The city of Casselberry and Seminole County have joined forces to create what both governments hope will be a vibrant, mixed-use redevelopment district with a revamped Oxford Road as the “Main Street.”
Both governments are shooting for a live, work, play environment that combines dense residential development with walkable commercial areas. The key ingredient is Oxford Road, which unites city and county as it crosses State Road 436 from Casselberry in the north to the unincorporated county area of Fern Park in the south.
Although working separately on the target redevelopment areas in their jurisdictions, the city and county hope the final product will be a bustling commercial and residential area that defies boundaries and classifications.
“We hope that it will be synergistic and will be a holistic development instead of piecemeal,” said Casselberry principal planner Emily Hanna. The goal, Hanna said, is for the “city and county to work together to get those design standards so it’s one common place, not two separate places.”
Though much remains to be done to transform vision to reality, both governments have taken significant steps toward that goal.
In December, the Seminole County Commission passed the Oxford Place overlay standards, that cover densities, streetscape architectural elements, green space and support mixed-use development with smaller block structure.
Some of the design standards for the front of buildings in the overlay district would include requiring canopies, awnings or arcades; lighting that is recessed or aimed at the building to prevent light pollution; minimum requirements for glass at the front of a business or service; design standards for signs, including maximum size, and placement of wall signs not to cover glass, ornamental iron work or other aesthetic features. Blade signs cannot be used in conjunction with wall signs and can only be used for commercial uses.
The county also signed a development agreement in July with the principal commercial land owner in the district, Richard J. Birdoff. The agreement covered each party’s responsibilities including dedication of right-of-way and stormwater ponds, reconstruction of Oxford Road and the extension of Fern Park Boulevard from Oxford Road to U.S. 17-92.
Birdoff owns the former Orlando Jai-alai fronton and the Shoppes at Fern Park, a shopping center facing S.R. 436. He recently presented the county with conceptual plans for three phases of development that include 583 to 749 apartments, and 14,000 square feet of commercial space. Additional phases will come later. The former fronton would be razed to make way for the new development.
Casselberry is still working on its Oxford Road overlay standards, which will mimic the county’s. They likely won’t be adopted until early summer, Hanna said.
But the small city (population 26,241) has already completed the $2.31 million reconstruction of its 0.5-mile segment of Oxford Road. The four-lane road was “right sized” to two lanes with dedicated bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, 8-foot-wide sidewalks, 14-foot-wide landscape strips and drainage, water and sewer improvements.
“In this case we were more interested in cyclists and pedestrians (than vehicles),” said Casselberry city engineer Kelly Brock. “We wanted it to be a complete street available to all users.”
The county is completing plans for reconstructing 2,000 feet of Oxford Road from S.R. 436 to Fern Park Boulevard, and should begin work this summer, said Bill Wharton, principal planner county development services. The project, which will include extending Fern Park Boulevard 1,600 feet to U.S. 17-92, will cost about $25 million.
The Oxford Place redevelopment grew out of the U.S. 17-92 Corridor Community Redevelopment Area, a multi-jurisdictional plan that included the county and the cities of Casselberry, Winter Springs, Lake Mary and Sanford. The plan identified the U.S. 17-92 intersection as a “catalyst site” for economic development.
In May 2014, the Urban Land Institute released a study that looked at the future of the area around the U.S. 17-92 – S.R. 436 intersection, especially in light of the planned construction of a “flyover” that would allow U.S. 17-92 traffic to travel over the intersection without stopping.
The ULI study said the flyover would likely turn the area “inside out,” but the redevelopment of Oxford Road had the potential of turning the area “outside in.”
“By giving this sleepy road new purpose and turning it into a “Main Street” for an urban town center, the two municipalities that govern its route — Seminole County and the city of Casselberry — could build a community that backs up to the flyover and relies on local traffic to create a thriving hub of new business and residential activity,” the study said.
Based on the results of the corridor redevelopment plan and the ULI recommendations, county commissioners in July 2014 accepted the Oxford Road Long-Range Redevelopment Plan and directed staff to being implementing the plan’s recommendations.
A year later, the county approved a memorandum of understanding with Birdoff’s RB Jai Alai LLC, in which the parties agreed to work together on issues including the extension of Fern Park Boulevard, improvements to Oxford Road and redevelopment in the area. That led to the development agreement with Birdoff in July and the commission’s adoption of the overlay district in December.
“We got the metro plan study and the ULI study and they’re saying same thing: create design standards, and that the city and county work together to get those design standards so it’s one common place, not two separate places,” Hanna, the Casselberry planner, said.
Key to the success of the commercial development in Oxford Place is having enough homes nearby whose residents will patronize the new businesses. City and county planners think they will have that core constituency from existing residential neighborhoods, Birdoff’s planned apartments and the 334-unit Sole at Casselberry apartment complex that was built near Oxford Road at about the same time the city was improving it.
“We constructed our projects simultaneously,” said Brock the Casselberry city engineer. “They were designed with each other in mind. So, the timing worked out great.”
Planners on both sides of the city-county line say the synergy between the two governments on this project bodes well for the future success of Oxford Place.
“That’s our hope, that you’ll see more commercial development and this project will meld really well with what the county is doing on the other side of S.R. 436,” Brock said. “When the county did their (overlay) they took what we were doing into consideration.”
Wharton, the county planner agreed.
“They’re good partners,” he said of his colleagues in Casselberry. “We’ve both been looking out for each other.”