Dewberry: Judge Farms construction to start within a month

Dewberry is about 30 days out from getting a permit to start building the 130-acre lake that will be the centerpiece of a new high-tech research park at Judge Farms.

"Once we get the permit, we will immediately start construction," Vice President Kevin Knudsen told GrowthSpotter.

The man-made lake will serve as a regional stormwater pond for the E192 corridor and much of downtown Kissimmee. It will be built in two phases, with Phase 1 being about 72 acres. 

Since the regional pond replaces existing retention ponds at Osceola Heritage Park, Phase 1 also includes building a massive set of stormwater lines underneath U.S. 192 to move rainwater from OHP to the new lake. 

Toho Water Authority is seeking a separate permit to build a water treatment plant that would be able to draw up to 400 million gallons of water from the pond and produce reclaimed water to be used for irrigation.  

Meanwhile, Osceola County Commissioners on Monday gave the go ahead to Perkins+Will to proceed with Phase 2 of the master plan.

Commissioners accepted the conceptual plan, which determines the street grids and shape of the lake, and overall concepts, such as a feature bridge and a peninsula that extends the main street district into the water body. 

Commissioner Brandon Arrington worried that the new street connection with Neptune Road on the southern portion of the research park would serve as cut-through between downtown Kissimmee and E192. "I don't want a thoroughfare, but a connection," he said.

Planning Director Kerry Godwin said the next phase will focus on specific zoning and planning decisions on how the site will integrate with the surrounding area and the Greater Orlando region. 

Commissioners voiced concerns about some of the primary entrances to the research park. Commissioner Cheryl Grieb urged county and city staff to work together to expand the E192 Community Redevelopment Area boundaries to include the 18.6-acre Schoolfield property, a prime commercial spot across from Denn John Lane that serves as a key entry point.

Cheryl Schoolfield, vice president of Schoolfield Properties, previously told GrowthSpotter her family is in negotiations to donate 4 acres of right-of-way for the southern extension of Denn John Lane from the signalized intersection which also serves as an access road for Valencia College. 

County Manager Don Fisher said city officials have indicated a willingness to apply the E192 CRA design standards, which are still being drafted, to those parcels in the city limits. But adding the Schoolfield property to the CRA district would have the added benefit of keeping the tax increment within the district as it develops.

Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer said she's more concerned about the main entrance across from Bill Beck Boulevard, which leads directly to the Florida Advance Manufacturing Research Center. Currently that intersection is flanked on both sides by a Burger King and a KFC/Taco Bell combo. 

Janer said the Burger King site at 1920 E. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy is key, and she asked Godwin to go to Burger King's corporate office in Miami and meet with members of their property to see if they'd be open to relocating. The county would be willing to swap the site with a new retail site on the grounds of OHP.

"If we can secure that site, maybe we can do something special," Janer said.

The Burger King was built in 1989 and has an appraised value of $1.23 million. It's owned by a Texas-based Richard C. Adams land trust.

"If we can get that land where the Burger King is, we could get rid of that sign on the median and maybe do some landscaping where you don’t see the Taco Bell and KFC as much," Janer said.

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