Kissimmee nonprofit plans shipping container apartments in tourism corridor

A Kissimmee nonprofit agency that serves the homeless and needy along W192 wants to tap into the container housing trend to solve Osceola's affordable housing crisis. 

The Community Hope Center met with the county's Development Review Committee Wednesday morning to discuss preliminary conceptual plans for a four-story, 256-unit complex. Hope Village would be built on a 5.6-acre tract at 2420 Old Vineland Road, just northeast of the motel where "The Florida Project" was filmed.

Executive Director Rev. Mary Lee Downey told GrowthSpotter the land was donated by the United Methodist Church in 2017. Her board decided the best use would be to close the affordable housing gap for people in crisis.

"It's not a shelter," she said. "It will be rental housing. We want to encourage our residents to have leases so they can build or rebuild their credit history."

The idea of repurposing shipping containers appeals to her mission to be environmentally conscience. Plus, there's nothing else like it in Orlando, yet.

"I really feel like we have the opportunity to do something creative," she said. "When you’re in a position where you’re going to have to be raising funds, you want to create excitement. The idea of container housing and repurposing things to provide a solution for our housing crisis shows that we’re good stewards of our world."

Similar projects have recently opened in Los Angeles, Houston and Baltimore. Orlando-based Crisis Housing Solutions proposed a similar concept last year.

Downey enlisted Bumpus and Associates as project architect and Hanson, Walter & Associates as civil engineer. The general contractor is Austin Commercial.  

Daniel Bumpus said he felt called to participate. "I've done a lot of work with Mary," he said. "She asked me to be involved. Jesus talks to us all. I said yes."

Bumpus has never worked with shipping containers, so he assigned associate Scott Capon, who just received his Master's degree in architecture after publishing a thesis on container housing. 

"When Dan mentioned this project, I said, 'I want it,'" Capon said.

The team would use stacked, eight-foot by 40-foot containers in multiple configurations to create one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The largest units would total 960 square feet. The storage doors would be retrofitted with glass sliders, and exterior staircases would provide access to the upper level units.

On-site amenities would include a basketball court and playground. The complex would have a multilevel community building that would include on-site daycare and a multipurpose room, and allow for expansion of the Hope Center's food pantry, health clinic and other services. 

The project is still in its infancy. Senior Zoning Specialist Amy Templeton said the site would have to be rezoned to Commercial Tourist to accommodate the high-density multifamily use. 

The design team will be challenged to meet the county's parking and recreational requirements for the complex.  The preliminary site plan shows just 153 parking spaces -- well short of the code requirement.

"We need everybody to be flexible and realistic, and remember that we have a strong need for affordable housing in this community," Downey said. "We need to be able to think outside the box."

The Care Center will be working with HIS Capital Group on a fund raising campaign for the project. Downey said the goal will be to keep the total cost below $20 million. 

"I would like to keep it closer to the $12-$15 million range," Downey said.

Board chairman Rob Holborn said the construction timeline would be dependent on permitting and fundraising. The nonprofit would also apply for housing assistance from Osceola County. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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