Developer of future Topgolf site works to minimize eminent domain down road

Bill Zimmerman
GrowthSpotter

In an attempt to avoid an eminent domain claim, the developer of a planned Topgolf location has reached an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation for the design of a new Interstate 4 slip ramp at the Lake Mary Boulevard interchange.

The ramp, designed to provide direct access to Lake Emma Road for cars exiting I-4 eastbound, could have encroached on Topgolf’s ability to build an effective site plan for its two parcels, attorney Prineet Sharma told GrowthSpotter.

By focusing on the northern portions of Topgolf’s site plan, which totals 19.55 acres in all, the slip ramp could connect I-4 and Lake Emma Road. It will impact just about 2 acres of land at the future Topgolf site, said Sharma, as shown in the slider above. It also will affect neighboring property to the north, including a parcel owned by an affiliate of Philadelphia-based EBL & S Development and has been home to big-box store At Home since March.

“This is a great example of FDOT working with the land owner in way that is fair to the future development, but also protect the public’s financial interest by avoiding impacting newly constructed improvements,” Sharma said of the memorandum of understanding between the two parties dated July 25. “... The folks at FDOT [right-of-way] did a great job of striking the right balance between owner’s right to develop its property while protecting the future acquisition costs of this important improved to the Lake Mary Boulevard I-4 interchange.”

Plans for a 27,253-square-foot building with 468 parking spaces cleared Lake Mary's planning and zoning board at a meeting Tuesday night; approval next goes to the city commission next month, said attorney Miranda Fitzgerald, shareholder with Lowndes who represents land owner TPA. The collaboration between all parties involved drew compliments, she said, with positioning of buildings and structure leaving reserved area for the highway infrastructure.

"That was one of the things the planning and zoning chairman was extremely complimentary on," Fitzgerald said. "I think the city feels that way, that it's such a win-win, because of the cooperation and collaboration..."

An outparcel of approximately 3.7 acres, which is not under contract to Topgolf, would allow for retail, office or hotel development, plans show. Attempts to reach TPA and FDOT were not immediately successful.

A developer that builds out the land before eminent domain takings occur can come up short on their return on investment while causing taxpayers greater expense in the land being acquired for public use such as a roadway. Alternatively, a developer who waits can also find it difficult to profit as they would have if no eminent domain considerations existed.

The process took a couple of months, Sharma said.

“We were able to work proactively with DOT and set aside the portion they would need,” he said. “We preserved [Topgolf]’s ability to be compensated and also gave certainty to DOT that they wouldn’t have plans that were unfeasible [financially].

“It’s one of the better examples where we were working with a common purpose to satisfy a common interest.”

Topgolf’s Orlando location opened in October 2017. "We are excited about our potential to become a permanent member of the Lake Mary community," spokesman Morgan Schaaf told GrowthSpotter in July.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bzimmerman@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5427 or @zmediaworks. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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