Nalcrest planning first major expansion of retirement community in east Polk

A Polk County community that was built in 1963 as low-cost housing for retired post office workers is planning for its first ever expansion.

Nalcrest has applied to the county for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) for 41 acres of undeveloped property north of the 500-unit retiree village. The CPA would allow for multifamily development on the property.

The application goes to Polk's Development Review Committee on June 22. It will take approximately six months to get through final approval at the Board of County Commissioners.

The community not far from Winter Haven was founded by the National Association of Letter Carriers to provide an affordable enclave for retired or disabled union members. The community is a slice of "Old Florida," with its own softball field, tennis and pickleball courts, an Olympic-sized pool and an auditorium that hosts Bingo every Monday night. It even has its own beauty parlor and post office.

Nalcrest owns a 108-acre parcel immediately north of the community that already has the zoning in place.

Nalcrest Foundation President Matty Rose told GrowthSpotter the board of trustees is mapping out its future, working with Lakeland-based Dennis Wood Engineering on a Master Plan that encompasses multiple phases of future construction on the 149 undeveloped acres. 

The first priority is to construct a mini storage facility and a secure parking lot for campers and RVs -- away from the residential area.

"It seems like everyone has a camper these days," Rose said on Monday. "Right now, people park them over by the pool. It becomes an eyesore after a while." 

Rose said the storage facility is needed because almost all of the apartments are efficiency or one-bedroom units. Many of the residents already lease storage space off-site. The site plan also has space dedicated for construction of new, larger apartments. 

"We have 22 two-bedroom units," Rose said. "They're only 750 square feet. Our plan for the future is to start one building at a time, with all two-bedroom units that would increase to 950 or 1,000 square feet."

Rose said 50 retired letter carriers are on a waiting list now for an apartment at Nalcrest, but if the foundation moves forward with development current residents would be first in line for new units.

"Some people have lived there 30 years -- they call it heaven with a zip code," he said.

The challenge will be financing the project, since the entire philosophy behind Nalcrest was to provide an affordable enclave for the retirees. A typical one-bedroom apartment rents for $408 a month -- and that includes everything except electricity. 

"In order to do the expansion of housing, we would have to establish a business plan for financing and identify a revenue source," he said. "For now, it's in the distant future."

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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