Orlando-based USA Management Realty & Development is looking to bring a three-story mixed-use building with commercial space and more than 40 luxury apartment units to what’s become a red-hot corner in Ocoee.
However, the company’s owners — Rose Thomas and Mary Ramos — have to tweak the project after it was denied by the city’s planning and zoning commission on Aug. 30.
“We are not giving up,” Thomas told GrowthSpotter. “This would be (the company’s) first mixed-use project and obviously we want everyone to be on board. Me and my partner are both women — and we are just excited that they are looking at our project, taking it seriously, and understand the value of having this type of component in the city.”
The land, located across the street from a Publix shopping center near the intersection of Lake Johio and Silver Star Roads, is part of a master-planned development put together years ago by Mijax Properties and its founder Chip Bryan.
Within the PD, K. Hovnanian Homes has built out a 50-lot subdivision called Ocoee Landings and Dallas-based Everest Realty Group has started construction on a 39,817-square-foot rehabilitation hospital. The parcel to the east of this future hospital, just south of the subdivision, was purchased by Thomas’ company in May for just shy of $1 million.
USA Management Realty & Development is partnering with Bryan of Mijax Properties on a mixed-use project that originally called for a 51,680-square-foot building with commercial space totaling 8,000 square feet on the bottom floor along with a leasing office and four apartment units. The top two floors of the building would be used for another 42 apartment units — two three-bedroom units, 16 two-bedroom units and 24 one-bedroom units.
Ahead of the Aug. 30 planning and zoning commission meeting, city staff recommended approval.
“A mixed-use building like this makes sense in an area that’s becoming more urbanized,” the city’s development services director, Michael Rumer, told the five-member planning board.
Ramos, the company’s co-owner and development manager, said at the meeting that the location is appropriate for apartments, especially considering the arrival of the hospital which would bring doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to the area in need of housing.
“We are working with the hospitals because we know that a lot of people are looking for a place to live. One of the biggest things is finding homes for them. These are working people,” she said.
But after several residents of the neighboring subdivision spoke against a three-story apartment concept rising near their yards, the planning commission voted to deny the plan as presented.
“Throwing an apartment complex here doesn’t fit the aesthetics or the area,” said planning commissioner Jason Mellon. “There are no apartments here, not anywhere near this.”
Members of the board said they want to see restaurants emerge on this property.
“That’s prime, prime, prime restaurant real estate,” said planning board chairman Brad Lomneck. “We need a restaurant that fits in this mixed-use.”
That usage wasn’t envisioned in the original plan because of limited parking availability, the project’s lead architect, David Mayer, told the board.
“The restaurants are a good idea,” said the Principal with Cuhachi Peterson Architects. “Restaurants typically have a denser parking requirement, and so we’d love to have a restaurant if we can figure out how to work with the parking restrictions. But as you know you have a lot more parking with restaurants.”
He said the team could explore a partnership with the neighboring hospital to use some of its parking.
After the vote, Thomas said the company is looking to scrap the four apartment units on the ground floor to create space for a restaurant.
Yet she still wants the final product to contain apartment units.
“We are redesigning,” she said. “The final count would be 42 units with us eliminating the lower level units.”
A revised plan is slated to go before the city commission on Oct. 4th.