Revised plans for Winter Park memory care facility near finish line after mediation

Washington, D.C.-based luxury residential developer Brook Rose and a local partner are near the finish line for a proposed memory care facility in Winter Park after two years of negotiations with the city, and have yet to sign a builder or lender for the estimated $15 million-to-$20 million project. 

Dubbed "Villa Tuscany," the Mediterranean-style facility would be located on 3.77 acres (2.09 acres developable) at 1298 Howell Branch Road, between the intersections with Temple Trail and Temple Drive just east of the Howell Branch Preserve Park.

The developer is seeking conditional use approval to build a two-story, 29,801-square-foot with 49 beds, a footprint that's been reduced significantly since its original proposal in late March 2016, and a revision in October 2016 that stood at three stories. The project now goes before the City Commission on Oct. 9.

City staff are recommending approval, which includes a mediated settlement agreement that the developer and city worked through in recent months. 

Commissioners had denied Rose and Winter Park-based investor Ervin Hechavarria's previous plans for a three-story building back in late March, for what were inconsistencies with part of the Comprehensive Plan involving building size, floor area ratio, and parking incompliance with the lakefront setback. 

But the developers argued that commissioners denied their use request despite approval recommendations by city staff and the Planning and Zoning Board. They also disagreed with how a certain height restriction in the Comp Plan policy was cited as grounds for denial. 

So they exercised their right, by Florida statute, to force a mediation process with the city in April, with the help of local attorneys at Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A

"I've owned an assisted living facility in Winter Park for 20 years, and I know this is something the community needs and is very much appropriate for the site," Rose told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday. He developed the 20-bed assisted living facility Alabama Oaks of Winter Park

"I understand some of the initial resistance, but we've really taken steps to change our plans and address community concerns," he continued. "It's nice when a facility like this is close to families, it creates better care for the residents. This location can do that for the communities of Winter Park and Maitland." 

The settlement agreement requires the applicant to reduce the overall building size, and by extension the visual impact on nearby homes. The building's proposed height is now a maximum 31 feet, instead of 35 feet as previously proposed. 

To the site's north and east are commercial properties, and to the south and west are single-family residential. More than a dozen letters from residents opposing the project have been sent to city officials leading up to the Oct. 9 hearing.

"What was instrumental was the new architect we brought on, Bessolo Design Group, which specializes in assisted living and memory care," Hechavarria said. Baker Barrios had designed previous versions of the project.  

"(Bessolo's) knowledge base in the area led them to design a completely different building that was within the scope of what we mediated with the city," he continued. "This allows us to still produce a very financially rewarding endeavor." 

Rose, Hechavarria and New York-based hedge fund manager Gabriel de Jesus are investment partners supplying equity for the project. They'll be seeking a construction loan near 55 percent loan-to-cost, and have negotiated with Harbor Community Bank thus far but have yet to sign, Hechavarria said. 

Tampa-based ARCO Murray has worked with the developers over the past year on construction cost estimates, but the group has yet to sign a general contractor. 

If approved by Winter Park commissioners through two readings in October, the production and review of construction plans would likely carry into April 2018 or further before groundbreaking could occur, Hechavarria said. Their team will eventually self-manage the property.

The group's affiliate Villa Tuscany Holdings LLC paid $650,000 for the property in November 2016, buying from an affiliate of Winter Park-based attorney and engineer Bernard J. Martin III, who previously paid $300,000 in June 2003. 

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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