Orlando’s Municipal Planning Board unanimously approved the first phase master plan for Westside Capital Group’s RoseArts District despite some consternation among board members about the location of the affordable housing and its distance from public transit.
Phase 1 of the $1 billion redevelopment of the former Lake Orlando golf course consists of four apartment buildings with a total of nearly 1,600 dwelling units and up to 150,000 square feet of retail space. The developer agreed to set aside 160 residential units as affordable housing, but instead of spreading them evenly among the four residential buildings, the developer opted to group them all in one building — the only one that doesn’t have retail uses on the ground floor.
Attorney Rebecca Wilson with Lowndes explained that because the developer agreed to reduce the average income limits for eligible renters, the project could qualify for Low Income Housing Tax Credits or other types of alternative financing. The city staff agreed to bundle the affordable units into the southernmost building to give the developer flexibility to explore those financing options. That particular building will have more direct access to John Young Parkway, and it will be centrally located within the larger Rosearts District when it’s completed, she added.
But some board members were critical of the decision to place the affordable units in the building furthest from the LYNX Rosemont Superstop on Cinderlane Parkway. The developer agreement approved by City Council requires a transit circulator within the community during Phase 2 that would link to the transit station.
“I do understand that the future phases will accommodate for transit,” Morgan Lea said. “But in the interim, I do think it’s a bit unfair to expect people who have affordable housing needs to just grin and bear it and walk to the furthest place where they can access it if they need it.”
Wilson said the developer is meeting with Beep, which operates autonomous shuttles in Lake Nona, to discuss options for a similar program in RoseArts and throughout the surrounding neighborhood. But she stressed that the project won’t have the density to support such a program in phase 1 — and the developer agreement stated that transit can not be added as a condition in the master plan.
Led by founder Jakub Hejl, Westside bought the former Lake Orlando golf course and country club in Orlando’s Rosemont neighborhood in 2019 for $1.85 million. The Phase 1 Specific Parcel Master Plan covers 38.46 of the total 128 acres in the approved Planned Development. It’s located in the northeast corner of the site, on Rosamond Drive, just west of N. Orange Blossom Trail.
The entire PD is split among three phases and has entitlements for nearly 6,000 dwelling units and 350,000 square feet of commercial. Westside received the city approval, following an appeal from the neighborhood, after reducing the number of residential units and agreeing to dozens of conditions, including the 10% affordable housing threshold.
Anticipating that Westside could start construction on Phase 2 before completing Phase 1, city staff added the condition that the developer could not receive a certificate of occupancy for any unit in Phase 2 until the Phase 1 affordable housing units are completed and occupied.
The case will head to City Council on Sept. 12 for final approval.