Another hotel project moves forward; May 4, 2023

An estimated $400 million project, the seven-story Fairmont Orlando is expected to open in 2025 with 550 rooms.  (Smallwood)
An estimated $400 million project, the seven-story Fairmont Orlando is expected to open in 2025 with 550 rooms. (Smallwood)
Development Ventures Group (DEVEN) has taken a critical step forward on a $400 million plan to bring Fairmont’s luxury hotel product to the heart of Orlando’s tourism district.  The company, which has offices in New York and Orlando, secured 28 acres off International Drive on Wednesday for $16 million, according to Orange County deed records.  DEVEN announced its intentions to deliver Orlando its first luxury Fairmont flag in 2021. According to the developer’s website, the seven-story hotel is expected to open in early 2025 with 550 guestrooms, including 90 suites, 12 unique villas, and 87 Fairmont Gold rooms.

Phone calls and emails to the company seeking comment were not returned as of Wednesday afternoon.

The brand’s signature Fairmont Gold experience “will be offered on the top floor and includes an expansive 5,000-square-foot private lounge with sweeping views of the city offering luxury guests an unparalleled experience in Orlando,” the website says.

The hotel will also offer several of the brand’s “elevated dining experiences” with numerous restaurant options.

“Innovative cuisine and beverage programs are essential components of the Fairmont brand, and Fairmont Orlando will offer visitors several elevated dining experiences,” the website says. “Featuring seven distinct food and beverage concepts, the hotel will boast a 140-seat signature restaurant, a specialty Mediterranean restaurant, an upscale steakhouse, a gourmet café, and various bars and lounges offering both indoor and outdoor seating.”

Additional property features will include a 12,000-square-foot spa and wellness center with seven treatment rooms, a gym and two hot tubs. It will also offer 44,000 square feet of expansive meetings and events space.

The property’s outdoor amenities include three swimming pools: a family pool, a lazy river, and an adults-only pool.

The hotel will also feature a children and young adult center, a library, and business center, as well as ample retail space, according to the website.

Atlanta-based architecture firm, Smallwood Architects, will lead the hotel’s architectural design. Hotel interiors are being designed by SFA Design and Toronto-based Studio Paolo Ferrari is designing all of the restaurants.  Entitlements were handled by the PE Group and Jim Hall at HDSi.

Before the acquisition by Development Ventures Group, the property was owned by Gcb Associates, led by Chris Liew.


Convention Hotel Moving Forward; April 25, 2023

Future Brightline extension, new Universal theme park amp up excitement for long-planned 36-story hotel project

The project, approved by Orange County in early 2022, consists of a 36-story,1,000-room hotel attached to a six-story parking garage with 1,000 spaces.
When Kevin Skorman first rolled out plans to put a 36-story, 1,000-room hotel with a rooftop restaurant near the Orange County convention center, the developer already had a lot of reasons to be excited about the project given its proximity to theme parks and its size —it would be among the tallest buildings in the Orlando area.  But now, six years later, Skorman is even more hyped considering what’s in the pipeline from Universal Studios and a Miami-based private rail line.

Since Skorman Development acquired the six-acre property on Westwood Boulevard in 2017, Universal has unveiled a billion-dollar plan to build its third theme park called Epic Universe within walking distance.  Brightline is bringing its high-speed train service from South Florida to the Orlando International Airport by this summer. It plans to take riders from the airport to Tampa by 2030, with a proposed stop at the doorstep of Skorman’s future highrise hotel.

Earlier this year, Universal created an entity that would help finance an 11-mile leg of that route from the airport to the convention center.  The new Universal theme park and the future Brightline expansion are expected to give Orlando’s already booming tourism industry an added boost. And Skorman feels like he’s right dab in the middle of “the perfect storm with the perfect project,” he said.

Skorman Development is expected in the coming weeks or months to announce which flag will appear on the hotel. There’s a lot of interest in the project.

