The South Florida developer whose proposal was selected after multiple rounds of bidding has dropped out as master developer of the 106-acre Wymore Road/Hungerford property in the Town of Eatonville.
Last year Eatonville and Orange County School District officials selected Falcone Group, best known locally as developer of Margaritaville Resort, to transform the former Robert Hungerford Preparatory School campus along the east side of Interstate 4 and surrounding property into a vibrant mixed-use community with an emphasis on affordable housing.
Falcone Group, which offered a $14.6 million purchase price for the acreage, was one of four bidders on what was the third solicitation from the school district for the property. The firm later invited another bidder, a partnership between the Sovereign Land Company and Keewin Real Property Co., to join as co-developer with Falcone taking the lead in the multifamily portion and the Sovereign-Keewin team taking on the residential and commercial.
Falcone submitted a formal Comprehensive Plan Amendment to the city in January. Sovereign President Kyle Sanders told GrowthSpotter the city’s Planning and Zoning Board delayed votes on the plan in February and again in April.
“Shortly after that, Falcone backed out of the project,” Sanders said. “It has been delayed, but that has more to do with the turnover on the council and delays with the Planning and Zoning Board.”
Falcone Group provided the following statement: “During the course of the inspection period, our due diligence team ultimately concluded that the opportunity did not meet all of our required diligence criteria. We greatly appreciated having the chance to work with all of the different parties up until this point — including Orange County Public Schools and the Town of Eatonville — and we wish great success for the development and Eatonville’s residents.”
The city’s P&Z Board hasn’t met since March because the city was in the process of hiring a new planning director. In the meantime, the new development team has brought on Stringfellow Planning to revise and resubmit the proposed CPA.
The new plan would retain 59 single-family home lots and 300 multifamily units, but the developer is seeking to reduce the acreage for office and retail uses. Instead, they want to dedicate up to 21 acres for public use. “The inclusion of this criteria will provide more focus on the creation of usable outdoor spaces for the community,” Alex Stringfellow wrote in the justification letter.
Under the new plan, the developer could utilize a minimum of 5.2 acres for offices and 10.5 acres for commercial/retail.
“We’re planning something really innovative,” Sanders said. “It’s a mixed-use project that will bring jobs to the town and retail, as well as much-needed housing stock. And it will have great public spaces that can serve as a new place for them to host the Zora Neal Hurston Festival.”
Stringfellow noted that the demand for traditional office space had decreased because of the pandemic and shift to work-from-home. The large supply of office space in Maitland impacts the market demand for that use in Eatonville.
Stringfellow also explained the request to reduce the amount of commercial retail space, noting that traffic counts on Wymore Road are about one-fifth the number of vehicles on nearby Orlando Avenue.
“Given the context of the site, smaller developments like East End Market in Winter Park or Plant Street Market in Winter Garden are more appropriate than some larger commercial developments,” Stringfellow wrote. “However, a grocery store may be an appropriate use given the commuting traffic in the eastbound direction.”
The CPA also requests an increase in the maximum height in the multifamily buildings from 40 feet to 50 feet, to allow for three-story buildings with decorative dormers and towers, and a reduction in the minimum size of a residential lot from 5,000 square feet to 1,800 square feet to accommodate townhomes on 20x90-foot lots.
Sanders said they’re targeting the July 21 P&Z meeting. “Once the plans are approved, we’ll close on the property,” he said. Sovereign-Keewin plans to develop the single-family residential, commercial and public spaces and will sell the entitled multifamily parcel.