A developer is poised to replace an operating Golden Corral restaurant on State Road 50 near the campus of the University of Central Florida with a 556-bed student housing community now that the Orange County Commission has approved the rezoning request, and a list of waivers, required for the project.
The land-use change granted on Oct. 25 following a nearly hourlong discussion clears the way for Progressive Capital Group to build a five-story, 139-unit residential complex with an attached seven-level parking garage.
The development team, led by Russ Greer, is now ironing out a development plan for the 3.5-acre property that will come back to the commission for a vote at a later date. The plan will include a private shuttle operation that will transport residents to and from UCF’s campus.
Greer could not be reached Thursday for comment.
At the October meeting, several residents who live near the Golden Corral voiced concerns about the student housing community adding to traffic strain along Crescent Boulevard, a two-lane, low-speed street off Colonial Drive that feeds into North Alafaya Trail and provides the quickest direct access from the development site to UCF, one of the nation’s largest public universities.
Jonathan Martin, who’s representing the developer with planning and engineering firm Kimley Horn, addressed these comments while offering up solutions that would be implemented into the development plan.
He said the Golden Corral, which is still open for business, generates an equal amount of traffic compared to what the student housing would bring in.
However, he said he understands concerns about the development’s impact on Crescent Boulevard, noting that plans are in place to mitigate them.
One option calls for closing off Crescent Boulevard with a cul-de-sac so that it no longer connects to Alafaya Trail to the north, preventing cut-through traffic. The developer would pay for that work.
A crash gate would be installed to allow ambulances and fire trucks access from Alafaya Trail in case of emergency.
The other option is for the developer to install traffic calming devices along Crescent Boulevard.
“Really from a traffic perspective, we feel like this project will be a catalyst to help close that right-of-way,” Martin said. “We will be making this (area) safer.”
Martin noted that not all the students living here would be adding cars to nearby roadways each day. He said that the developer, once they take over ownership of the property, has agreed to offer a private shuttle service to ferry residents to and from UCF’s campus.
UCF currently operates its own shuttle service between campus and roughly 22 off-campus student housing communities. The shuttles run continuously Monday through Friday when classes are in session.
But the shuttle service is limited to student housing communities within a one-mile radius of campus, and the Golden Corral site on Colonial Drive is well outside that range, said Mark Schlueb, the director of strategic communications with UCF.
“Our parking and transportation staff did meet with the developer and suggested they charter a private shuttle to service the new development,” Schlueb said.
Some used public comment time at the October meeting to express worry that visitors and residents at the student housing community would park along Crescent Boulevard or Orpington Street, which runs along the north side of the site. Martin with Kimley Horn gave assurance that wouldn’t happen.
“They won’t physically be able to park there,” he said.
Plans to convert the restaurant property into a student housing complex emerged nearly a year ago.
At the time, property owner Holm told GrowthSpotter he intends to use the money to build a new Golden Corral restaurant.
During the pandemic, Holm’s 1069 Restaurant Group LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection citing the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on restaurants and buffet-style dining.
He said he closed a Golden Corral at 2328 S. Semoran Blvd. because COVID-19 had kept most people home and the 25-year-old building was getting old. Holm intends to open a new Golden Corral restaurant somewhere between where the one on Semoran Boulevard closed and the restaurant on State Road 50.
“We have several sites in mind,” he said last year. “I told [Progressive Capital Group] if you could put student housing in the manner that you want to, we can get a brand new restaurant and some cash.”
The site is less than 10 minutes away from the University of Central Florida and is surrounded by commercial uses, including the 6-story Holiday Inn Orlando East UCF Area Hotel at 1724 N Alafaya Trail.
A land development plan submitted to Orange County in May calls for the student housing community to be set back 50 feet from S.R. 50, 15 feet from Orpington Street, and 10 feet from Crescent Boulevard. None of the units would have balconies, according to the plan.
The commission in October approved seven waivers for the project related to building height, setbacks, driveway length, and more.
This is one of several student housing projects in the development pipeline near UCF.
Located at the corner of University Boulevard and North Alafaya Trail, Collegiate Village is intended to be a student-focused destination with housing, dining, year-round event space, and artwork-filled parks.
A spacious pedestrian corridor connecting the two residential towers will feature shipping containers for small businesses on one side and a multi-tenant urban-style development on the other with 120,000 square feet of retail and commercial space separated by an open-air amphitheater.
Luc Picotte, Demetree’s chief operating officer, told GrowthSpotter in November that world-renowned chef Grant MacPherson will be opening a restaurant at Collegiate Village and has a hand in the other commercial components within the project, such as a planned two-story, 20,000-square-foot “grocerant” concept with a grocery store, food hall and upstairs eatery under one roof.
MacPherson provides food and beverage consultation for boutique hotels and restaurant properties worldwide through his company Scotch Myst, according to its website.
He previously collaborated with Apple Corp and its now-deceased founder Steve Jobs on a campus dining facility in Cupertino. He helped The New Realm Brewing Co in Atlanta open the largest brewery in Georgia’s history and lent his talents to several prestigious hotels in Las Vegas, including the Wynn and Bellagio.
To the north, several student housing projects are popping up within the Quadrangle PD. The PD had been entitled to UCF for 2.4 million square feet of office and retail space since the 1970′s. But as available land for multifamily housing becomes more and more scarce, builders have taken action to alter these long-held land-use designations.
Orlando-based Tramell Webb Partners — which has completed a variety of housing projects across Central Florida, including several near college campuses — submitted an application to Orange County in October with a request to convert 113,139 square feet of office entitlements on two parcels totaling 20.4 acres into student housing units.
To the west, Indiana-based Trinitas Ventures is building a 750-bed, 188-unit student housing community at 4742 Data Ct., north of Corporate Boulevard and west of N. Alafaya Trail. In July, the company bought the 6.35-acre land for $3.7 million and then secured a $33.6 million construction loan for the project.
Humphreys and Partners is the lead architect for the project.
South of the Trinitas property, at the corner of Turbine Drive and University Boulevard, American Campus Communities is developing a 250-unit student housing community with 898 beds and up to 3,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space along with a 567-space parking garage.
The project received the green light from the Orange County Board of Commissioners in September.
In the 2021-2022 school year, UCF had more than 70,000 students enrolled. It has 7,200 student housing beds on campus.