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Fairbanks at I-4 in Winter Park is being considered for urban scale redevelopment

The Formosa Triangle, includes about 41 properties in an area south of Fairbanks Avenue and west of Formosa Avenue along Fairbanks, Kentucky, Ogelsby and Crandon Avenues.
The Formosa Triangle, includes about 41 properties in an area south of Fairbanks Avenue and west of Formosa Avenue along Fairbanks, Kentucky, Ogelsby and Crandon Avenues. (City of Winter Park)

An anticipated redevelopment plan in Winter Park is prompting city commission members to consider annexing about 10 acres of land into the city and possibly updating its development codes to accommodate an urban-designed, mixed-use community.

At a joint work session with the City Commission and the Planning and Zoning Board last week, Mayor Phil Anderson said an undisclosed development group has expressed interest in building apartments, commercial buildings, open park space and a parking garage in one of the city’s major gateway corridors.

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The conceptual plans focus on about 13 acres of property adjacent to Interstate 4 and south of West Fairbanks Avenue.

Currently, the property is owned by at least a dozen different entities, a bulk of which are tied to real estate veteran Jim Veigle and his family members who invested in the area back in the 1980s. The Veigle family owns about 10 acres over two blocks on that highway corner, including a row of single-family rental homes.

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Some key components for Winter Park's Progress Point site include designing an aesthetically pleasing park with the capability for all-day programming activity as well as more public parking spaces and new commercial opportunities.

Veigle declined to comment on plans citing a non-disclosure agreement he signed with the developer under contract to purchase the property.

Part of the assemblage falls within the jurisdictions of Winter Park, Orlando and Orange County.

City planning officials called a work session meeting to discuss the actions that can be taken now that development plans are being drawn up.

“The question is: Where do we go from here?” Bronce Stephenson, Winter Park’s planning and community development director, said during his presentation. “Is it a city of Winter Park driven entitlement process versus potentially an Orange County driven entitlement process or the opportunity for the city of Orlando driven entitlement process?”

In the city’s history, developers have annexed properties out of Winter Park, gotten development entitlements elsewhere, and then annexed back into the city, similarly to what developer Dan Bellows did with his company’s Ravadauge master-planned community near the Maitland border.

Principal Planner Jeffrey Briggs told board members the property has been ripe for “some sort of major development.”

“We always felt that annexation into Winter Park was a priority for all of these 10 acres,” he said. “We want to be able to control the quality of the development because it’s going to be on the doorstep of our gateway into the city, and frankly we also want to receive the tax base from the development because we’re going to get the traffic and all the other spinoffs, so we might as well be able to provide a revenue for services in that area.”

Board members seemed in agreement that annexing the property would be appropriate.

After COVID scuttled the sale of the outdoor mall, the owners decided to go all in on renovations to modernize the retail center.

Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility to entitle the land, known as the Formosa Triangle, to feature an old PD-2 Future Land Use and Zoning established by the city in 2009. The codes feature entitlements that would allow up to 250% Floor Area Ratio and up to 25 units per acre.

The standards also limit future building heights to eight stories and allow for the development of a parking garage.

Planners said those zoning and land use codes are outdated and may need to be replaced with codes that better speak to a post-COVID world.

Typical trends in urban planning thrown out at the meeting included allowances for taller buildings, higher-density residential developments, and the need for structured parking and unique architecture. A hotel or corporate office may not be a suitable development on the property, Briggs said.

One example of this was the Paseo at Winter Park Village apartment community at 940 W Canton Ave., built in 2015 by Hirschfeld Properties. The codes allowed for up to 45 units per acre on just one pad. Ohio-based mall developer Casto Lifestyle Properties is currently renovating the adjacent shopping, dining and entertainment complex, Winter Park Village.

Another path forward discussed by board members was creating an even larger master-planned community in the West Fairbanks corridor.

Winter Park has spent at least $8 million installing a sanitary sewer line system and new traffic and streetlights in the corridor. In addition, a $12 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation helped bury power lines.

Updates to the infrastructure along Fairbanks Avenue are drawing interest from developers who may help revitalize the area, like tech and healthcare entrepreneur Christopher Tracy, who is looking build a new two-story, 10,000-square-foot office development along Fairbanks Avenue, where Paco’s Mexican Restaurant closed in 2016.

In October, the Skycraft Parts and Surplus Inc. building along Fairbanks Avenue sold for $3.25 million to Georgia-based Looking Good Properties Inc., which specializes in residential and commercial renovation projects.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at arabines@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 491-3357, or tweet me at @amanda_rabines. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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