One of the Orlando area's most popular Latin restaurants has filed plans for a major expansion in Kissimmee just north of Osceola Heritage Park.
Melao Bakery is seeking approval from Osceola County's Development Review Committee for a new, 16,400-square-foot building at the corner of Fortune Road and Shake Rag Road -- about two-tenths of a mile from its current location.
Owners Eduardo Colon and Denisse Torres bought the 1.8-acre parcel last May for $725,000. At the time, the entire E192 Community Redevelopment Area was under a six-month building moratorium while the county developed new design standards for the district.
Glenn Randall of LaRosa CRE is project manager. "We definitely had some shakeups with engineering because of the moratorium," he told GrowthSpotter on Thursday. "It turned out to be a much bigger project than we originally envisioned. I know the county is really excited about this, and the owners are, too. They want this to be their flagship store."
The restaurant, which opened in 2008, caters to Kissimmee's large Hispanic community and serves multiple varieties of Mofongo (Puerto Rican plantain balls). It has a second location at Florida Mall at 2001 Consulate Dr.
Melao Spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said the restaurant had outgrown its current space at Stadium Plaza shopping center. "For the last two years, it's been very difficult - especially the parking situation," she said.
The owners decided that building a new restaurant would provide more seating capacity and could allow the company to expand it catering business.
"We are very excited because Melao will be the first business working under the new guidelines," she said.
The new standards, adopted in late October, require building placement closer to the street with parking in back. Melao's property is located in the district's "General Institutional Zone" that includes OHP and the area immediately surrounding the complex.
The ordinance also regulates building design by requiring a variety of materials on the facade (in this case brick, stucco and glass) and architectural details, such as balconies, awnings, corbels and decorative metalwork.
"The building has eyebrows," Randall joked, referring to the wavy metal pieces placed along the roofline.
The owners, who also operate Spanish-language Christian radio station 95.9 FM, will relocate the station to the Fortune Road site and broadcast directly from the bakery, Rodriguez said. The front of the building would include a large plaza for outdoor dining.
The new ordinance doesn't require multi-story buildings in the Institutional zone, as it does for property fronting on E192 and within the NeoCity high-tech park (formerly Judge Farms). But planners expected that higher land values and greater office demand, combined with a 40 percent reduction in parking requirements, would lead to increased density throughout the E192 corridor.
Randall said the owners completely redesigned the project, virtually doubling the original budget. "This ain't your normal E192 strip center," he said.
The conceptual site plan is on the DRC consent agenda for March 15, which means staff has already recommended approval.
Randall said Melao hopes to be able to open its doors at the new flagship by the end of the year.