As Virgin Trains lays tracks to connect South Florida to Orlando’s Meadow Woods SunRail station, at least one property owner in the suburban community is updating the station-area master plan to incorporate some of the latest in transit technology to help encourage ridership.
Project manager Jose Hoyos is helping design a large transit-oriented development (TOD) on the grounds of the shuttered Meadow Woods golf course that he says will eventually offer its residents free autonomous rides to the station.
“We need to show that we’re not going to overwhelm the Development of Regional Impact (DRI) with excessive car trips,” Hoyos said. “To do that I have to reduce internal car trips.”
Hoyos said he envisions a high-density TOD that incorporates autonomous shuttle rides and ample pickup and drop-off locations within residential neighborhoods. Parking structures would pull double duty, serving daily commuters and airline or train passengers.
“Eventually, having a car will no longer be a necessity,” Hoyos said, noting the new law that took effect in July that allows self-driving vehicles to operate in Florida.
“We’re thinking in the next several years, more people will begin to use peer-to-peer car-sharing services too... By the time we occupy, we may have robo-taxis."
The most recently submitted site plan for the master-planned community features more than 1,500 residential units across four neighborhoods: Meadow Woods Town Center, Wellness Village, Midtown Village and South Village.
At least 20 pickup and drop-off locations are featured within the plans, as well as commercial buildings that include a mix of office, medical office and retail uses.
The project falls within a mixed-use station district, which allows for higher density developments that must adhere to walkability design standards, among others.
Hoyos said he’s working to eventually offer residents within the district free autonomous rides to the station to help limit the number of vehicles on the road.
“The services will be paid by us through HOA’s,” Hoyos said.
Before the entitlement process is complete, Hoyos and Bonnett Design Group, the master planner for the community, intend to prepare the site for development by helping provide new infrastructure, new classrooms and accessibility to 5G, a new wireless network that is being installed throughout the country that promises to be significantly faster than current 4G networks.
Happening at the same time nearby, Landstar Development Corp. is entering the final stretch of its Meadow Woods master-planned community.
Nearly 40 years ago, the Coral Gables-based privately-held real estate company amassed about 3,000 acres of land in southern Orange County and has spent the past 35 years developing it into what is known today as Meadow Woods, Landstar partner David Serviansky told GrowthSpotter.
“We are at the tail-end of our development,” Serviansky said. “The vision for the community is what you see there today, the community that is in existence.”
The company is now prepping one of its final remaining parcels for a 68-unit townhome development at Rhode Island Woods Circle, just south of Meadow Woods Middle School.
While the Landstar development pre-dated SunRail, the golf course redevelopment was planned in conjunction with system’s southern expansion. Meadow Woods was one of four new stations, including three in Osceola County, that launched service in 2018.
A 2018 report conducted on behalf of Florida Department of Transportation, which owns and operates the 61-mile north-south railroad corridor, favored the general Meadow Woods area to serve as the main connection between the SunRail Commuter Rail Transit system and the new Intermodal Terminal Facility (ITF) at the Orlando International Airport.
If established, the transit node would service commuters going to OIA, downtown Orlando and stops along the SunRail’s main line from Osceola County up to Volusia County.
Virgin Trains is also slated to stop at the Meadow Woods station. The rail service already connects to South Florida and is working to have stops at OIA, Walt Disney World and eventually Tampa.
SunRail has also been a catalyst for new transit-oriented development in downtown Orlando and in the suburban stations, such as Osceola’s Kissimmee and Tupperware stations, and in DeBary and Sanford.
Just this week, GrowthSpotter reported that O’Connor Capital Partners (OCP) landed a purchase contract on 37 acres at the northeast corner of Osceola Parkway and Orange Avenue with plans to build up to 2,000 multifamily units.
Almost simultaneously, Orlando Health closed on a 6.3-acre expansion of its Tupperware campus that will likely bring an acute care hospital – and more high-paying jobs – to the site.
All of the land, known as the Osceola Corporate Campus, was acquired by the Tupperware Corporation in 1953.
The property sits between East Wetherbee Road and State Road 417, right along the east end of Landstar Boulevard.
Sooner or later, Meadow Woods will entertain more transit-oriented developments, Hoyos said. Particularly ones that will be able to bring in more housing, office space and hotels, transforming the bedroom community into a true mixed-use development.
“We want to make Meadow Woods the next Celebration,” Hoyos said.