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Polk County Developments

ChampionsGate developer wants to add 2,136 apartments, 150,000 sf commercial to Polk

RIDA Development is seeking an overlay that changes the future land use of the outlined parcels to mixed-use.

ChampionsGate developers hoping to simplify future growth processes have moved one step closer with a recommendation for approvals by the Polk County Planning Board. A streamlined planning process through an overlay of updated land development codes would help Houston-based RIDA Development expand the community that spans both Polk and Osceola counties.

RIDA is proposing an added 2,136 multi-family units and 150,000 square feet of commercial space in Polk County on 80 acres located east of Westside Boulevard, north of Ronald Reagan Parkway, west of Champions Gate Boulevard and south of the Polk/Osceola County Line. All of ChampionsGate encompasses about 1,500 acres southwest of the Walt Disney World Resort just off I-4. RIDA began developing the resort community in 2000, and it now includes homes, restaurants, shops and 36 holes of championship golf.

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The proposed multi-family units at 36 units per acre exceed the density allowed in the DRI (Development of Regional Impact) that is part of the Ronald Reagan Selected Area Plan (SAP), although the northeast portion of Polk County is seeing an increased demand for high-density apartments. Approvals require complicated and often arduous approval processes, project planner John Adams told GrowthSpotter.

There are six existing apartment communities in and adjacent to ChampionsGate with a combined total of nearly 1,650 units.

“The DRI is a cumbersome, antiquated process,” said Adams, who is vice president of Kissimmee-based Rj Whidden and Associates. An overlay “will make for a smoother review for both the county and the developer.”

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RIDA rescinded its DRI in Osceola County in 2017 and is focusing now on its development in Polk, where the bulk of the property has been used by the OMNI Orlando hotel as a sports complex with professional-grade soccer fields.

ChampionsGate is part of the Ronald Reagan Selected Area Plan (SAP) and was adopted as a DRI (Development of Regional Impact) in 2005. The DRI includes entitlements for a mixture of uses as referenced in the Development Order for the DRI and further restricted by the Future Land Use designations and the SAP. RIDA wants an overlay to the SAP to create a new mixed-use designation within the DRI to accommodate higher densities needed to build the proposed multi-family units. Polk County planning commissioners voted unanimously Dec. 7 to recommend approval of RIDA’s proposals to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

“The purpose of the proposed designation is to accommodate multi-family residential developments and to allow a mix of retail and other non-residential uses in order to create an active urban environment,” RIDA wrote in planning documents.

Among the proposed multi-family projects in Northeast Polk are Atlanta-based Penler’s plans for a 325-unit luxury apartment development with an accompanying 100 townhomes on Ernie Caldwell Boulevard in Polk County; and Tuttle Land Investments (TLI), based in Hillsboro Beach, has plans to build 416 apartments near Davenport. A ChampionsGate DRI overlay won’t affect these projects but could set a precedent.

Polk BOCC will hold a first reading on Jan. 3 to consider the overlay proposal that would create the ChampionsGate Mixed Use District. It would accommodate previously approved overall DRI entitlements not yet constructed and “increase those entitlements for multi-family apartment and/or condominium areas between activity centers and lower density residential.” A second reading and hearing is set for March 21.

“We’re confident we’ll get board approval,” RIDA Senior Vice President Marc Reicher told GrowthSpotter. “We’re getting closer. We’re crawling our way.”

Reicher and Ira Menser control all the parcels in the overlay proposal, according to planning documents and Adams. Development timing is going to depend on inflation, Reicher said. Currently more than 7%, the U.S. inflation rate “has to get down to 4%” before RIDA will start the multi-year, multi-project development.”Historically, we haven’t been in a big hurry,” Reicher said. “300-basis points make a big difference in a multi-family project. We’ll have to see what the market does.”

Reicher said he is working on renderings and site plans that will be completed throughout the land-use update process.

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