by Jason Garcia
Updated 5 yearss ago
During the early and mid-2000s, the vanguard of Orlando’s suburban sprawl was in southern Lake County. Thousands of rooftops sprouted among the region’s rolling hills, and developers filed plans for thousands more.
With the housing crash, however, many projects never made it beyond blueprints. The biggest to fall by the wayside was the Hills of Minneola, a 1,850-acre, 4,000-home subdivision that would have more than doubled the 10,000 population of Minneola, a town about a 45-minute drive west of Orlando.
As the housing market has recovered, so have plans for the Hills. Family Dynamics, a Leesburg-based citrus grower and processor that sells to Tropicana, signed a contract in June with a Coral Gables-based builder, South- Star Development Partners, to move forward.
The property is approved for 3,971 residential units. It also has permission to build up to 3 million square feet for retail, office and medical use. “It’s going to be a major commercial hub,” says South Star spokesman Harry Rose.
To encourage expansion, Minneola built a nearly $20-million sewer plant several miles from the town center, primarily to serve the Hills and a few other smaller planned developments. State lawmakers representing the area this year got $1 million included in the state budget to widen a road around the development.
In addition, the Florida Department of Transportation will build an interchange along Florida’s Turnpike, which bisects the Hills of Minneola, on land donated by Family Dynamics. The interchange is scheduled to open in 2017.
SouthStar says it hopes to close on its contract in the fourth quarter. Construction is expected to begin late next year or early 2017.
During the recession, “it wouldn’t have done anybody any good to start something that could have become a failure,” says Peter Strimenos, president of Family Dynamics. “But now seems to be the right time.”
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS — A Canadian investment group bought the 224-unit Lakeshore Apartment Homes complex for $23.65 million from a private equity group based in Denver.
CAPE CANAVERAL — Space Florida will lease the 15,000-foot-long runway at Kennedy Space C enter that was previously used for space shuttle landings. Lockheed Martin will add 130 workers by 2017 to support the U.S. Navy’s Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile program.
CELEBRATION — Big Rock Partners, a real estate investment firm with offices in Beverly Hills and Delray Beach, will build a $60-million senior apartment community. The 225-unit development, with independent and assisted-living services, is scheduled to open in mid-2017.
DAYTONA BEACH — Halifax Health opened a foot-and- ankle-focused center.
KISSIMMEE — Florida Hospital Kissimmee opened a three-story tower with 80 private rooms and a Latin-themed cafeteria.
LAKE BUENA VISTA — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the H-1B visa program after a New York Times report singled out Walt Disney World for bringing in foreign workers through the program and laying off domestic employees, some of whom had to train their replacements. Disney World will close the 17-year-old DisneyQuest attraction and replace it with an NBA-themed restaurant and attraction. Meanwhile, the resort banned the use of “selfie sticks” in its theme parks.
LONGWOOD — City leaders imposed a development moratorium through early January along the U.S. 17-92 corridor while they debate how to update development and design rules for the commercial area.
MELBOURNE — Harris, which acquired Exelis, will keep its headquarters and two new business units in Florida. The company, based in Florida since 1978, has some 6,000 employees, more than half of them engineers and scientists.
ORANGE COUNTY — County commissioners signed off on a $133,000 tax break for Publix Super Markets, which will expand a pharmacy distribution center. > The Crayola Experience, a 70,000-sq.-ft. attraction based on Crayola crayons, opened in the Florida Mall. Admission is $19.99 per person. > Private equity firm Blackstone Group bought two of central Florida high-end hotels: The Ritz- Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, and the J.W. Marriott Grande Lakes. Blackstone paid about $1.3 billion for the two hotels and another J.W. Marriott in Arizona, according to Bloomberg. Darden Restaurants, parent company of Olive Garden and other casual-dining chains, will move its real estate assets into a tax-exempt real estate investment trust and spin the entity off into a separate, publicly traded company.
ORLANDO — Universal Orlando will close the 38-year-old Wet ‘n Wild water park at the end of next year. The move comes as the resort builds a new water park, dubbed Volcano Bay, that is scheduled to open in 2017. > The Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, which has centers in California and Orlando, renamed itself the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute after receiving a $100-million donation from a San Diego philanthropist. Southwest Airlines, the busiest carrier at Orlando International Airport, will spend $9.5 million renovating and expanding a maintenance hangar and a parts-storage facility at the airport. > Home builder Lennar bought 13.5 acres near the Mall at Millenia for the second phase of a three-story, 272-unit apartment community. > The Federal Aviation Authority cleared plans for a 700-foot-tall Skyscraper roller coaster on International Drive. > Orlando broke ground on a 96,000-sq.- ft. Police headquarters south of downtown to be completed in 2016. The city sold its existing downtown headquarters, adjacent to the Amway Arena, to the Orlando Magic, which plans a commercial development. > Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook Airlines began seasonal summer service between Orlando International Airport and Belfast, Northern Ireland.
POINCIANA — Valencia College expects to open a $22-million campus in the fall of 2017 near the confluence of Osceola, Orange, Lake and Polk counties. Construction will begin next year.
PORT CANAVERAL — Port management and logistics company Gulftainer opened a new cargo terminal at Port Canaveral, the only dedicated container terminal at the Brevard County seaport. The company’s U.S. division, GT USA, says it is investing $100 million in the container terminal, including infrastructure, equipment and employees. The 20-acre terminal has an initial capacity of 200,000 containers.
SUMTER COUNTY — Spanish agribusiness Agriomillora Group broke ground on a culture laboratory that will focus on producing rootstocks released from University of Florida breeding programs that are tolerant to citrus greening.
TITUSVILLE — Embraer will build an aircraft seat-manufacturing facility at the Spaceport Commerce Park that will employ 150 workers.
T. Dwayne Mc-Cay will succeed Anthony Catanese as president of Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne when Catanese retires in mid-2016. McCay is FIT’s COO.
Desmond Blackburn was named superintendent of Brevard County Public Schools. Blackburn, an administrator in the Broward County school district, replaces Brian Binggeli, who left to take over the district in Plano, Texas.
The Villages: An Update
The Villages, the retirement community that spills into three counties northwest of Orlando, remains the biggest and most-active residential development in Florida. There were 449 housing starts there during the first quarter of 2015, more than double the number of starts during the quarter of any other masterplanned community in Florida. Nocatee, south of Jacksonville, was No. 2.