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City agreement promotes incentivized mixed-use development opportunities in Ocoee

An aerial view of the property primed for mixed-use development in Ocoee.
An aerial view of the property primed for mixed-use development in Ocoee. (Orange County Property Appraiser/GrowthSpotter)

The city of Ocoee and family-owned citrus grower Heller Brothers Packing Corporation are working together to help steer new mixed-use development on vacant land along Florida’s Turnpike.

Earlier this month, city commissioners approved a development agreement between planning officials, Heller Bros Groves and West End Professional Park Property Owners Association that incentivize redeveloping a large chunk of land southeast of Maguire Road and Old Winter Garden Road.

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The property spans roughly 80 acres including a large retention pond at its center and portions of Lake Lilly and Lake Pearl. Records show Heller Bros. Groves, an affiliate of Heller Brothers Packing Corp., has owned the site for more than 40 years.

Harry Falk, CEO of Heller Brothers Packing Corp. and managing partner of Heller Bros. Groves, told GrowthSpotter the company has put the property into position to be “expeditiously utilized.”

He said a portion of the property on the upper east side is pad-ready for commercial uses, while the land along Florida’s Turnpike is more prime to feature a mixed-use development. That’s thanks to a significant term in the development agreement that permits mixed-use development to include multifamily apartments — a use not approved under the former entitlements.

According to the development plan, the first half-dozen lots will be developed in accordance with the West End Professional Park Final Subdivision Plan, while the remaining lots will be developed as part of a mixed-use development in an I-1 zoning district.
According to the development plan, the first half-dozen lots will be developed in accordance with the West End Professional Park Final Subdivision Plan, while the remaining lots will be developed as part of a mixed-use development in an I-1 zoning district. (Ocoee/GrowthSpotter)

“We have historically been in the business of getting our property properly zoned and entitled to be ready to take advantage of the market opportunities,” Falk said. “Based on what’s going on in the market place, the highest, best use for this portion of Heller Brothers Groves would be apartments.”

The development was originally called West End Professional Park, but according to the agreement, the owner may change the name to Lake Lilly Center. Any other name change must be approved by the city.

Ocoee approved the subdivision plan for the West End Professional Park in 1993. Then in 2007, it was amended to accommodate the widening of Professional Parkway, now known as Old Winter Garden Road.

Of the 80 acres of land, about 35 acres are developable.

Heller Bros Groves signed on Holly Garcia of Wire Development to assist preparing the property for mixed-use development and Bishop Beale Duncan to help market some of the commercial pad-ready lots.

Falk said the company is still considering whether to turn the project over, develop it themselves or possible partner with developers.

In addition to multifamily uses, the agreement allows projects to include Class A office space, high-end retail, sit-down restaurants or nationally-branded hotels.

According to terms, apartments should have an overall weighted average greater than 650 square feet, with no more than 15 percent of the overall units having less than 650 square feet.

Ocoee’s development services director, Michael Rumer, said they city wants to see a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use development there.

“We want more of an urban-core type of multifamily development, not your general garden-style apartment variety that have a lot of three-bedrooms,” Rummer said. “Smaller apartments can help us try to capture more of the higher-end [product]."

Developers can take advantage of incentives that include a reduction of the building permit plan review fees; expedited review and approvals of site plans and building permit applications; and reductions or waivers of transportation impact fees.

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On a case-by-case basis lots can be combined to be developed as one site, with no commercial lot being less than an acre in size, and projects on the property may be developed in multiple phases.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated proposed multifamily units would be an average of 650 square feet. That is incorrect. The majority of units must be greater than 650 square feet.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at arabines@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-5427, or tweet me at @amanda_rabines. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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