Dr. Phillips, Inc. plans 202-acre 'Packing District' redevelopment in College Park

Bob Moser

Dr. Phillips Charities will work with the city of Orlando on long-term redevelopment of 202 acres in west College Park, with plans for a 100-acre public park and conversion of present-day warehouses into a mixed-use district. 

Orlando's City Council should vote on Monday to accept a donation of 104 acres of land from Dr. Phillips Charities on the southeast corner of Princeton Street and N. John Young Parkway to construct a new 100-acre park, which could feature an enhanced Orlando Tennis Center that was formerly at the downtown Creative Village site, new urban trails for biking and walking, multi-use fields and public space.

"Dr. Phillips has been mindful of the need to look at the best use of this property for the College Park community for the past two to three years," president Kenneth D. Robinson told GrowthSpotter. "We began the process with blind focus groups of area residents ... and have been studying through marketing organizations and economic studies what the best uses could be." 

Dr. Phillips Charities will actually be purchasing about 118 acres on that corner first from Key Bank, which is under contract with an estimated closing in mid-February. It would then donate 104 acres of the land to the city, while retaining 14 acres for its own future use. 

"We're projected to invest more than $5.3 million in that land between the purchase price and due diligence (expenses)," Robinson said. "For the 14 acres we'll retain, the plans are two-fold. We'd like to see a community use that's complimentary to the park on the north end of that, maybe 5 acres. Then on the rest we're still researching what's best for it, looking at everything from residential to health services." 

City Council will also vote to invest $20.8 million in roads and stormwater infrastructure in the area to support those public recreational investments, and to promote future private infill and mixed-use redevelopment by Dr. Phillips Charities for the other 84 acres it owns in the immediate area. The local non-profit will brand this area "The Packing District," which it registered as a trademark in mid-May.

Dr. Phillips Charities is expected to make a presentation to City Council on Monday to share more details on their long-term investment plans for the area. 

Construction is projected to start on the public park and infrastructure work in 2018, with private redevelopment to be phased over the next decade or more. 

"By this time next year, I would like to see the park under construction, and the trail system progressing inside and outside the park, which I think will be a tremendous benefit to the city and community," Robinson said. "I'd also like to see us begin to focus on development of our properties inside the district from east to west, with the east side of the Princeton and OBT intersection an early focus." 

The assemblage of 202 acres is currently occupied mostly by industrial buildings or under-developed land. Dr. Phillips Inc. owns a majority of the real estate, which was acquired over decades by local renowned citrus grower Phillip "Doc" Phillips and his family. 

Dr. Phillips, Inc. is not required to file a standard Master Plan for the district because of long-held permitting rights, which are rich with the most intense commercial/industrial uses. But the non-profit will likely volunteer an overall plan, and scale down those entitlements with each project's individual permit filing. 

"Dr. Phillips intends to create an overall plan for the district, and work within the constraints of our non-profit status to make sure it is developed to the best standard possible," Robinson said. "Some will involve Dr. Phillips building and holding assets to lease to others, some will be ground leasing and some uses would be land sales." 

The local non-profit organization will pay for design and engineering of the new park, and is expected to contribute an estimated $12 million to $14 million to the public road and infrastructure investments. Private investment by the charity and future developers over the long-term is forecast at more than $250 million. 

"This is a chance to take what they have over there and develop something the community would be proud of," said Orlando Commissioner Robert F. Stuart, whose district includes College Park. "An elite team of our city staff worked with them to create an opportunity to bring forth a great public space with what's being donated to us, and compliment that with the (commercial and residential) they want to go forward with." 

Adaptive reuse of existing industrial buildings will be a priority where possible, said Robinson, who cited trips his project team has made to cities like Atlanta and Nashville to view successful building conversions.

"This is an important, historic piece of property for Dr. Phillips, and we're trying to be respectful of that," he said. 

Residential development in The Packing District could include a mix of senior housing, apartments and townhomes for sale and rental. Orlando-based SC Advisors has been engaged to market future parcels for sale or lease. 

Traffic calming mechanisms will be part of the new roadway design, including lane reductions, a roundabout at Texas Avenue and pedestrian-friendly cross sections. 

"Traffic was one of the early concerns we heard from focus groups," Robinson said. "The roundabout at Texas will be the first calming feature, and can dissuade vehicles currently on John Young Parkway that may turn right onto Princeton Street now as a way to get to I-4." 

Contributors to the project include GAI Consultants' Community Solutions Group on design, civil engineering by Littlejohn, transportation engineering by Kittelson & Associates, and land planning by Perkins + Will

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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