The city has embarked on an ambitious plan to create a 590-acre neo-traditional community called Stevens Plantation that will include 800 upscale houses and a 100-acre commerce park.
"The goal is to shape the growth so that it enhances the city from a fiscal standpoint with high-value development, but also from an aesthetic one by attracting the kind of people who like the community for what it is and who will want to keep it that way," says Jonathan Baltuch, president of Marketing Research Inc., the project manager for Stevens Plantation.
The project aims to bring controlled growth to the quiet town of 22,000 -- without changing it too much. A city-sponsored survey found that nearly 90% of respondents want to preserve its small-town atmosphere.
The new development is cast in the mold of Celebration or Avalon Park but is augmented by an established downtown that is in the process of being renovated.
St. Cloud Mayor Glenn Sangiovanni says the project was conceived nearly three years ago when city officials became frustrated with "piecemeal" developments that the county approved in an unincorporated area of St. Cloud. Those projects put strains on St. Cloud's resources, leading the city to conclude that it had to own the land in order to control it.
A year and a half ago, the city did just that -- buying the land, a former family-owned ranch. It created deed restrictions that fit the kinds of growth it wanted, then agreed to sell the portion earmarked for residential to developers who agreed to abide by the deed restrictions. Four developers have already signed on to build houses starting at about $250,000 on a quarter-acre lot and about $350,000 on a half-acre lot.
In addition, the development will include a commerce park that will ultimately encompass about 1.5 million square feet. Planners envision corporate headquarters and technology ventures rather than warehouses and distribution centers. The city is touting its proximity to the airport and downtown Orlando. It also is working on a deal to build an interchange linking St. Cloud with Florida's Turnpike.
Finally, the project will include 16 acres of commercial space, with a grocery store and other neighborhood retail space. When the sales are concluded in October, the city will recoup more than it spent to buy the land.
"Due to St. Cloud's geographic location, growth will happen regardless of what the city does," Baltuch says. "The city has decided, 'We're not going to stick our heads in the sand and play the ostrich game. We're going to make St. Cloud better, without changing what we like about it.' "
IN THE NEWS
Central Florida -- The area's three biggest attractions hired more than 4,000 workers in April and May -- about the same as the seasonal total brought on last summer. Disney hired nearly half of the workers, marking an end to its hiring freeze. Universal Orlando took on about 1,500 seasonal workers, about the same as last year. SeaWorld Orlando added 550, plus an estimated 450 to staff its new Waterfront entertainment and dining area.
Lake Mary -- Recoton Corp. (OTC-RCOTQ.PK) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization amid plans to sell the company's assets as a going concern. The company had 1,200 employees a year ago; it's now down to fewer than 500.
Melbourne -- AuthenTec has signed a deal with Samsung to integrate its fingerprint-reading microchip into a new line of Samsung laptop computers. The AuthenTec chip allows only authorized users to access the computer.
The Army has awarded a $6.5-million contract to Technocraft for more than 750,000 projectile assemblies. The work is expected to run through April 2004.
Orange County -- Emerson International has purchased 70 acres on the Butler Chain of Lakes between North Bay and Isle of Osprey, where it plans to build 71 houses. The developer's average cost per lot: More than $125,000.
Developer Beat Kahli says he will offer incentives to small businesses that locate in his Avalon Park development. The incentives, equity loans of up to $12,500, are designed to encourage entrepreneurs to turn Avalon Park into a more self-sufficient community. The loans are available to home-based businesses as well as what Kahli says are "any sound proposals."
Orlando -- Ideal Technology has signed a deal with the Pentagon to design a portable computer capable of processing data captured from enemy territory. While the $65,000 development deal is small by Defense Department standards, it could lead to bigger contracts if Ideal's ideas promise to enhance future military campaigns.
Three developers plan to team up to redevelop part of Church Street downtown, building a high-rise residential and retail complex between Orange and Magnolia avenues. Don M. Casto Organization, developer of Winter Park Village; Tavistock Group, owner of developments in Lake Nona and Isleworth; and residential developer GDC Properties are teaming up to plan the large residential development on Church Street. The project comes on the heels of a plan by boy-band mogul Lou Pearlman to re-energize Church Street Station as an entertainment venue.
A condo developer from Destin, ORL LLC headed by F.W. (Freddie) Schinz, is building four 17-story residential towers called Blue Heron that Schinz touts as the first "vertical" vacation home development in the area. The $150-million project, which includes 560 condos, is near Disney on State Road 435 just east of the Lake Buena Vista area across from Vistana.
Pharmaceutical company CuraScript has begun construction on a 78,500-sq.-ft. office building near Orlando International Airport and plans to relocate its 256 employees there -- and add 467 jobs. The building is expected to be completed in February.
HQ Global Resources has closed its downtown office, leaving it with two other area locations. HQ, which has been in bankruptcy reorganization for more than a year, had been renting 24,000 square feet in Lincoln Plaza. Its departure will bring the 16-story office tower's vacancy rate up to more than 65%.
Airline Training Academy closed its doors unexpectedly, citing a shortage of students. Students hoping to become pilots had already paid tens of thousands of dollars each in advance. More than 100 students have joined a lawsuit against former owner James R. Williams. Shortly after the school closed, the Federal Aviation Administration shut down Discover Air, a Sanford-based charter airline listed as a subsidiary of the academy, for alleged maintenance and paperwork violations.
The Progressive Corp. has sued two Orlando chiropractors and the former owner of two Orlando chiropractic clinics, alleging the chiropractors paid people to stage auto accidents and pretend to be injured. The clinics then allegedly filed false claims to insurers. The suit names chiropractors Jodie Ellis and Vincent Rahal as well as Mirlourdes Beliard Hopkins, former owner of First Chiropractic Clinic of Orlando and First Chiropractic Clinic of Pine Hills.
The Klein Co. of Philadelphia has opened a 294-unit apartment complex in the Heathrow area as part of a plan to develop and acquire more than 1,000 multifamily units in central Florida.
Sanford -- Engineering Support Systems plans to close its 177,000-sq.-ft. Sanford plant by the end of the year, transferring operations to another plant in Missouri and eliminating about 150 local jobs. Most employees will be laid off, executives say.
WINTER PARK -- A five-star, $90-million Regent Hotel is planned for the 4-acre site of the former Langford Hotel. The hotel will include 110 rooms, 37 condo suites and a spa. Developers are Mark Ellert of the Miami-based Aztec Group and Jim Heistand of Capital Partners.