Austin developer scales back apts project for Orlando market entry on Universal

Austin-based multifamily developer Aspen Heights Partners is nearing its Orlando market entry via 19.88 acres on Universal Boulevard, revising down its footprint and unit count to earn provisional Development Plan approval last week. 

Located north of the Las Palmeras by Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare hotel, Aspen Heights' site lies right between the new Topgolf, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, Ripley Entertainment's 20 acres and the bulk of Universal Orlando's 474 undeveloped acres, and is owned by Orlando Equity Partners LLC (OEP), an affiliate of Southwood Development Company in Atlanta.

The company initially filed a DP in mid-April in Orange County for what was then 26 acres and a 418-unit apartment complex. 

Aspen Heights' third and latest revision to its DP was recommended for approval on Sept. 6 by the Development Review Committee, pending yet another revision to address staff's final comments. 

"Orlando has been on our radar screen for quite some time. Aspen Heights is in expansion mode, and the area’s demographics are right in line with the kinds of customers we find our model serves well," vice president of development Ryan Fetgatter told GrowthSpotter via email. "We look forward to working with local planning officials to bring a compelling project to a fantastic location." 

Fetgatter declined further comment on where the company stands in due diligence for the 19.88 acres under contract. The site and more OEP acreage were previously under contract in 2016 to Trammell Crow Residential for a larger apartment complex.

Dubbed "Aspen Universal," Aspen Heights' latest DP includes 414 units across eight garden-style buildings of four stories, to be broken down as 305 one-bedrooms, 97 two-beds and 12 three-beds. 

That layout is denser and slightly more vertical than the original DP in April, which proposed a mix of 16 residential buildings, comprised of three-story apartments and two-story buildings with five attached townhome units and inset garages. 

Open space amenities (7.85 acres overall) will include a clubhouse, pool area and two small parks with walking paths off to the west of the apartment complex's entrance, to lie directly north of the Topgolf property line.

That open space was also reduced from 13 acres in the original DP from April, with previous amenities like a fenced dog park, sporting court and reflection pool no longer noted on the new DP.

Entry to the property from Universal Boulevard will come via a private road currently under construction by OEP that is also providing access to Topgolf.

Kimley-Horn is civil engineer on the Aspen Universal plans, PEC is the surveyor, and Charlan Brock and Associates is the architect. 

Aspen Heights has developed and manages more than 20 properties around the country in multifamily, condominiums, student housing and assisted living, but this would be its first in Florida, according to its website. 

The new project follows a bevy of multifamily activity on or near Universal Boulevard in the past year.

Venterra Realty paid $78.5 million in March for the 425-unit The District apartments on Universal Boulevard at Destination Parkway, drawn to value-add potential of the building's vacant retail space. 

Directly across the boulevard, developers are preparing the 20-acre Destination Shoppes as phased development of 150,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment. 

Multifamily developer ContraVest is busy with horizontal site work for the 344-unit Addison at Universal apartments, planned for 12.17 acres across the street from The District and surrounded by the future Destination Shoppes. 

And eastward at the Central Florida Parkway and S. John Young Parkway intersection, Wood Partners closed in late March on 13.58 acres, with site work underway on 314 apartments next next to a retail center planned by Toronto-based North American Development Group.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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