While Orange County as a whole is experiencing strong growth, the area known as West Orange is leading the way in terms of household income, new residential development and planned communities.
Years of public and private investment in roadway infrastructure have set the stage for communities in West Orange to lead the county, state and much of the nation in growth for the foreseeable future, according to Property Appraiser Rick Singh and a speaker's panel Thursday night at the State of West Orange County Real Estate 2015, held at West Orange High School.
Unofficial boundaries for West Orange are considered Ocoee-Lake Apopka to the north, Apopka Vineland Road to the east, Osceola County to the south and Lake County to the west.
This area encompasses 176 square miles (19 miles north-to-south, 9 miles east-to-west), with 67,000 land parcels and 4,800 businesses.
In the context of Orange County as a whole, West Orange accounted last year for 13 percent of the county's population and 18 percent of its land area, yet generated 20 percent of the county's home value and 25 percent of residential taxes.
Apopka, Winter Garden and Horizon West were leading hot spots for residential growth in the county last year, a point Singh highlighted on May 28 during his presentation about real estate in the county as a whole.
Scott Boyd, partner in the Boyd Development group that's developing Hamlin Town Center in the northern part of Horizon West, said during the panel discussion the Expressway Authority is to thank for leading the way in infrastructure development, namely SR 429, that has opened up tens of thousands of acres in West Orange.
"Hamlin wouldn't be on the market today if not for that interchange" of SR 429 and New Independence Parkway, he said.
West Orange has more than 57,000 households with a population of more than 149,000 people. The area's average household income is $86,000, compared to $47,000 for Orange County overall.
Residential properties in the 176-square-mile area are currently made up of 43,156 single-family homes, 11,019 vacant residential lots, 8,357 apartment units, 4,490 townhomes and 2,423 condominium units.
Forty-six percent of homes in the West Orange area still fall between $100,000 and $250,000, Singh noted, a clear sign that affordable property is still within reach despite the high-priced residential development in areas like Winter Garden, Isleworth, Windermere and Horizon West.
As currently zoned, West Orange is on a path toward residential-heavy development. Forty-eight percent of its vacant land is currently zoned residential (25,625 acres), compared to 35 percent zoned agricultural (18,276 acres), 13 percent raw land (6,963 acres) and 4 percent commercial (2,091 acres). Land owners can attempt to re-zone parcels in the future, and Planned Development zoning has become more prevalent in recent years.
West Orange has 2,300 homes in the development pipeline, according to Singh's office. The area saw 1,655 new homes sell in 2014 ($626 million in value), and 2,056 re-sales last year ($938 million in value).
Tom Moore, district demographer for Orange County Public Schools, noted during the panel discussion that the county's 10-year plan has seven new schools projected to be built in West Orange. There are 20 more property sites reserved for new schools in Horizon West that will have to be built over the next 20 to 30 years, if and when that planned community is fully built out.