Owner wants to reboot condo project next to Bahama Bay with townhomes

The owner of a partially built condo community next to Davenport's Bahama Bay Resort wants to reboot the community by switching from condos to townhomes.

ICM Development Group founder Carlos Balzola acquired the 24-acre parcel in the Westside Planned Development (PD) in 2012, and brought in additional investment partners in 2015.The property, legally known as Bahama Bay II, was approved for 406 condos.

When ICM and its affiliate, Green Gate Lagoon, bought the property, the first 172 condos had already been built. They announced a joint venture in late 2015 to complete the condo project around a new 4-acre Crystal Lagoon amenity.

Balzola and his son and vice president, Gabriel, met Wednesday with Osceola County planners to discuss changing the entitlement from condo to townhomes. The townhomes would operate as short-term rental units.

"The reason is we think it will look better," he said. "And it will give us the opportunity to move forward with this."

Balzola told GrowthSpotter he and his partners couldn't get the project financed as condominiums. They market exclusively to South American investors, who also couldn't get loan approvals for condos.

"With townhomes, it's easy to get bank financing," he said. 

Balzola said at this point, it's highly unlikely they would build the Crystal Lagoon. He shared a conceptual site plan that showed the townhomes circling a pair of stormwater ponds. 

"We'd like to do a lazy river, if possible, but we have to see what the engineer says we need to do for stormwater," he said.

While the PD amendment can be approved administratively, ICM must resolve several legal and code enforcement matters before filing for any new permits. 

Osceola County building officials told the Balzolas they must demolish one of the condo buildings that was already partially taken down. Gabriel Balzola explained that the original development lacked a cross access easement with the neighboring Bahama Bay Resort property. That building had to be "cut in half" for the access road.

Carlos Balzola said he's been trying to work with the original developer to recoup the investment for the people who owned condos in that building.

"About 10 people will be losing their investment because of someone else's mistakes," he said.

Balzola is also trying to buy out one of his investment partners. His company borrowed $3.1 million in April from a trio of lenders. The majority stakeholder filed a Lis Pendens notice a month after approving the loan.

Even with those hurdles, the timing is ripe for Green Gate. The project is in a high-growth segment of the Westside Boulevard corridor, near the intersection of Florence Villa Grove Road. It's immediately north of the new Magnolia at Westside, a 246-home community now under construction by KB Homes and K. Hovnanian Homes.  

D.R. Horton just closed on a $7 million acquisition of the adjacent 350-lot subdivision. And Mattamy Homes is currently building the first phase of a massive vacation home resort, Solara at Westside, just south of Florence Villa Grove Road.

Balzola said he wants to start construction on the new townhomes as soon as he clears permitting. He plans to start with a new clubhouse and pool and build the townhomes extending from there. 

"If I could, I would start right away," he said. "I think I’m building the momentum to finally do what I want to do out here." 

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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