A large development opportunity in the Town of Eatonville has piqued the interest of a couple of real estate companies looking for a chance to buy more than 90 acres of land with major visibility on the east side of Interstate 4.
Orange County Public Schools confirmed two companies have submitted bids in response to its Request for Proposal (RFP) issued at the beginning of this year. The request came after hearing crickets from developers from a previous attempt last summer.
Previously interested parties blamed tightening financial conditions and uncertainty about the duration and business impacts posed by the pandemic for the blank turnout.
Real estate companies and developers that submitted bids include Kyle Sanders of Sovereign Land Company, and Boca Raton-based developer The Falcone Group, led by Margaritaville and Reunion developer Art Falcone. The evaluation meeting is scheduled for April 29.
Sanders, who shared a presentation proposal with GrowthSpotter, said the key to his plan is to create what he calls an arts district next to the Eatonville Branch Library — which is something listed in the Town’s development and design objectives.
“We are meeting with several people with the town that can help us work toward that end, and we want to work with community to help bring that to reality,” he said.
His proposed community plaza would sit next to three acres of dedicated retail and restaurant space, and can be a place where the town can host community events and festivals, he adds. The presentation outlines an additional 5.2 acres of dedicated commercial office space, and space to fit up to 350 apartments, 144 townhomes, 38 bungalow homes and 55 executive homes.
Sanders calls the project Hungerford Park. It also includes a lakefront public park on Lake Wilderness that features a dock and gazebo. He has teamed up with planner Alex Stringfellow, Derek Bruce with commercial law firm Gunster and Jessica Burns with R L Burns, as the contractor, for the project.
In a general statement to GrowthSpotter The Falcone Group wrote the company “is humbled to participate in the Wymore Road/Hungerford Property RFP process, and we sincerely hope to implement the thoughtful vision outlined by the Town of Eatonville and its residents.”
Alfonso Costa Jr., an executive vice president at Falcone Group and former Deputy Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is helping oversee the proposal.
He has experience developing projects in designated opportunity zones, like the Hungerford site. Costa is currently leading a project with The Falcone Group to build and enter a proposed 330-unit apartment complex near NeoCity into the federal program.
The RFP states the Town of Eatonville and OCPS are seeking to select a developer capable of delivering an urban, pedestrian-friendly, infill community that mixes different housing products (rental or owner options) with uses that include retail, restaurant, office and civic. The land use plan envisioned by the Town will allow up to 400 residential units, 800,000 square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of retail space.
Design criteria standards specify wanting a designated office development corridor fronting Wymore Road, a retail complex along Kennedy Boulevard and a civic/cultural arts area adjacent to the existing branch library.
“A properly developed mixed-use project could create the most significant real estate ad valorem tax increase seen in the town’s history,” Thomas Kohler, a senior director at the engineering and planning consulting firm GAI Consultants, previously told GrowthSpotter. In the past, Kohler worked with city staff members to create a master plan on the site.
Attempts to reel in a developer with the proper proposal and financing credentials have failed, not once or twice but several times. Multiple years of false starts, harsh stops and unanswered calls to redevelop the 94-acre site, where the former Robert Hungerford Preparatory School once operated before closing in 2009, lapsed that site into inertia.
In 2017, a purchase offer from UP Development won favorable approval by town members and School Board officials, but the company never made it to the development agreement stage, and walked away from plans altogether after placing the highest bid — valued at more than $20 million.
Before that, the town rejected an unrelated development plan in 2014 that sought to build a luxury car dealership, hotel and conference center on the property.
Today, there are at least two construction projects in the pipeline in Eatonville, including HostDime’s 90,000-square-foot office project adjacent to the Hungerford site. The company broke ground in February.
Earlier this year, Eatonville council members approved a rezoning application by Orlando-based MMI Development, which plans to build more than 400 apartments on Lake Weston at 2454 W. Kennedy Boulevard.