Orlando region. Marketing Director John Afflebach told GrowthSpotter Metro selected the area because of its natural setting on the shore of Lake Toho.

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“It’s in an area of positive growth, it has great connectivity and it’s on land that is steeped in Florida history,” he said.

A typical Metro master-planned community brings together an array of local and national builders and offers a variety of housing products to meet different price points.

“We like our communities to be very inclusive,” Afflebach said. “If you look at Epperson, we have a range of home prices from the $200,000s to over $1 million.”

The CP also designates a site for a Crystal Lagoon-anchored community center at the corner of Kissimmee Park Road and Lake Tohopekaliga Road. The community center would span 20.5 acres. MDG is seeking entitlements for a minimum of 5,000 square feet each of office and commercial with nearly 250,000 square feet of civic space. It would be built in Phase 1 of the community, planned for construction in 2023.

Afflebach said MDG hasn’t committed yet to building the lagoon amenity in Osceola. “It’s definitely on the table,” he said. “The plans are very preliminary. We’re looking at the possibility and feasibility for a Crystal Lagoon.”

This is the third Crystal Lagoon site announced in Central Florida, but it could be the first to anchor a residential development.

The development team behind the $1 billion Evermore Resort Orlando next to Disney World has designed the project around a Crystal Lagoon. Construction is already underway on the 8-acre swimming lagoon, which is scheduled to open in June 2023.

Earlier this year, Crystal Lagoons USA entered a development deal with ADËLON Capital to develop at least five public access lagoons in the greater Orlando market in the next 10 years. Each would be attached to a hotel, residential or mixed-use development but also will offer access to the public via the purchase of daily passes.

Co-chairs Jonathan Cohen and Daniel Berman told GrowthSpotter the first public access lagoon would be attached to a trio of new hotels on Bali Boulevard in the Four Corners area of Orange County. They also said they were in due diligence for the other sites, including one in Osceola County.

The Whaley Platt CP includes a second community center adjacent to a future K-8 charter school site.

Whaley Platt is one of the six master-planned communities that make up the original East Lake Toho Element of the county’s comprehensive plan.

Owned by the Platt family, the 10-parcel assemblage was part of the original Whaley cattle ranch. Shane Platt is the grandson of pioneer rancher Cecil Whaley, and his wife, Carol Platt, is Osceola County’s Real Estate Asset Manager and a licensed land broker. She also happened to serve as CEO of Osceola County Association of Realtors for over 15 years. Neither could be reached for comment.

New home construction could start as early as fall of 2021 on the first of 5,000 residential units planned for the Mixed-Use Edgewater community.

Their property is immediately west of the Bella Tera mixed-use subdivision, which is owned by Centerline Capital Advisors. Earlier this month the owners filed a new Concept Plan (CP) and Preliminary Subdivision Plan (PS) seeking approvals for 2,013 homes on 664 acres. Bella Tera abuts BTI’s CrossPrairie community and stretches all the way from Kissimmee Park Road to Lake Toho.

CrossPrarie developer BTI Partners was revealed this month as the contract buyer for roughly 1,200 acres known as the Edgewater West property when it filed a CP seeking approvals for 3,649 homes. BTI, meanwhile, is waiting for final approval to start construction on Phase 1, entitled for just over 1,000 homes, and it just received county approval this week for its Urban Center preliminary subdivision plan. The developer is also seeking permits for additional phases of the community that would add 2,426 more homes.

This summer the county’s planning department now is actively reviewing four concept plans, four preliminary subdivision plans and one site development plan in the East Lake Toho district, which spans over 11,000 acres.

The rash of filings and submittals over June and July prompted the county to task its planning firm, Rj Whidden & Associates, to create a master map showing all of the pending projects for the now in various phases of review, along with more details about product types and lot sizes.

For example, Bella Tera and CrossPrairie both show designated neighborhoods that will feature a Build-For-Rent (BFR) product. Bella Terra’s PS shows a 188-unit BFR subdivision on Kissimmee Park Road sandwiched between a 300-unit apartment complex and townhouse community. BTI Partners set aside a parcel next to the future high school site and another apartment complex labeled “cluster homes.” It’s approved for 108 dwelling units on a single lot, so it will likely be a horizontal apartment complex.

The map doesn’t include new phases in Tohoqua, which is a part of the East Lake Toho element but was annexed into the City of St. Cloud.

The only other project in the district that isn’t currently being reviewed by the county is Fontana Lakes. Owner-developer Jeff Fuqua received a mass grading permit from South Florida Water Management District last year for the first phase of his 677-acre mixed-use development, which is east of Bella Tera and south of CrossPrairie.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was published first on July 23, 2021. It has been updated with new details about Metro Development Group’s involvement and plans for the Crystal Lagoon.

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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