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California company forges ahead with residential conversion of W192 timeshare resort

The 150-unit Saratoga Resort would be converted into a rental community, but the developer needs to add more parking.
The 150-unit Saratoga Resort would be converted into a rental community, but the developer needs to add more parking. (Osceola County Property Appraiser)

A Southern California based real estate company is forging ahead with plans to convert a Kissimmee timeshare resort into workforce housing despite being thrown a curve ball by Osceola County’s planning and zoning staff.

Spruce Grove Inc. wants to convert the 150-unit Saratoga Resort at 4787 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway into rental apartments. The resort consists of 150 townhouse-style apartments with resort-style amenities, including a pool, clubhouse and fitness center. The resort has been closed since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Back in April, Spruce Grove representatives had a pre-application meeting with Osceola County’s Development Review Committee where they learned, for the first time, that they would have to install sprinkler systems in all of the units if they changed the use from hospitality to multifamily. The developer also would be on the hook for $1.7 million in school impact fees; Spruce Project Coordinator Elizabeth Morales said they have factored the cost into their budget and decided to move forward.

The studio apartments will have Class-A finishes and amenities with attainable rents for hourly workers along the tourism corridor.

The other main issue with the conversion was complying with the county’s parking requirements, which are higher for residential uses than for resorts.

The resort spreads across a 12.7-acre site and abuts a vacant 5-acre parcel to the south. Morales told county planners the company wants to develop a 140-space parking lot on the vacant land. The conceptual plan from Unroe Engineering also widens the entrance road and creates a secondary exit onto Target Road.

What sounded like a straightforward project got complicated very quickly Wednesday when staff indicated they might not support the project because the unit count would not meet the minimum density required under county code. Osceola recently changed the future land use for the area from Tourist Commercial to Urban Center, which has a minimum residential density of 18 dwelling units per acre.

Read our interview with the developer about why he was drawn to this hotel conversion project and how it fits his investment goals.

The resort parcel, which already has Commercial Tourist zoning, has a density of 5.7 units per acre, and that number would be diluted if the acreage for the parking is factored in.

Long range planner Cori Carpenter said developer might have to include a future phase on the vacant land to meet the density requirements. But Morales said Spruce had no plans to build any new structures.

“We had a pre-app meeting back in April, and none of these issues were ever brought to our attention," she said. “And so we’re six-plus months down the road, and it sounds like now we have an issue with, you know, the density and rezoning and all of this stuff. So, from our perspective we’re just a little perplexed as to why this is the first time we’re hearing this.”

After much discussion, the planning staff agreed to support the rezoning to allow for expanded parking. DRC Chairman Jose Gomez said if Spruce ever develops the balance of the southern parcel, or decides to redevelop the Saratoga property, they would have to meet the new density requirements.

Engineer Darcy Unroe said he would file the application to get on the earliest possible DRC agenda. The final public hearing and vote for the rezoning would likely take place in February.

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

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