The current owner of the former Flea World site in Seminole County, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, intends to keep control of some of the outer parcels of the 110-acre property as part of a plan by Lantower Residential to build a 1,200-unit apartment community on most of the space.
But the main component of the proposed project will need to be modified after county officials told developers they want to see a mixed-use concept with higher density instead.
A discussion at the county’s development review meeting Wednesday centered on finding the best use for the vacant swath of land along U.S. 17-92 and Ronald Reagan Boulevard.
Steven Ruoff, a land broker representing the Boys & Girls Club, told county staff that the nonprofit would eventually move its offices on the property to another location and explore selling off those ten acres worth of out-parcels to interested parties for future commercial development.
“Right now, we don’t know what the ultimate uses are going to be,” he said. “I suspect we won’t know until ... after the first apartment phase is built.
“I’d love to see a nice steakhouse there on the corner,” he added. “But we couldn’t attract a steakhouse today, it’s too green of a site to get a decent restaurant there. The area has got to evolve a little bit. But our goal is to get the highest and best use out of those out-parcels and either lease them or sell them to the ultimate users. Our objective is to bring in as much money and bottom line to the Boys & Girls Club.”
Since the flea market — billed as the largest in the world during its heyday — closed in 2015, a number of redevelopment plans for the now-vacant land have come and gone.
In 2018, Toronto-based Palmeira Holdings got county approval for a massive mixed-use project called Parkside Place, entitled for 1.7 million square feet of office/commercial space, more than 5,000 rental units, a 312-bed assisted-living facility, and a 250-room hotel.
The project promised a futuristic community complete with landing pads for drone deliveries atop high-rise apartment buildings 10 stories tall.
While that fell through, county officials are holding out hope that a similar concept will come to fruition.
But Lantower is seeking a drastic reduction to the approved entitlements for the property to build three separate apartment communities, with buildings as tall as four stories surrounding a number of lakes and ponds. Each community is comprised of 400 apartment units and between 720 and 741 parking spaces, site plans by Charlan Brock Architects show.
County planners say they want a project that is higher density than what is currently on the table — one that incorporates more into its design than multifamily residential.
“We understand the Parkside Place deal is a little ambitious,” Rebecca Hammock, the county’s director of development services told the development team Wednesday. “We do recognize there will probably be some lessening of entitlements to make it fit within the market and be viable, but we do want to see some of the more innovative and creative things that were a part of that (Parkside Place) development order.”
She noted that the site sits in the county’s transportation corridor, in close proximity to Seminole State College and a SunRail station.
We do want to make sure it’s a truly mixed-use project and not just primarily residential,” she said. " I know the board still would like to see a pretty intensive development here. It’s a good location for high density.”
Annie Sillaway, the county’s senior planner, added that the final development should be a destination where residents can “eat, work and play.”
Robby Moon with KPM Franklin, who’s part of the development team, said they’d pursue modifications to the current plan.
The Boys & Girls Club was gifted the property in 2018 following the death of Flea World owner, Syd Levy. After plans for Parkside Place were abandoned, home-builder Taylor Morrison expressed interest in buying the land for a housing subdivision.
That plan also fell through.
“Taylor Morrison decided to pursue other projects that fit our long-term land development strategy,” a company spokeswoman, Carey Martin, said in an email.
Lantower has been active in Central Florida. In June, the company paid $15.5 million — the highest price per acre ever paid for land in Osceola County —for a mixed-use development site at the gateway entrance to NeoCity.
The company is also planning to construct an apartment community in Kissimmee’s Sunrise City.