Tavistock Development Company plans to create a 42-acre man-made lake and marina as the centerpiece of its Osceola Sunbridge community.
"We needed to come up with a big idea for placemaking," Tavistock consulting planner Richard Levey told GrowthSpotter. "So we created a marina village with its own entertainment district."
Levey, who is working with Tavistock on entitlements for the massive new community, said the lake (described as a "boat basin" in the concept plan) serves another key function as an amenity for much-needed executive housing.
"In all our conversations with the county manager the same issue keeps coming up," Levey said. "Executive housing to support what's going on at NeoCity is what's needed in the marketplace, and we took that idea and capitalized on the proximity to the canal."
The lake would be built on a flooded portion of the existing canal. The Sunbridge concept plan calls for executive, lakefront housing that would provide boating access via the canal system to Lake Myrtle and the Alligator Chain of Lakes.
Levey said there would be numerous pedestrian bridges and bike trails linking the marina village to the neighborhoods around it. County planners have asked Tavistock to add a bridge crossing over the canal -- something that was included in the Northeast District (NED) element -- but Levey said that would destroy the boat basin and marina village concept.
"We will include pedestrian and bike access -- this will limit the size and scale of boat craft, and that is probably a good thing," he said. "We have multiple trail links, but we did not have one south of Cyrils -- and this will complement and complete the loop. People can walk to dinner."
Tavistock Spokeswoman Jessi Blakely said the developer has not sought any approvals from the South Florida Water Management District.
The canal bridge is one of several points of contention between the county planners and the developer. "We hope to be able to explain to the county why that doesn't work," he said.
Levey and his team are scheduled to meet with the Development Review Committee next week for the second time in hopes of winning the committee's endorsement for its 82-page Concept Plan (CP). If the county approves the Sunbridge CP, it would replace the NED element in the county's Comprehensive Plan.
Levey said it's important to remember that the NED element was drafted nearly a decade ago, and the market has changed.
"There are some significant differences," Levey said. "The maps look different, but on another level -- when you look at the character and style of neighborhood development -- they're more similar. We feel like this aligns with their objectives."
Tavistock won approval in Orange County this week for a road agreement for Sunbridge Parkway, the signature north-south roadway that will connect Sunbridge to its sister community in Osceola County.
"So right now we can move forward with design and construction from S.R. 528 to the Osceola County line," Levey said.
He expects the roadway design to take up to nine months, with construction starting in 2018.
Orange County Commissioners unanimously adopted the Comprehensive Plan amendment last December for the 4,787 acres in Orange County.
But Osceola planners asked for a redesign of the parkway during the first DRC meeting. It was one of several primary concerns they raised with the CP, which reduces the total number of homes planned for the mixed-use district by more than 1,100 and replaces industrial uses and employment centers with community centers.
The county's transportation planners also raised concerns with the realignment of Rummel Road, which originally served as a primary north-south corridor in the Northeast District. The staff worried that building Rummel as a frontage road for the future Northeast Expressway toll road limits its use as a multimodal corridor.
Levey said Del Webb has signed on to the build an active adult community in Sunbridge, but that would require gating portions of the still-unnamed boulevard. County staff objected to gating the road.
Planners also raised concerns about the proposed trade-off of employment center and industrial uses with more commercial uses. They asked Tavistock to "demonstrate that the redistribution of employment center does not create a potential for strip mall/shopping mall and how it will be integrated into the community."
Levey said he's confident Tavistock will be able to address the planners' concerns during the May 3 meeting and maintain its current development schedule. The timetable calls for construction on major roadways and the first residential neighborhood to be completed in Second Quarter 2019.
"We've got a list of things they've asked for," Levey said. "Hopefully one of the outcomes from DRC is we got to tell the story of our plans and how it aligns with the NED plan and explain the nuances of our approach."