According to a January report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, Orlando was the largest U.S. city tourism destination in 2022 with an economic contribution of over $31 billion, recovering above 2019 levels by $2.7 billion.  “The new Brightline expansion from the airport to Miami will now draw from South Florida’s millions of residents and annual visitors,” Skorman added in an email. “We anticipate hotel demand accelerating and the desire for new options, alongside the anticipated increase in conferences at the Orange County Convention Center, will make this hotel site uniquely situated to fill a market need.”  Skorman is expected in the coming weeks or months to announce which flag will appear on the hotel. There’s a lot of competition, he noted.  “I’ve had more excitement in the last two weeks on this project than I have in the last six years,” Skorman said. “Brightline and Epic Universe is huge for this project. Huge.”

The project, approved by Orange County in early 2022, consists of a 36-story, 996,000-square-foot hotel attached to a six-story parking garage with 1,000 spaces.  Designed by Atlanta-based architecture firm Smallwood plans call for 30,000 square feet of meeting space on the fifth floor and 70,000 square feet of meeting space on the seventh floor. A fitness center will cover 4,000 square feet on the fourth floor while 5,000 square feet on the ground floor would be reserved for retail space.  Jim Hall of HDSi led the project which included Kimley Horn as civils and Libra Design Group as LAs.

The 36-story, 1,000-room hotel is set to go up between Westwood Boulevard and S.R. 528, near I-Drive and across the street from Sea World.

Plans call for three restaurants — one of 36,000 square feet on the ground floor, one of 900 square feet on the eighth floor, and another totaling 19,000 square feet at the very top of the hotel on the 36th floor.  “The 360-degree view of all theme park fireworks every night from the restaurant planned for the 36th floor is spectacular,” Skorman said. “This will be the best location in Central Florida for taking full advantage of the firework displays. Not even the Orlando Wheel can compete with the type of view that our customers would get to enjoy.”  Skorman said he expects to project to break ground in 2024.

The hotel is set to go up between Westwood Boulevard and S.R. 428, near I-Drive and across the street from Sea World.  SeaWorld hit revenue, net income and adjusted earnings records in its 2022 fiscal year. Its newest attraction, Pipeline: The Surf Coaster, is set to open later this spring. The ride simulates the experience of surfing by putting riders in a standing position and sending them through curves and a “‘wave curl inversion” at a top speed of 60 mph.

Meanwhile, Orange County is moving forward on a $700 million effort to add another 1 million square feet to its convention center. The space currently covers 7 million square feet overall and has 2 million square feet of exhibition space.

Epic Universe is on track to open in summer of 2025 on 750 acres and will have its own hotels onsite and adjacent to the park. Those include the 500-room Grand Helios hotel at the back of the park and a pair of sister resort hotels, the Stella Nova and Terra Luna, each with 750 rooms.

Hickory Grove is moving forward; February 16, 2023

Hickory Grove would add nearly 1,200 more homes and jobs to Wellness Way area

Hickory Groves is the latest master-planned community in the pipeline for the Lake County's Wellness Way Area. It's surrounded by new development from Lennar, Pulte and other homebuilders.
The owners of 406 acres in the Wellness Way area have filed plans for a master-planned community that could add another 1,176 new homes to the fast-growing region.

Landowner Hickory Groves, LLC, based in New York City, is seeking to change the future land use from Agricultural to Multi-Use District and Neighborhood District and rezone to Planned Unit Development. The updated Hickory Grove PUD is in Lake County staff hands and could be set for hearings as soon as March.

The owners engaged Jim Hall with HDSi Planning & Design Studio to lead the project through the zoning and entitlements. Hall told GrowthSpotter there is no developer attached to the project, but once the owners get all of the approvals, the project will be marketed for sale.

Hickory Grove is north of Schofield Road and just west of the Orange County line and the future Valencia College Horizon West campus. It’s just south of the Chicone PUD, where Pulte Homes will build close to 1,000 homes and 75,000 square feet of commercial.

