The master developer of ChampionsGate is readying to start building out 80 acres that could include 2,200 multifamily units in Polk County, along with 150,000 square feet of retail and office space. Houston-based RIDA Development and county planners are creating a workaround to the outdated DRI and an update to land-use plans to complete the community.
Project planner John Adams, vice president of Kissimmee-based Rj Whidden and Associates, met with Polk County’s Development Review Committee (DRC) in May for a pre-application conversation about RIDA’s goals for the property.
“These are the undeveloped parcels that they (RIDA) are looking at re-entitling,” Adams told planners. “They are looking to increase densities over the current entitlements of the DRI (Development of Regional Impact). “That DRI is a bit antiquated and an antiquated process.”
ChampionsGate encompasses about 1,500 acres southwest of the Walt Disney World Resort just off I-4 and spans both Osceola and Polk counties. RIDA began developing the resort community in 2000, and it now includes homes, restaurants, shops and 36 holes of championship golf.
The resort is anchored by the Omni Orlando Resort and Convention Center, which is slated to get a new 5-story tower with 147 additional guest rooms, bringing the total room count above the 1,000-key benchmark. RIDA received a building permit in January for the $25 million expansion.
RIDA rescinded its DRI in Osceola in 2017 and is focusing now on its development in Polk, where the developer has large swaths of land north of Ronald Reagan Parkway between Westside Boulevard and ChampionsGate Boulevard, Polk County planner Chanda Bennett told GrowthSpottter. The bulk of the property has been used by the hotel as a sports complex with professional-grade soccer fields that served as a training site for the Toronto FC MLS team during the 2021 season.
To build what it wants in Polk County, RIDA needs a comprehensive plan text amendment that creates an overlay within the Ronald Reagan Selected Area Plan (SAP) that increases density to 36 dwelling units/acre and allows for mixed-use development, Bennett said. RIDA also needs to decide which areas of the property will be dedicated to what kind of building, she said. Adams said a traffic study is in the works, as well as a market analysis. “We do currently have entitlements for mixed-use on those parcels,” Adams told the DRC. The traffic study should show it will accommodate the 2,200 units and the market study will help justify the financial feasibility of the study as well as justify the needs.”
And those two documents will support the application for a text amendment and any land-use changes, Bennett said. “It’s keeping with the growth in that area,” she said. “It makes sense – it’s a cohesive development.”
The demand for multi-family in the area is high, even in the resort-style product RIDA likely will build, says Bennett. Mortgage broker Berkadia Managing director Brett Moss agrees.
“I think there is a sheer undersupply there,” Moss told GrowthSpotter. For people moving to Central Florida, this is a great location” – equidistance between Tampa and Orlando. The 27-corridor near Osceola and Polk gives people a way around Disney traffic, saving a lot of time, he said. With a lack of single-family homes nationally and home prices increasing, renting is a great option. New rental units in ChampionsGate will fill a need, he said.
The ChampionsGate-Reunion submarket has seen a construction boon in Class A apartment complexes over the last five years, but those communities are leasing up as quickly as developers can build them. “There’s not a lot of available apartment units,” Moss said.
RIDA’s latest project in the community – The Preserve at ChampionsGate –is a 370-unit luxury apartment complex with a resort-style pool and amenities. Bennett new apartments built on the Polk side of the county line would have the same hotel-quality finishes and amenities. The community is also home to The Gate apartments, located in the town center, and the Portifino apartments on Ronald Reagan Parkway.
While apartments aren’t confirmed for the entire 2,200 units, Bennett told GrowthSpotter: “I get the impression it will be multi-family, multi-story attached. I don’t know what the ownership type would be. Not sure if condo, hotel/motel, timeshare. I’m not sure exactly what that would look like.”
And neither does RIDA. Senior Vice President Marc Reicher told GrowthSpotter the project is in the conceptual phase and too early to discuss. Adams told planners on May 19 that the multifamily would be phased and likely be built out over 8-10 years. One benefit of building apartments in Polk County is the lower school impact fees. School impact fees in Osceola County for 2,200 apartments would be over $28 million based on today’s rate.
The process of approvals will take some time. Bennett sees 2024 as the earliest RIDA could get through the planning process and start construction.
RIDA can submit the traffic study and market analysis to DRC for its July 7 meeting with a first look by the Planning Commission Oct. 5 and County of Commissioners hearings in January and February, Bennett said.