When land investor Jim Dowd began eyeing property on the east side of Boggy Creek Road 12 years ago with new apartment and commercial development in mind, Orange County suggested he set his sights elsewhere.
To county planners, the 22 acres of land south of the Orlando International Airport sat too close to the rural Kissimmee Farms community where homes and cattle grace large lots.
“They told me I’d never be able to do anything on this side of the road,” Dowd recalled. “They said that’s never going to happen.”
But the forward-thinking Dowd wasn’t deterred. With urban development activity starting to fill in much of the Lake Nona area and the opposite side of Boggy Creek Road, Dowd and his business partner, Daryl Carter, felt it was only a matter of time before the county changed its tune and allowed apartment construction to the east.
They were right.
A few years later, the county embarked on a plan to widen this stretch of Boggy Creek Road from two lanes to four in response to all of the growth. And then — while outlining transitional buffering rules intended to protect the rural character of the Kissimmee Farms subdivision —the county approved a land-use and zoning change that, at last, cleared a path forward for Dowd and Carter’s Bennett Place PD.
That approval gave the duo the OK to introduce 350 apartment units and 15,000 square feet of commercial space to the property.
Now, Dowd and Carter are looking to expand the scope of the PD. A land-use plan amendment request submitted to the county on Oct. 27 seeks to add 11.3 acres, another 288 multifamily homes, and an extra 5,000 square feet of commercial space to the south.
Dowd and Carter told GrowthSpotter that a Texas-based luxury multifamily developer is under contract to build both apartment communities totaling 638 units as two separate projects. They aren’t ready to announce the developer though and renderings are not yet available.
The southern piece will have more of an urban feel with buildings pushed up close to the edge of Boggy Creek, Dowd said.
Dowd and Carter snagged the 22-acre piece from the Bennett family in March for $3.8 million. They were under contract to buy it for nearly two years after being told more than a decade ago that nothing new could come here.
Carter said he learned from his late father and longtime broker, Maury Carter, that this job requires a lot of P-words.
“It takes a lot of staying power and patience and persistence and perseverance,” he said.
It also requires prognostication. The duo knew that urban growth would eventually appear on this side of Boggy Creek Road — especially with the county committing $10.5 million to widen the corridor 1.1-mile from the Osceola County line to S.R. 417.
The widening will include sidewalks, bicycle lanes, roadway lighting, and median landscaping.
The widening plan emerged as several development projects began taking shape on the west side of Boggy Creek. Ralph Singleton’s Tyson Creek PD calls for ten acres of commercial space and 1,000 housing units.
Meanwhile, DHI Communities, a wholly-owned subsidiary of D.R. Horton, is planning 660 multi-family units, 166 townhomes, 160 senior housing units, 150,000 square feet of retail use and 150,000 square feet of office uses on a 114-acre tract owned by Advent Health.
“The nature of the area is changing,” Carter said. “We are continuing to grow.”
Dowd added that it “doesn’t make sense” to have a new four-lane road a mile from the western entrance to Lake Nona with urban development on one side and grazing cows on the other.
The team plans to maintain ownership of five acres worth of commercial out parcel space along Boggy Creek for future restaurants and retailers.
“That’s a hole in the doughnut with development all around it,” Dowd said of the land. “Mixed-use makes a lot of sense there.”
County officials have come around and now agree. Alberto Vargas, the county’s planning manager, told GrowthSpotter in July that they want to see high-density development line both sides of Boggy Creek Road, creating a small downtown-like area in an urban corridor.
This change in direction caused Dowd and Carter to practice even more patience as they waited for the county to determine how to best address the nearby Kissimmee Farms community.
The county is working to designate that neighborhood as a “rural residential enclave”
According to Orange County’s website, a rural residential enclave is a single-family neighborhood with a homogenous and stable pattern of development, well-defined geographic boundaries, and low residential densities characteristic of rural settings. Rural enclaves are predominantly located within the Urban Service Area (USA), where infill and redevelopment are actively encouraged through intensification and diversification of land uses.
Currently, four neighborhoods in Orange County have this designation: Chickasaw South and Berry Dease, on either side of State Road 417 just seven miles east of downtown Orlando; Rocking Horse, just north of University Boulevard along the Seminole border; and Lake Mabel, just north of Walt Disney World.
The rural enclave designation will keep urban development from Carter’s project within a square-mile of Kissimmee Farms.
Vargas said the plan for Boggy Creek Road would allow high density and intensity in a 400-foot span on the eastern edge of the roadway. Further east, a medium-to-low density community of housing units would form a buffer between the urban uses and the rural Kissimmee Farms neighborhood, he said.
“Anything along the corridor will be a lot more urban in nature and then you’ll scale down density and intensity the closer you get to the neighborhood,” Vargas told GrowthSpotter in July.
The new rules require Carter and Dowd to work larger setbacks, wider buffers, and, in some places, shorter buildings into their land-use plans.
Site plans drafted by Kimley-Horn show three transition zones. The zone closest to Boggy Creek Road allows buildings as tall as five stories, the next zone further east allows for four stories, while the easternmost zone allows two-story buildings with 80-foot setbacks. However, plans for this zone, just west of Happy Lane Road, show only a retention pond and no residential units.
Apartments would go no closer than 550 feet of Happy Lane Road, plans show.
Carter said he understands why this arrangement was struck.
“The county was balancing between the needs for urban growth down a soon-to-be four land corridor a mile south of Medical City but also balancing that with the needs of people who have five-acre tracts and would like to keep it that way,” Carter said. “So the county struck a harmony between those two things and came up with a certain distance on the east side of Boggy Creek Road where you can do urban development. They did a good job balancing that out.”
In addition to patience, perseverance, and persistence, there was another factor that ultimately led to this project’s approval: Compromise.
They met with residents of Kissimmee Lakes to get their input. They went through six different iterations of their plan.
“It was a very long process,” Carter said. “There were legitimate concerns that were met with legitimate efforts on our part to address. It’s development, but it’s about being respectful of your fellow man nearby.”
“This is exciting,” Dowd added. “It feels good that the community of Kissimmee Farms is happy and that those homeowners are going to be able to have the type of lifestyle they want. At the same time, the developer is getting a project they want. These guys (the developer) focus heavily on the social side, they are very health-and technology-oriented, and they create an extremely elegant product. It’s going to be a win-win for everybody.”