“Because it is in Wellness Way, that area has its own set of rules, different from the rest of the county,” Hall said. “You have to submit three zoning submittals and we have now done that. This is called the final PUD and we are expecting county staff comments Feb. 23.”

Once Hickory Groves receives those comments and addresses any questions, county hearings will be set, he said.

Road work and utility work are key in this region that was formerly rolling hills covered in orange groves that have died or are dying, said veteran real estate developer Jim Karr, who was instrumental in designing the Wellness Way Area Plan. Karr is a major landowner throughout Central Florida.

Karr, with Land Plus, sold over 1,500 acres in Wellness Way to Lennar and GT Homes and continues to be involved in negotiating utilities for the area, as well keeping a close eye on road work in the region.  HDSi did the planning and design for Karr’s community as well.

“Generally speaking, everything is going fine in Wellness Way,” he said. “Unfortunately, when you do a planning initiative like this, not everything happens all at once and people are impatient because they don’t see all the parts coming forward.” But those parts are coming, he said.

Hall said he is currently in negotiations with Sunshine Water for construction of a water and sewer plant to serve Hickory Grove. He said Sunshine would eventually own the plant.

The Hickory Groves PUD (red) will contain the C.R. 455 extension, which will connect to the new Lake/Orange Expressway.

“We also have dedicated land for CR 455. The (Central Florida) Expressway Authority is building S.R. 516 (Lake/Orange Expressway) that goes from S.R. 429 to U.S. 27, and there is one interchange between them to the south of Hickory Grove. County Road 455 will be the road that gets you to the interchange. We are providing that connection.”

He said C.R. 455 will be built in stages, eventually connecting S.R. 50 to the S.R. 516 interchange.

The Wellness Way Area Plan covers about 16,000 acres between U.S. 27 and State Road 429, west of the Lake County/Orange County boundary line with McKinney Road running east/west through the middle of the property.

About half of it will be connected to the City of Clermont utilities and annexed into Clermont, Hall said. Half will remain in unincorporated Lake County and will be served by Sunshine Water.

Hickory Grove spans 398 net developable acres, which will be accessed via Schofield Road. The PUD calls for 190.2 acres in the Multi-Use District and 207.9 acres in the Neighborhood District, with up to 1,176 residential units, including single-family homes, townhomes and apartments.

The Hickory Grove PUD allows single family homes (tan) and townhomes (brown) in the neighborhoods. The commercial centers (red) allow a mix of offices, retail, industrial and multifamily housing.

Single family homes would have a minimum of 1,500 square feet of living area and rear-loaded townhomes would have a minimum of 1,000 square feet of living space. Multifamily units would have a minimum living area of 600 square feet, as would build-to-rent units.

The PUD also designates 48.4 acres for non-residential use on Schofield at the Five Mile Road and C.R. 455 intersections. These commercial centers will include a “full mixture of uses — office and employment with some commercial,” Hall said.

The town center would allow all C-3 permitted and accessory uses, industrial uses, professional office uses and apartments and townhomes, according to the site plan. It’s projected to create 1,054 new jobs.

There are no phases proposed for Hickory Grove and how it proceeds will be up to the future owner or developer, Hall said.

He said getting to this phase of submitting the final PUD has been a long process, but it has gone well.

“I wrote the first rendition of Wellness Way and Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, it is his district, and he has been very involved in it,” Hall said.

When Horizon West first took off, he said, Lake County “had no plans to do anything” in that area. Parks helped turn that around, he said.

Lone Palm Road is a new residential corridor; November 30, 2022

Hancock Lone Palm Road near Waterford Lakes poised for nearly 270 housing units

Hancock Lone Palm Road, which stems off to the south of Colonial Drive just east of S.R. 408, has at least 270 single-family housing units in the pipeline across several projects led by different developers.
New residential development activity is erupting along a two-lane road in East Orlando, a short drive from the University of Central Florida and two master-planned communities.

