Osceola's W192 Development Authority unanimously picked the Margaritaville Resort area as its highest priority segment on Wednesday, and will spend millions of dollars over the next few years to improve that stretch of the corridor.
Executive Director David Buchheit said he would begin meeting with Margaritaville developers and other stakeholders in the subdistrict to begin planning the first projects. The authority already has money budgeted in FY2018 for a gateway project, and that doesn't necessarily mean a continuation of the corridor's purple color palette.
Margaritaville Project Manager Jim Bagley has already said the developer is planning to erect three Las Vegas-style entertainment signs at the resort's entrances.
"There's an opportunity to create synergies between us and the developer," Buchheit told GrowthSpotter. "If they're doing a Key West theme, we could tie into that."
The development authority's board has been meeting every week since it returned from a trip to Anaheim with a new redevelopment strategy, and sense of urgency to implement it right away.
On Wednesday, the board adopted a mission statement and divided the 17-mile corridor into eight subdistricts, with the goal to select one target area at a time that would benefit from an infusion of capital for infrastructure and economic development improvements.
From the beginning, the discussion focused on Margaritaville (S.R. 429 interchange to Formosa Gardens Boulevard) and Old Town (S.R. 417 to Poinciana Boulevard.)
"We need to pick the area that's going to get us the return most quickly, and to me that's Margaritaville," board member Mary Ellen Kerber said.
The board reasoned that the resort's first phase -- which includes a hotel, hundreds of vacation homes, a water park and 200,000 square feet of retail and dining -- would come on the tax rolls in 2018, generating millions in new property tax revenue.
"It makes sense to support major development as it comes in," vice chairman Mark Miller added.
The board agreed to spend 75 percent of its $5 million annual budget in the top-ranked zone, and reserve the other 25 percent for grants and projects throughout the district.The idea is to completely revitalize that area before moving on to the next one.
Those improvements could include a new streetscape, landscaping, placemaking signs, public art and burial of overhead power lines.
The Old Town/Entertainment subdistrict, which also includes the Gaylord Palms area and future Magic Place, ranked second on the priority list but is still targeted for completion by 2020.
Old Town General Manager Thearon Skurlock told GrowthSpotter he agrees with the agency's new approach, and was excited that Old Town was in the running to be the first priority area.
"I think it's a much more focused strategy, and I get the idea behind it," he said. "Most developers do the same thing. You focus on one thing and you get it done before you move on to something else."
"It makes sense because it's the third gateway coming from the north," Chairman Hector Lizasuain said.