Winter Haven for years touted the tree-lined property along Eloise Loop Road and a project envisioned by developer Jim Lentz as an attractive future addition to the city. Lentz bought the land in 2015 and presented plans the next year for a 10-year development with a mix of senior living, primary residential and vacation rentals. He also planned to renovate the Orleans’ House, a 7,000-square-foot 1950s-era home on waterfront for a community center for special events.
City officials approved a Planned Unit Development (PUD) for up to 1,500 dwelling units and a land-use change to allow for the community.
“They never submitted a site plan to us, so it never moved forward,” Winter Haven Planning Manager Sean Byers told GrowthSpotter.
The proximity to Legoland Florida Resort makes the area attractive as the community and the park continue to grow. New rides and attractions are planned on land currently being used for parking at the theme park. Parent company, Merlin Entertainments Group, filed plans seeking to clear about 4.5 acres of its existing parking lot and build a new section of its 145-acre theme park. Labeled as “Legoland Venus,” the addition would be located west of Cypress Gardens Boulevard and southeast of Bus Loop Drive. The park, which is attributed with driving development it what was just rural land around the boulevard, will celebrate its 10th birthday in October
Byers said Forestar hasn’t submitted anything new to the city. The PUD remains in effect along with the Residential Low Density future land use designation. The original site plan promised to preserve the oak trees that line the grand entrance, he said.
He called Lentz’s plan “a new urbanist type of development,” and it would have been the first in Winter Haven that wasn’t part of the old city in downtown. It would create a second town-like space, a city in a city.
“A lot of effort went into the current plan,” Byers said. “Staff would like to see that followed through with. But we understand new owners, new vision. It’s possible there may need to be new revisions.”
Forestar declined to discuss its plans. “At the moment, it is too early for us to comment on the project,” Bethany L. Carle told GrowthSpotter in an email.
The company last year paid $10.67 million for nearly 500 lots in Osceola County’s Harmony master-planned community, and is under contract for nearly 1,200 acres of the Ridgewood Lakes development in the Davenport area. The homebuilder sought entitlements last year for 1,565 homes in three separate phases.
D.R. Horton also leads a trio of builders in a Winter Haven mixed-use project called Lake Ashton. The property is less than five miles from Legoland Lake Ashton South will include 79 single-family homes and 65 townhomes in phase 1, while Lake Ashton North is approved for up to 500 multifamily homes and 100,000 square feet of commercial development.
The homebuilder also recently bought a subdivision in St. Cloud and launched a new “Live Modern” lineup of homes. D.R. Horton’s website describes the homes as having a modern facelift, focusing on “minimal and sleek design details” with modern flooring, fixtures, and doors are “highlighted by bright white walls with gray accents.” Each home comes with Connected® smart home package.