Hancock Lone Palm Road, off the south side of Colonial Drive just east of S.R. 408, has at least 268 single-family housing units in the pipeline across several projects led by different developers.

This street — near Waterford Lakes and Avalon Park — could be home to even more growth if the owners of a large piece of property were willing to sell.

Max Perlman, the vice president of land acquisition with Pulte Homes, told GrowthSpotter that he’s spoken to Ritchie and Linda Parker about acquiring their 15-acre piece of farmland.

This vacant land along the west side of Hancock Lone Palm Road sits between two subdivisions. Developers have expressed interest in taking it over to build more homes, but the property owner declined to sell.

“That family is just keeping the land,” he said. “We talked to them, and they weren’t ready to sell.”

Pulte, the nation’s third-largest homebuilder, bought 21 acres to the south of the Parker property in 2021 for $2.36 million. It’s building a 56-home subdivision here called Savannah Palms with lots as large as 70 feet.

Across the street from the Pulte site, KB Home is building a 37-lot residential community on the east side of Hancock Lone Palm Road called Lone Palm.

KB Home, the nation’s sixth-largest homebuilder, bought the nine-acre parcel in March for $2.3 million.

A few parcels to the south, Maitland-based CFB Homes snagged four parcels totaling 16 acres in December 2021 for $3.4 million. The company is moving forward on plans to bring Hancock Lone Palm Road a 75-lot subdivision called Palm Village.

According to the developer’s website, homes here will range in size from two to four bedrooms.

This property was previously owned by Carlos Rivera, a principal withCafe Construction & Development. Rivera secured all of the necessary approvals from Orange County before parting with the land.

“We bought that first piece of land there 21 years ago,” Rivera said. “It was too early back then to do anything with, but the timing is just right now with the market being the way it is. So that’s why we decided to move forward with this last year.”

A 100-unit townhome community with a dog park, a jogging path, and large pond could also be coming to the east side of Hancock Lone Palm Road.

Plans call for a 110-unit townhome community that features a dog park, a tot lot, a neighborhood park, and a jogging path around a large pond.

Since March, Jim Hall with HDSi and civil engineer Dave Schmitt have been working on behalf of three property owners to prep the land for new development.

Application materials submitted to Orange County show that Shaw Hutto, a land developer with LPA Solutions, LLC, is under contract to purchase the four parcels totaling 18.5 acres.

The project took a step forward in April when the county agreed to rezone the land from its agricultural designation to a residential district. Hutto is currently seeking approval of a preliminary subdivision plan, which was submitted to the county on Nov. 22.

In August, the county submitted a letter advising the applicant of insufficient road capacity.

Renzo Nastasi, Orange County’s manager of transportation planning, said Hancock Lone Palm Road is one of several projects slated for a study to assess the potential improvements to the road.

“At this juncture, we don’t have specific details of what type of improvements may take place,” she said. “Those details will be clarified and defined within the context of the study. We anticipate starting the study sometime this summer.”

Hutto said he will work out a proportionate share arrangement with the county to make necessary improvements to Hancock Lone Palm Road to accommodate the added traffic.

Townhomes, which typically present a cheaper option than detached single-family homes, are in high demand across Orange County.

In Orlando’s scorching housing market of the past two years, many buyers shut out of the fight for single-family homes turned to townhomes, condos and duplexes, according to a recent study of residential real estate sales.

According to data from the Orange County Property Appraiser’s office presented to the county commission during its Aug. 30 meeting, homes across the county sold at an average price of $544,510 in 2021. Sixty-five percent of the transactions that year involved market-rate commodities. Just 4% of the home sales were for less than $300,000, according to the data.

The average sale price for townhomes across the county in 2021 was $331,873, according to the property appraiser’s office.

However, townhome production lags behind detached single-family homes and apartments locally, and Orange County leaders have stated a desire to see more.

The county, on average, processes permits for roughly 400 townhomes per year for the unincorporated areas of the county.

