There is no shortage of developers interested in building affordable apartment homes next to the southernmost SunRail station in Kissimmee, and multiple planning firms will compete to develop a master plan for the 82-acre site.
Economic Development Director Tom Sunnarborg, who chairs the selection committee, described the county’s objective in publishing the Request for Proposals for the master plan consultant. The committee will meet next week to score the five proposals that were received July 21.
“What we’re looking to do is to maximize the value of that property that the county now owns in terms of the number and quality of affordable housing units, market rate and workforce housing units to create a synergy with the, the rail station and a transportation oriented development, kind of plan,” he said.
Miami-based PlusUrbia, which specializes in transit-oriented design, was the only firm without a Central Florida presence to respond to the RFP. PlusUrbia counts the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization among its clients, and the firm has designed multiple transit corridors for the agency. It also completed a 313-acre TOD plan focusing on commuter rail stations for the City of Hialeah in 2016.
The master plan consultant will be expected to create a vision for the property that makes it a catalyst for more TOD development around the station, including some commercial uses like child care, grocery and drug stores. Sunnarborg said the county wants the firm to work with owners of neighboring parcels along Rail Street and Poinciana Boulevard to “create a hub of new activity.”
Rj Whidden and Associates has the advantage of being the only Kissimmee-based bidder and the only one with previous design experience on the site. Osceola County is a longtime client, also, having engaged RJWA for master planning the county’s mixed-use districts and its E192 CRA Design Guidelines.
The other four firms maintain offices in Orlando. They are Canin Associates, which recently filed a master plan on behalf of Pulte for the Vista Park mixed-use district in Southeast Orlando. The firm also lists Lakewood Ranch, Solivita and Avalon Park among its mixed-use portfolio of projects.
HKS Architects has designed transit oriented projects in California and China. Locally, the firm is behind some high profile projects, such as the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the USTA National Campus at Lake Nona and the south terminal for Orlando International Airport. The Orlando Health system is a client, and HKS has designed medical campuses throughout the region. The firm also is working with Grand Cypress Resort on plans for a new luxury hotel.
Land Design has provided planning and engineering services for several multifamily projects in the Orlando area. Those include Azul at Lake Howell in Casselberry and The Cannery apartments in Orlando’s Packing District. In Osceola County, the firm was involved in the Four Seasons Orlando active adult community at Mystic Dunes.
A separate selection committee will meet early next week to review the bids from multifamily developers for the district and hopes to make a selection in September. The county used federal HOME funding to buy the land abutting the Poinciana SunRail station, so it’s required to use at least a portion of it for affordable housing. The county wants at least 400 units of affordable and workforce housing on the property. The location would be identified in the new master plan, which also would identify the optimal number and location of workforce and market rate housing.
Several of the firms are currently developing or have built affordable housing in Osceola County. Those include Atlantic Housing Partners, which completed the mixed-income Vineland Landings in Kissimmee and is now building 800 units of workforce housing in Daytona Beach of which over 75% will be affordable.
Minneapolis-based Dominium, which has two affordable senior housing projects in the pipeline in Osceola, has extensive experience building affordable housing without having to utilize competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing. One of the nation’s largest owners and developers of for-profit affordable housing, Dominium entered the Florida market last year and also has a project planned near UCF.
Birdsong Housing Partners has completed multiple workforce and affordable housing projects in the county, including Portofino at ChampionsGate. It has completed two affordable communities on Bellalago Drive, and it’s now building 80 units for very-low income families at Gannet Point, near NeoCity.
Orlando-based Banyan Development partnered with Birdsong on the two Bellalago projects. The firm currently has two affordable senior housing projects in the works in City of Orlando, including the 13-story Mariposa Grove tower in downtown. Earlier this month Banyan submitted plans for a transit-friendly, 120-unit affordable housing development adjacent to the Altamonte Springs SunRail station.
Gorman & Company has completed a multiple affordable housing communties throughout the US, including two in the Florida Keys. It’s Grand River Station project in La Crosse, Wisconsin is a mixed-use, mixed-income development with a transit station on the ground floor.
Tampa-based Blue Sky Communities is primarily active in its home market, but the developer branched into the greater Orlando market in 2018 with the opening of Woodwinds, a 96-unit affordable community targeting homeless families in Clermont.
The final bidder was Tampa-based SouthPort Financial Services, which sought LIHTC funding in 2016 for a project on the site that later became Gannet Point. Southport’s principals have built or acquired a substantial number of market rental housing projects and developed over 120 LIHTC properties.