Forestar Group is easing into plans for its recently purchased Winter Haven property at Lake Eloise across from Legoland, working to fit development into a previously approved Planned Unit Development (PUD).
Arlington, Texas-based Forestar sees preparing the 350 acres known as Harmony on Lake Eloise for a mixed-use master-planned community with 1,100 lots, parks and recreation areas, community space, walking trails and possible retail. Forestar paid $24 million in December for the 14 parcels. Lots are expected to be available to homebuilders for home construction in 2022.
“We recognize the beauty and small-town charm the city of Winter Haven has to offer, and we look to enhance the appeal and support local businesses through our development of the Lake Eloise community,” Chris Tyree, division president of Forestar Central Florida told GrowthSpotter in a news release.
Forestar, land developer and holding company for D.R. Horton, develops infrastructure needed to transform raw land into finished lots that are ready for home construction and typically sells those lots to national, regional and local homebuilders. The company hasn’t submitted development plans to the City of Winter Haven yet; city officials expect those to come in the next three to six months, Winter Haven Senior Planner Sean Byers told GrowthSpotter. He said staff members have had conversations with Forestar officials.
City staff is optimistic that the company is going to keep with the “spirit of the Harmony PUD approved a few years ago,” Byers said. “They do seem sincere in trying to make it work right. They seem like they are working hard” to make their plans fit.
The PUD was based on the vision of developer Jim Lentz, who created the mixed-use Harmony master-planned golf community in Osceola County where Forestar has a major presence.
Lentz bought the Winter Haven land in 2015 and created a 10-year plan with a mix of senior living, primary residential and vacation rentals. The plans include a helicopter landing pad, docks for boat rentals, a wedding chapel, RV and trailer storage, pet care and boarding facility, pitch and put golf courses, a splash pad, swimming pools and walking trails.
Winter Haven touted the tree-lined property along Eloise Loop Road and Lentz’s project for several years as part of the city’s future. Lentz’s plan also included renovating the Orleans’ House, a 7,000-square-foot 1950s-era home on the waterfront for a community center for special events. There has been no word from Forestar on its plans for the building.
Forestar’s Tyree did say the company “will integrate the historic oak tree-lined pathway on the property leading residents to a large amenity complex.” Those amenities include a clubhouse on the shores of Lake Eloise with a community meeting room, exercise room, open-air flex spaces, pool, yoga lawn and playground. “The project also has a commercial component that could allow for a future lifestyle center,” he said.
The PUD’s Development Intensity Standards limit usage to the following:
- Residential uses shall be limited to a maximum of 1,500 units.
- Hotel uses shall be limited to a maximum of 150 rooms.
- Accessory commercial uses shall be limited to 20,000 square feet.
The Lake Eloise property is part of 2,300 acres Forestar’s Central Florida division has purchased in the past 12 months in Polk, Osceola and Seminole counties. The company sees closing on more than 1,000 acres in the next 6 months, Tyree said. The division controls 7,980 single-family lots.
Among the 1,300 acres Forestar recently purchased in Polk County are Fox Branch, located in Kathleen, which is expected to offer approximately 640 lots; Squires Grove, which is located three miles from Winter Haven’s city center on Eagle Lake Loop Road, which is expected to offer approximately 150 lots; and Hawthorne, located in Lakeland, which is expected to offer approximately 1,200 single-family lots.
“This area of Polk County is considered one of the fastest growing areas within the Central Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area as many large employers maintain distribution centers in the area. With this rapid rate of growth, the Lakeland/Winter Haven market has an undersupply of housing,” Tyree said. Forestar “is making a big impact on fulfilling the need for more affordably priced housing in the area.”
Forestar has also had two recent closings in Osceola County this year. In February, the developer paid $14.3 million for additional phases at Harmony, bringing its total investment in the community to $25 million.
This month, Forestar paid $5.1 million for Phases 1 and 2, of Buena Lago, an approved 545-home boating community on Alligator Lake. The transaction covered approximately 113 acres of the 278-acre community. The approved site plan calls for a mix of townhomes and single family homes built around a 31.4-acre internal lake with its own beach and clubhouse.