By comparison, the county has awarded permits for 3,176 multifamily units this year, as of late August.

Hutto, who also prepped the KB Home site for development, said that this stretch of East Orange County needs other housing options.

“To try to be in a more affordable range we felt like the townhome product was a better fit,” Hutto said.

He noted that several homebuilders have expressed interest in taking over the townhome project once it receives approval.

To a home builder, Hancock Lone Palm Road is just a good place to be, said Perlman with Pulte Homes.

Waterford Lakes, to the west, spans 840 acres with more than 3,100 homes. Avalon Park, to the south, covers 1,860 acres with more than 3,400 single-family units, 1,431 multi-family units, and more than half a million square feet of commercial space.

A photo of the downtown town center of Avalon Park in east Orange County taken May 2017.

The area is also home to the campus of UCF, which sits to the north.

“East Orlando is attractive because of the robust job market surrounding UCF, Research Park and the various employers,” Perlman said, “as well as easy access to SR 417 and SR 50, which makes it a convenient location for people who work throughout the Central Florida area.”

Meanwhile, the west side of Hancock Lone Palm Road already has several completed subdivisions with Waterford Creek built by Mattamy Homes and Bridgewater, built by Park Square Homes.

Nearby, between Lake Pickett Road and State Road 50, Orlando’s first Agrihood community The Grow is moving forward with 2,078 residential lots and more than 100,000 square feet of commercial space centered on a working farm; also an HDSi project.

High end residential project hits the market; October 6, 2022

Orlando’s largest home hits the market again, priced at $30M

The main house on the 18-acre compound is roughly 25,000 square feet. The property has been on and off the market since 2015.
The 50,000-square-foot Colonial Revival mansion on Lake Down in Windermere regarded as Orlando’s largest home is back on the market. And while the $30 million asking price is familiar, the sales strategy is different.

Mick Night and John Pinel, agents with Premier Sotheby International Reality, are marketing the 18-acre estate as a development opportunity. The dedicated website  reads that the “options available to further develop this property are endless in expanding/building more structures, various ways to subdivide, parcel into a family compound, or continue to enjoy it as one massive private gated lakefront estate as utilized currently.

“This exceptional estate presents a rare opportunity to own a property of this stature in one of Central Florida’s most sought-after locales,” they said in a release. “Designed to maximize views while offering practicality, its expansive acreage, serene setting and multiple structures provide infinite possibilities.”

The walled and gated compound sits on 18 acres with over 500 feet of frontage on Lake Down.

The property at 9508 Windy Ridge Road had approved subdivision plans when Gelcorp founder Jeff Gelman and his wife, Christine, bought it in 2010 and built their personal home within the walled and gated compound complete with 15 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, two half-baths, and an art gallery and library.

The primary residence consists of 25,000 square feet of livable space with soaring ceilings, a floating mahogany staircase, a gourmet kitchen and a commercial elevator leading to the second floor, where you will find four expansive bedroom suites, including a second owners’ retreat and an 85-foot parlor highlighted by 20-foot ceilings, bookshelves and a wet bar. There’s also a boathouse and 625 feet of frontage on Lake Down in the Butler Chain of Lakes and a junior Olympic-sized swimming pool.

A breezeway connects the 5,600-square-foot lodge to the main house. It has a bar and commercial kitchen.

A breezeway connects the home to a 5,600-square-foot lodge with its own private bar and catering kitchen. The separate garage buildings are large enough to accommodate a full-sized motor coach and a collection of 50 cars.

The home was completed in 2011, and the Gelmans listed it for sale in 2015 for $30 million. Since then it has been on and off the market at prices ranging from $40 million to $28.5 million. The listing was removed in July 2021 and relisted a week ago.

In 2019, the home was the scene of an igly incident in 2019 when a Winter Garden woman somehow gained access to the property and drove her SUV around the yard while chasing and screaming anti-Semitic insults at Gelmans. The woman, Kristen Kelly of Winter Garden, was charged with aggravated assault and burglary. A hate crime charge was later added.

