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College Station project draws developer interest

College Station project draws developer interest
Conceptual plan of College Station includes a mix of higher education, residential, retail, office and recreational  uses. (Osceola County)

Tuesday's pre-bid meeting wasn't mandatory, but that didn't stop more than a dozen developers, architecture and engineering firms from scoping out interest in Osceola's County College Station project that will be home to Valencia College's new Poinciana Campus in 2017.

The county posted a request for letters of interest (RFLOI) on Nov. 5 to find a developer with the financial backing and experience to bring the vision to reality. Responses are due Dec. 15.

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Balfour Beatty Construction and OHL-Arellano sent representatives. Both have extensive experience in developing college campuses, multifamily housing and recreational assets - all of which comprise College Station.

"This project fits the bill in every way," said Kurtis Wright, senior project manager for Balfour Beatty. He said Balfour Beatty has a long working history with Osceola County, including having built the administrative building at One Courthouse Square and the Houston Astros spring training site at Heritage Park.

The mixed-use project has a strong residential and student housing component with entitlements for more than 1,000 units, but it also includes retail and Class B office space.

"This is purely about who's got a big pocketbook and wants to build us a bunch of multifamily housing for our college," said Brad Will, vice president and senior project director for Core Construction. "The overall scheme is a good one. Multifamily is a revenue stream, and student housing is easy."

Still, he noted that public-private partnerships can be a tough sell. Florida State University put out a request for proposals earlier this year for a hotel and convention center on campus and received only one response, he said.

The conceptual plan also calls for a regional park and village center on two parcels. The 30-acre Village Center should include an athletic center with an Olympic-size pool, an amphitheater, a splash park, open green space and at least 85,000 square feet of office and institutional space in phase one.

The 92-acre sports complex would have tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, as well as six long fields suitable for football, soccer and lacrosse. The design also includes a dog park, pavilions and a marina and boat launch on Lake Toho with its own restaurant and tackle shop.

A separate canoe/kayak launch would be built on the 43-acre lake/retention pond, along with a playground, tot lot and Frisbee golf course.

The county has no funding source identified for any of the recreational amenities and is only beginning to develop a countywide parks master plan.

Osceola Planning Director Kerry Godwin said the county spent two years with Atkins developing the master plan with the hope that a public-private partnership or the sale of land within College Station could generate the capital to finance construction of the recreational uses.

"We're not married to the plan, except for the spine road going out to the lake and the marina, which is already permitted," Godwin said. "We're looking for developers to tell us what is feasible what the market will support."

He said the county would consider partial responses, if a developer were interested in a specific parcel or sector. "We're not neccessarily looking for a master developer," he said. "We're open to any sort of response."

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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