UPDATED: APRIL 18, 2017 6:21 PM — After a month of significant tweaks to design, height and the project's mixed-use gameplan, Winter Park-based Alliance Residential Company earned approval Tuesday from Orlando's Municipal Planning Board for its proposed apartment tower in downtown's Ivanhoe Village.
City planning staff have supported the project and its size, which now goes before City Council for review, potentially on May 15. But Alliance still faced a wave of subjective critique on Tuesday that had little basis in city code, as some board members and residents asked for a hodge-podge of aesthetic changes.
First reported here on Jan. 23, Alliance initially filed its Master Plan with the city for "Broadstone Lake House" as a 10-story, 288-unit multifamily building with an estimated 39,000 square feet of live/work space on the ground floor, and an integrated nine-story parking garage.
That was followed by a Planning Board hearing in March, where the project was delayed a month amidst vocal opposition by a group of area stakeholders, who challenged the building's potential traffic impact, the developer's need for height and density waivers, and what they deemed an unattractive "boxey" design.
So Alliance and its team held a community meeting last month with residents, and proceeded to make changes that would impact its proforma analysis.
It reduced the proposed height from 10 to 9 stories, eliminating the need for a height waiver while cutting the unit count from 288 to 260.
It re-purposed the live/work office space on the ground floor, which critics in March said wouldn't benefit the neighborhood, as 33,158 square feet of collaborative office space and a 2,574-square-foot corner restaurant.
Alliance also presented a new color scheme for the building of white and aquamarine, and proposed public art on the boulevard frontage near the restaurant.
"I think this was a great process all around, because the opposition educated us about some needs in the community, and we educated them about our process," Alliance's managing director John Zeledon told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday.
But a half-dozen residents still spoke out against the project's design, and the developer's need for a density bonus to allow 79 units more than property zoning permits.
Board vice-chairman Mark Suarez asked his MPB peers to brainstorm during the hearing "what else we could get out of" the developer in terms of concessions, prior to approval.
Residents and board members made seemingly random requests that could have upended Alliance's entire project design, like placing a restaurant on the building's roof, or moving the swimming pool up there, or elevating the pool from ground level to the first or second floor instead.
Board members asked if Alliance could be required to sign with private company Juice Bike Share for a rental bike station on property. Staff clarified they can't mandate a private partnership, beyond encouraging one to meet minimum bike parking requirements, which Alliance already planned to pursue.
In the end, MPB recommended approval for the project, while adding conditions that building architecture at the ground level be approved by staff before construction, the minimum bike space be upped from 26 to 50, and that the building's height be staggered at its top floors.
Whether planning staff enforce that last point has yet to be seen, which could further reduce the unit count.
Looking forward, Alliance and its design/build contractor FINFROCK will work with city planners to refine their design, engineering and construction plans in the coming months, said president Bill Finfrock.
A 0.30-acre portion in the northeast corner of the project site is owned by Doug Toler, currently serving as the rear to A and T Antiques that fronts N. Orange Avenue. That land would be included in the development via a lot split.
Alliance has agreements in place to buy both properties, pending approval of plans by the city this year.
The company remains on pace to close its land purchase in late 2017 or early 2018, followed by a groundbreaking in the first half of 2018. The Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home is expected to relocate in First Quarter 2018.