After three years of research and a year of negotiations with the city of Apopka, Winter Park-based MMI Development won approval Wednesday to front the cost and risk to build a $6.5 million interchange at the intersection of Marden Road and the 414 Apopka Expressway.
It's an infrastructure investment that is sorely needed in the area of southwest Apopka, with new residential development going up near the intersection of the 429 and 414 expressways, and Florida Hospital Apopka being built less than a mile from the proposed interchange.
"We're really talking about economic growth in an area that is primed for it but lacks the necessary infrastructure to attract that next stage of development," said Michael E. Wright, president of MMI. "Without traffic able to get off at this interchange, this area of South Apopka won't grow to its potential."
A half dozen citizens and land owners from the area, including Florida Hospital, encouraged Apopka's City Council on Wednesday to support the developer's proposal of a public-private partnership, which the council eventually approved and adopted as an ordinance.
They affirmed greater connectivity in the area was key to help commercial development blossom on and around Marden Road, W. Keene Road and Ocoee Apopka Road, which should be drawn to the area's housing growth and the new $203 million-Florida Hospital Apopka site.
MMI Development stands to gain, as the east and west interchange ramps to be built will be located directly in front of its planned 272-unit Marden Ridge Apartments development. The first phase of that $38 million project is set for a 42-acre parcel on Marden Road, roughly a mile away from the new hospital, as GrowthSpotter reported June 5.
The City Council approved creation of a new Synthetic Tax Incremental Financing District (STIF) that will cover an area known as the Ocoee Apopka Road Small Area Study. MMI Development will front 100 percent of the construction cost and risk for the interchange, and then be reimbursed over 10 years in a few ways.
Impact fees that MMI would normally pay to develop its property in the coming years will be credited back. An existing transportation impact fee fund under Apopka city government will reimburse a portion of the developer's investment.
And as ad valorum taxes increase within the STIF area, 50 percent will go to a trust fund established to reimburse for the interchange. The city's payment from existing fund sources should not exceed $2.5 million, which is separate from the ad valorum increases for STIF-area tax payments over the next decade.
The initiative by MMI and Apopka is one of the first examples of an infrastructure PPP in Greater Orlando since the Florida Legislature created a PPP taskforce in 2013 to promote ways to fast-track such infrastructure investment.
"This is an infrastructure project where a local developer saw the real need for an interchange for so many stakeholders, and is willing to lead the way in investing to make sure it gets done," said Angel de la Portilla, governmental consultant for Central Florida Strategies, an advisor to MMI Development.
The interchange should lead to incremental growth in land value for property owners in the STIF district area, boosting tax base contribution over time, said Jeff Welch, president of Rochelle Holdings, which owns about 600 acres in the area.
"An interchange is sorely needed there," added Kevin Knudson, civil and roadway engineer with Dewberry in Orlando. "This will open up a whole portion of Apopka to new access."
MMI's Marden Ridge Apartments should break ground in the fourth quarter of this year, and is being paced to begin delivering units around the same time the hospital opens in Spring 2017. It will be marketed to future hospital employees.