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Orlando staff backs developer’s $1B plan for RoseArts District as case heads back to MPB

The City Center would be build in Phase 1.
The City Center would be build in Phase 1. (Genesis Studios)

When Westside Capital Group founder Jakub Hejl brings his case for the $1 billion RoseArts District back to Orlando’s Municipal Planning Board on Tuesday, it will be with the endorsement of the city staff.

City planners continue to support the plan to redevelop the former Lake Orlando golf course in the city’s Rosemont neighborhood. In the staff reports released Wednesday, the staff noted that Hejl’s proposal to build nearly 6,000 dwelling units and 350,000 square feet of commercial and retail uses on the 128-acre site has divided the neighborhood.

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“There is much vocal opposition to the slightly revised 2021 GMP and zoning map amendments, with many people in the overall community that support the project being less vocal or intimidated by the opposition,” project planner Michaelle Petion wrote in the report.

Assistant Planning Director Jason Burton later apologized to residents for the report — and that comment specifically — saying it failed to adequately convey the level of opposition from Rosemont residents, 600 of whom have signed a petition against the project.

“The staff report for the RoseArts District included some misguided editorial comments about the level of support versus opposition of the RoseArts district project,” Burton wrote in an email. “I’ve talked with the staff and have directed them to include more details about your petition in the oral report out to the Municipal Planning Board on Tuesday as part of their PowerPoint (which is probably the best way to correct this, since the oral presentation will be at the forefront on the Board’s minds).”

Opponents appealed the MPB recommendation for approval of the arts-themed urban village earlier this year. The City Council was on the verge of granting that appeal in April when Hejl’s attorney withdrew the application.

The developer has committed to making at least 10% of the residential units attainable housing and will hold another community meeting in early June.

Westside resubmitted a revised plan in late May that reduces the total unit count by 350 but also pledges to keep 10% of the residential units affordable or attainable, meaning the rents would be priced to accommodate individuals earning an average of 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

The first phase would be entitled for 1,600 residential units and 150,000 square feet of non-residential uses. Rosemont homeowner Nicolo Stabile said he has supported the Westside vision from the outset because he wants to be able to shop and eat out in his own neighborhood instead of driving to Winter Park.

“So there’s a lot of people who have been here a long time, they’ve seen it decline,” Stabile said. “They want to see it change, but they know that there has to be something big and bold in order to spark that change. If what gets built is more of what we have, which are, you know, sort of plywood construction buildings with surface parking, then that’s it. I mean this is the last remaining land here, So whatever it gets done has to be perfect. There’s no room for mediocrity.”

The developer recently completed renovating the 50-unit Lakeshore Club building next door as part of the first phase of the project.

One of the dozens of conditions in the staff report is that residential buildings must utilize structured parking. The city also wants the developer to implement a transit circulator within the community that would link to the nearby LYNX Rosemont Superstop on Cinderlane Parkway to reduce internal vehicle trips.

If the developer doesn’t have an agreement for the circulator within five years of the rezoning, the second and third phase of the Planned Development would expire, along with entitlements for 4,050 dwelling units and 200,000 square feet of non-residential use. If it’s not up and running within nine years, Phase 3 would expire.

The city staff also recommends a condition that the public space and parks component must meet the standards in the Lake Nona area.

“The developer has promised the community that the new development will be comparable to the City’s Baldwin Park and Lake Nona developments, where parks are prominent and important within those communities,” Petion wrote. “Therefore, the park requirements for this PD are determined to be in line with the Southeast Sector level of service (LOS) standards.”

Vicki Vargo, a Rosemont resident and former city commissioner, has told GrowthSpotter there’s nothing in Hejl’s track record showing he has experience developing mixed-use projects with high-quality retail and public spaces. Westside Capital operates almost exclusively in the multifamily space and primarily acquires built assets.

Diane Fox, a 35-year resident of Rosemont, said she supports the project and wants Westside to succeed. “Rosemont needs a facelift,” she said. “We all know it can never be a golf course again. I just think it would be so great to have this in our community.”

Both sides expect another lengthy hearing Tuesday. If the MPB approves the case a second time, another appeal is expected.

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If Westside ultimately wins support from the City Council for the annexation and Planned Development Zoning, Hejl will have five years to secure a building permit for vertical construction or the PD will expire.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include comments from the Assistant City Planning Division Manager regarding the staff report.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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