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The developers said they needed up to 1,600 residential units in Phase 1 to support a future town center like the one pictured here.
The developers said they needed up to 1,600 residential units in Phase 1 to support a future town center like the one pictured here. (Genesis Studios)

It’s back to the drawing board for the owner of the 128-acre Lake Orlando golf course in the city’s Rosemont neighborhood.

Faced with the prospect of Orlando’s City Council denying the proposed $1 billion RoseArts District vision for the site, owner-developer Westside Capital Group withdrew all of its applications during the April 12 council meeting.

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“Our team has spent 18 months listening to the residents and learning what they would like to see for their neighborhood,” spokesperson Dana Locar said. “We look forward to moving the project forward and making changes that will positively impact the community.”

Last November Orlando’s Municipal Planning Board approved the proposed multi-phased redevelopment of the land, which called for 6,000 residential units surrounded by parks, with adjacent shopping and dining within the community. The project drew support, as well as fierce opposition due to the proposed building heights and intensity of the project.

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The proposed RoseArts District was divided into three construction phases. Orlando's City Council rejected a compromise that would have allowed the developer to build 1,600 multifamily units on phase 1 (orange), while redesigning phases 2 and 3.
The proposed RoseArts District was divided into three construction phases. Orlando's City Council rejected a compromise that would have allowed the developer to build 1,600 multifamily units on phase 1 (orange), while redesigning phases 2 and 3. (GAI Consultants)

Rosemont area residents appealed the MPB decision, and the City Council was seconds away from granting that appeal when the attorney Rebecca Wilson withdrew the applications.

The action came after Planning Division Manager Elisabeth Dang proposed a compromise that would have allowed Westside to proceed with phase 1 of the project, which would be entitled those 39 acres closest to Orange Blossom Trail for 1,600 residential units and up to 100,000 square feet of non-residential use. The developer would then be required to redesign phases 2 and 3 to come up with an alternative plan the community could accept.

“This compromise really reflects our desire to seek something that is acceptable to the commission and the neighborhood, but also to support the vision of the RoseArts District,” Wilson said, noting that it would allow for enough density to support a future town center with retail and restaurants.

See which areas would develop first and find out how the design team plans to buffer the project from the surrounding neighborhood.

Mayor Buddy Dyer supported the new approach, but several city commissioners voiced objections to the overall scale and density of the project. Commissioner Regina Hill criticized the developer for using opportunity zone tax benefits while offering only 20 affordable housing units out of 1,600 proposed. Wilson said they could go up to 30 units, close to 2%, if it would “move the needle,” but by that point other commissioners had weighed in.

Commissioners Tony Ortiz and Patty Sheehan said they agreed with the Rosemont residents that Westside Capital’s vision wasn’t compatible with the existing neighborhood.

“Our main role here is representing the community,” Ortiz said. “I think this community wants a development — they really do. They just want a certain type of development.”

Commissioner Robert Stuart said he was prepared to support the project, but with a maximum density of 1,600 units for all three phases.

“At that point, it is a very different project,” Dang said. “It probably is not going to have as much of the town center elements. It won’t have the open space, because they have to do garden apartments with surface parking.”

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 FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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