Developer preps Phase 3 retail for Shoppes at Alafaya, wetlands mitigation an issue

A Miami Beach-based developer has a half dozen big-box retail tenants and specialty grocer lined up for a long-anticipated third phase of The Shoppes at Alafaya, but must find common ground with Orange County over wetlands mitigation. 

Located on 16 acres at 1100-1250 N. Alafaya Trail northwest of the Waterford Lakes Town Center, The Shoppes at Alafaya was built in 2011 and 2012, with its first two phases totaling more than 141,700 gross square feet for Toys 'R Us and Babies 'R Us, Dick's Sporting Goods, Bahama Breeze and a small strip center.

Affiliates of HM Management & Development (formerly WSG Development) initiated the project in the mid-2000s, but work stalled in 2010 after its construction lender Colonial Bank failed in August 2009.

Developer Eric D. Sheppard and partner Philip Wolman filed for bankruptcy in November 2012 for primary land owner affiliate WSG Coral Springs, LP. Sheppard later brought in The Bancorp to fund construction of Phases 1-2, which kicked the project back into gear and was later paid off in 2015 with a senior loan.

Sheppard and his partners were originally entitled through the property's PD for 180,000 square feet of retail-commercial uses, but purposely left about 38,000 square feet of those entitlements unused in the first two phases.

Now they're asking the county to increase the PD's retail-commercial square footage by another 130,000 square feet (to 304,000 SF). If approved, the developer could have more than 168,000 square feet for new retailers in Phase 3 -- which was always anticipated to be the heart of The Shoppes at Alafaya.

"We under-built for Phases 1 and 2 to prepare for Phase 3, those were the bookends with the majority always planned for Phase 3 in the middle," Sheppard told GrowthSpotter. "So we just want to transfer rights to Phase 3 to finish our overall vision for the development."

Sheppard's HM and WSG affiliates own more than 33 wooded and wetland acres directly west and southwest of the project, along with two undeveloped outparcels fronting the main thoroughfare.

Those are the focus of Phase 3, and a point of contention. The owner now wants to amend the existing approved Planned Development zoning, and seeks a Conservation Area Impact permit from the county to make it happen.

The effort is being led by attorney Allison Turnbull of Gunster as developer's legal counsel, and NAI Realvest's Jon Walls as planning consultant and applicant.

Specialty grocer Earth Fare is among the prospective tenants with executed LOIs, Sheppard said. It would be Earth Fare's third location in Greater Orlando. 

Other pending retailers include Marshalls, HomeGoods, Ross, Petco, Crunch Fitness and another unconfirmed big-box user. Those names are subject to change, as Sheppard may have to rework building sizes and placement that were approved in the LOIs.

To accommodate the increased commercial activity, and through a separate CAI permit application, Sheppard wants to impact 10.03 wetland acres, while placing another 7.65 acres of Class I wetlands from the PD area into a conservation easement for the county. 

These requests have bounced back and forth with county staff for more than two years, having first been introduced in May 2014.

County code allows for mitigation of Class B wetlands, but DRC members questioned why they should approve another 130,000 square feet of retail that will absorb wetland when the developer hasn't build out its initial 174,000 square feet.

County planning staff heard from area residents at a community meeting in April calling to protect the wetlands, who've shared fears of increased flooding on Oberry Hoover Road and the homes directly west. 

Sheppard's development team contends the Phase 3 expansion would actually eliminate flooding risk, because in expanding stormwater ponds they'd collect more of the water that hits the property at N. Alafaya Trail and flows westward. 

"Our goal is to relocate any displaced animals on this wetland to a 900-acre mitigation preserve," Sheppard said. "We think we're actually making the water retention better, and making the lives better for animals that are relocated."

Planning administrator John Smogor encouraged Sheppard and his team at a mid-July meeting to simply square off the depth that Phase 3 would extend into the wetlands, and make it end flush with the western line of the Toys R Us.

But that could reduce Sheppard's planned square footage by one third or more. The depth of their conceptual site plan for Phase 3 was carefully drawn with tenant requirements in mind, Turnbull said.

Sheppard and his team will continue working with the county's Environmental Protection Division to evaluate their wetlands impact, and eventually return to the Development Review Committee with a new design. 

Kimley-Horn is civil engineer on the project, Chiodini is the architect and Bio-Tech Consulting is the environmental consultant. 

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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