Osceola County hasn’t seen any major new construction around the SunRail station on Poinciana Boulevard in the 14 months since the commuter rail service started. But that could be changing soon.
A pair of local developers held pre-application meetings this week with the county’s Development Review Committee for a potential senior affordable housing apartment building and for a mixed-use development. Both sites are on Old Tampa Highway, walking distance to the station.
The first project was brought by Stacy Banach, a construction consultant for American Residential Development. He said the Winter Park firm has a purchase contract on 4.7-acres abutting the Home Depot at the corner of Old Tampa and Poinciana Boulevard.
ARD is seeking rezoning for the property to allow for one of its 7-story Madison-branded apartment midrise towers. ARC is applying for Low Income Housing Tax Credits in November for a similar project in St. Cloud’s Stevens Plantation. The Poinciana site would be called Madison Plaza and would have up to 80 residential units.
Banach said the firm may wait until the 2020 cycle to nominate this site for the competitive tax credit program because Florida Housing Finance Corp. will be awarding higher scores to transit-oriented developments near SunRail stations beginning next year.
“That’s why we love the site,” he said.
Orlando-based Elevation Development is eyeing a 66.5-acre site about a half-mile east of the station. The company had the site under contract a year ago with plan to build over 500 apartments, but Principal Shaman Foradi said his market studies simply don’t support such high density at that location.
“We’ve looked at it several times. Other developers have looked at it several times. Apartments just don’t work here,” he said.
Now Elevation is looking to build a 309-lot townhouse community.
“It’s not officially affordable housing, but we plan to have units priced in the mid-$100,000s up to $170,000,” Foradi said. He said they designed the site with a primary entrance at the RR crossing on Turkey Lane.
“That will give us an opportunity to actually have an area for a school bus stop, and maybe have an area for the entire neighborhood,” he said. “It’s kind of difficult to get kids over from the railroad tracks and all that.”
But Zoning Manager Amy Templeton said the recently updated Comprehensive Plan now classifies the station area as an employment center, and this site would need to be rezoned to Employment Center Perimeter. That zone has a minimum density requirement of 18 residential units per acre, but Elevation could offset some of the density by adding non-residential uses.
DRC Chairman Jose Gomez suggested he look at adding some office buildings along the western portion of the property or reserve some of the land for multifamily. He told Foradi that Osceola County had included an extension of Rail Street to this property in the transportation element of its Comprehensive Plan and the county would likely negotiate a developer’s agreement with Elevation to build the road connection. A phased development approach might allow Elevation to move forward now with the townhouse section.
“I think connecting that might give you more opportunities in the future to develop at a higher density,” Gomez said. “You’re right, probably currently the market isn’t there. But for the future that market may be there, so I don’t know if it’s something where they could set aside some areas in the future for multifamily.”