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MMI Development's Marden Ridge apartments (left) should be neighbored by a big-box retail development on 72 acres to the east, in front of the future interchange exit ramp on Marden Road.
MMI Development's Marden Ridge apartments (left) should be neighbored by a big-box retail development on 72 acres to the east, in front of the future interchange exit ramp on Marden Road. (GAI Consultants)

MMI Development is pushing forward on plans to rezone 72 acres in Apopka for a 300,000-square-foot retail power center fronting the Apopka Expressway (S.R. 414), and could break ground by August on the $6.5 million expressway interchange that will give new access to the land.

MMI bought the parcel in September 2014 for $2 million from Centex Homes, part of 114 contiguous acres it now owns north of S.R. 414, on either side of Marden Road. The other 42 acres will be home to two phases of apartments by NM Residential, where vertical construction began in May on the first 272 units.

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A hearing in Apopka to rezone the 72 acres from Residential is currently scheduled for July 12 with the Planning Commission. The Future Land Use Map application is for Commercial, with zoning application C-1 (General Commercial) sought.

In Part II of our Anatomy of a Deal series, go behind the scenes with MMI Development as they found a creative way to activate hundreds of acres in Apopka.

That will be followed by a first reading on July 20 with City Council and the FLUM amendment adoption hearing, and a second reading Aug. 3.

The 300,000 square feet of retail will likely feature a big box tenant, secondary retail outlets like a pharmacy chain, and a handful of quick-service and fast-casual dining chains, said MMI president Michael E. Wright.

No formal Development Plan has been produced for the site or submitted to the city, but could be in the fourth quarter of this year or 2017, Wright said. MMI has yet to hire a commercial real estate broker to market the property.

The is one of the first examples of an infrastructure PPP in Greater Orlando since the Florida Legislature created a PPP taskforce in 2013 to promote such partnerships.

Key to the success of MMI's development is a future half-diamond interchange at the intersection of Marden Road and S.R. 414, which MMI will front the $6.5 million cost and risk to build, then be reimbursed by Apopka over 10 years in a few ways.

MMI has submitted its 60 percent-design plans to the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) for the interchange. It held a review meeting last week to discuss design questions, and should submit 100 percent-design plans by month's end, said Kevin Knudsen, civil engineer with Dewberry supporting MMI on the project.

"We're hoping to get those final plans done by the end of July, though we don't have a lot of control over their review time," he said. "We're now proposing to put roundabouts at the end of the ramps."

FDOT has mandated that roundabouts be the preferred design option for interchange ramps, but CFX has never done it for its interchanges, Knudsen said. Recent talks with CFX showed there were no concerns over the choice.

"The biggest advantage of roundabouts is they're a traffic calming feature," he said. "Studies show they do definitely reduce serious traffic accidents because everyone is slowed and is entering and exiting at angles, so there's no opportunity to run a red light and cause a head-on collision."

MMI's new on- and off-ramps on Marden Road would have called for a basic stop sign condition for its ramps. This would have cost less than the roundabout option, Knudsen said.

Plans for the interchange ramps may be complete in July, after which MMI could proceed to construction fairly quickly because it doesn't have to bid the work out in a public process. The ramps should be built nine to 10 months later.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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