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Universal to finish mass grading, water retention work on bulk of new Colony land

Universal to finish mass grading, water retention work on bulk of new Colony land
Outlined by the red boundary is the Serenoa Village Mass Grading Permit area. Within that the purple- and green-colored land is owned by affiliates of Universal Orlando. (SFWMD)

Universal Orlando affiliate SLRC Holdings got the ball rolling last week for future site work on the bulk of land it bought in mid-December near Universal Boulevard and Destination Parkway, applying with the South Florida Water Management District to modify an existing mass grading permit and complete a bevy of work left unfinished on 364.63 acres.

The application doesn't indicate what Universal plans to build on the property or when it may start going vertical, but it's the first step toward future development, and offers a glimpse at who's managing the owner-entity.

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The storm water requirements for the site may also change over the next 30 to 90 days, if Universal shows SFWMD staff new plans for how it will develop the land.

"They could propose a totally new plan. What they're going to do can change over the next 90 days of review time," Chuck Walter, regional administrator for SFWMD, told GrowthSpotter on Monday.

SLRC Holdings is seeking an individual permit modification to the Serenoa Village Mass Grading Environmental Resource Permit (ERP), in order to build drainage facilities to bring the permit into compliance.

Within the black boundary of the Serenoa Village Mass Grading permit site, the existing Lake 4 on the property would have repairs to its eroded banks, and a new outfall ditch constructed to the south, which will connect with the existing central canal that runs horizontally to the south.
Within the black boundary of the Serenoa Village Mass Grading permit site, the existing Lake 4 on the property would have repairs to its eroded banks, and a new outfall ditch constructed to the south, which will connect with the existing central canal that runs horizontally to the south. (Donald W. McIntosh Associates)

Serenoa Village was a mixed-use development proposed in 2006 by former land owner Stan Thomas, which included a small neighborhood-focused downtown with shops, stores and restaurants. Housing types would have included single-family, condominiums, mid-rise apartments, and hotels to promote an inclusive and mixed-income neighborhood, according to summaries found online from former project architect McMillen Design.

The Serenoa Village Mass Grading was originally permitted with SFWMD in July 2007, and authorized the construction of 10 wet detention ponds, expansion of three existing ponds, the excavation and expansion of the central canal within the project's boundary, and mass grading of the remaining area, totaling 471.3 acres of work.

But the economic recession halted much of that. Incomplete work on the site includes partial filling and mass grading, excavation of new and existing ponds, and construction of pond outfalls. Of 13 construction or expansion projects originally permitted for the site, eight are incomplete.

SLRC's application was made by Peter Giacalone, a senior vice president of business development for Universal City Development Partners Ltd. in Orlando. Engineering plans for the modification show SLRC Holdings as sharing the same address of NBCUniversal in Universal City, California.

John McReynolds, head of external affairs for Universal Orlando, is also listed on documents as an SLRC Holdings representative. Universal did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

The Serenoa Village permit was originally set to expire in July 2012, but was extended multiple times, most recently in December 2015.

Universal's SLRC must act on the permit now because SFWMD issued a notice of non-compliance in July 2015, due to incomplete construction of the stormwater management system, lack of documentation for drainage easements, and incomplete work on wetland mitigation.

Donald W. McIntosh Associates, Inc., of Winter Park, SLRC's project manager for the case, has proposed a plan to bring the permit into compliance, which includes excavating a new outfall ditch, excavating the central canal and soil stabilization measures on the previously completed mass-graded areas.

Because of the complicated property ownership environment, the work will be limited to the majority of the area in control of SLRC Holdings, and a parcel owned by Universal City Property Management III (a Stan Thomas affiliate) that contains the central canal.

Small parcels within the Serenoa Village Mass Grading permit boundary owned by Lockheed Martin and Stan Thomas' Fourth Quarter Properties 117 LLC won't be touched by the work. SLRC was careful not to propose any modifications to the conceptual permit's original design.

After applying on April 15, SFWMD will typically respond in 30 days with a letter stating if more information is needed. The main issues staff want to confirm include Universal's property ownership, and that proposed changes meet stormwater treatment and retention criteria.

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A complete permit application would follow by Universal's SLRC, with SFWMD taking 30 to 60 days to write a staff report that determines if they approve or deny the request.

GrowthSpotter first reported on Dec. 1 that Universal Orlando had a contract in place to buy the 474-acre package owned by Colony Capital. The 474 acres are spread across 19 non-contiguous parcels (17 of which are developable), with a 340.6-acre cluster involving nine parcels that makes up the bulk of this mass grading permit application.

A deal for $130 million was finalized within the first two weeks of December, after months of pursuit by Universal and Comcast officials. A quit-claim deed signed on Dec. 17 transferred ownership of the land to SLRC Holdings.

Comcast officials confirmed on Feb. 3 that $130 million was spent on 475 acres of land in close proximity to a Universal theme park, though declined to confirm the exact location.

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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