Eco-friendly builder Meritage Homes has been named as possible developer or exclusive homebuilder for a new 700-home community planned on the 200-acre San Pedro Center land previously owned by the Catholic Diocese of Orlando.
Sun Terra Communities, backed by New York private equity firm JEN Partners, bought the land in south Seminole County in 2016 for $26.7 million and received approval in December for mixed-use Planned Development zoning of up to 710 homes, a 125-bed assisted living facility and 50,000 square feet of retail.
Sun Terra Principal Richard Jerman filed a Preliminary Subdivision Plan in late January, which is scheduled to go to the county's Development Review Committee, likely in March. Madden Moorhead & Stokes is civil engineer on the project.
"What you see is what we desire to build," Jerman told GrowthSpotter on Friday. "This tracks our development order, so we don't expect staff to have a lot of comments."
The plan actually reduces the density to 695 residential units. It divides the project into two phases, with a gated 250-unit townhome community in Phase 1.
"The townhomes will have their own pool and clubhouse," Jerman said. "It will be a totally separate community."
Phase 2 would be a gated residential neighborhood with lot sizes ranging from 45 feet to 70 feet. Sun Terra is calling the entire project Lake Howell Reserve, but Jerman said that name is just a placeholder and will change.
The neighborhood will have ample amenities, including a large pool and clubhouse near the entrance and a community dock on Lake Howell.
Engineer Charlie Madden told the county's Planning and Zoning Commission back in November that Meritage was heavily involved in developing the concept plans for the community, and has even provided images of potential home products at community meetings.
The homes would be similar to the new floorplans available at a Meritage community in Winter Springs, he said.
Meritage includes energy-efficient upgrades, such as spray-foam insulation and weather-sensitive irrigation systems, as standard features in all new homes. It's also the first local builder to offer solar panels as an upgrade in all its communities, and is even building an all-solar community in Orange County.
The PSP also shows a 6.8-acre lot west of the main entry road for future commercial development. The development order restricts certain C-1 uses, such as pet store, fuel station and fast-food restaurant.
"We're trying to do an upscale community," Jerman said. "We don't need a McDonald's out in front of it."
Jerman declined to comment on the pending deal with Meritage, but he did share some other details about the project. For example, he said Sun Terra has no immediate plans to develop the assisted living facility (ALF), which was reduced from the 450-bed facility envisioned in the previous PD.
"That's up in the air," he said. "If it exists at all, it would be on the commercial tract. We kept it as an entitlement."
The Diocese of Orlando held on to 200 contiguous acres and continues to run it as a spiritual center. The Development Order allows for an expansion of 48 dorm rooms, 50,000 square feet of support facilities and a 4,500-square-foot house for the clergy.