In 2020, the Gelmans received approval from Orange County for a Land Use Plan that would clear the way to rezone the property to a Planned Development. The plan from Jim Hall of HDSi would have kept the main home intact and split off the eastern 4.4 acres into a separate lot with entitlements for 14 single-family homes. The minimum lot size would be 50 feet by 120 feet and the minimum house size would be 2,000 square feet. The couple never followed through with the rezoning, opting instead to put the entire property on the market.

This is the first time Knight and Pinel have marketed the Gelman property, but they have a long track record of successful luxury sales, including the $10.65 million sale last year of a mansion owned by another real estate developer, the late Robert Picerne, on Lake Virginia in Winter Park.

The most expensive home sold in the Orlando market so far this year is the 8,0000 square foot Capolavaro mansion in Disney’s Golden Oak neighborhood. It sold for $12 million after previously being listed for $16 million.

In 2021, Central Florida’s most expensive home sale topped out at $12.5 million. The sprawling estate sold by basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal ranked second at $11 million.

The Grow moves towards development; October 4, 2022

Orange County signs off on segment of nearly 1,200-acre agrihood project, first of its kind in Orlando

By Dustin Wyatt


Oct 04, 2022 at 3:57 pm

The Orlando market’s first Agrihood community will include 2,078 residential lots and more than 100,000 square feet of commercial space centered around a nine-acre working farm. (PFD)


When Dwight Saathoff set out to bring the Orlando market its first Agrihood community with 2,078 residential lots and more than 100,000 square feet of commercial space centered around a nine-acre working farm, home builders jumped at the opportunity to be a part of something unique.

“I had bids from at least a dozen builders to come over here,” Saathoff, owner of Project Finance & Development, told GrowthSpotter. “We wanted to partner with someone we knew; someone we had a lot of comfort and trust with.”


Ultimately, the Pulte Group — which Saathoff had worked with previously — was chosen to build out the long-planned “farm and garden” community called The Grow. Nine years in the making, it’s finally getting the remaining necessary approvals from the Orange County Commission.

The sweeping master development plan covers a total of 1,185 acres of pastoral land in a rural section of Northeast Orange County between Lake Pickett Road and State Road 50 near Bithlo. In addition to a mix of attached and detached single-family homes, the project calls for 21 acres of community gardens, a 20-acre community park, 12 miles of recreational trails, an equestrian facility, edible landscaping, a street for farmers’ markets, and a farm-to-table restaurant, among other agricultural amenities.

In March, the county signed off on the project’s infrastructure and road network. On Sept. 27, the commission gave final approval to a preliminary subdivision plan for the south portion of the site: 722 detached homes and 164 townhome units. The final section, the north piece of The Grow, which calls for 1,070 detached homes and 122 townhomes, is expected to go before the commission in the coming weeks. (PFD)


The site also has land set aside for a future k-8 school. Roughly 650 acres will remain open space and a 100-foot buffer of natural vegetation will separate the community from main roadways.

In March, the county signed off on the project’s infrastructure and road network. On Sept. 27, the commission gave final approval to a preliminary subdivision plan for the south portion of the site: 722 detached homes and 164 townhome units.


The final section, the north piece of The Grow, which calls for 1,070 detached homes and 122 townhomes, is expected to go before the commission in the coming weeks.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Saathoff said, adding with a laugh. “I tell people I was a young man when I started this project.”

He began work on this project nearly nine years ago. The idea was inspired, in part, by his ancestors who were farmers in South Dakota.


Since then, the Agrihood concept has grown in popularity across the country.  Today, the Urban Land Institute estimates that there are more than 200 agrihoods across the United States, spanning at least 30 states, from rural communities to major cities.


“When I started there weren’t many of these,” he said. “It’s definitely a style of development that has a lot of appeal.”


The Grow is a project that Pulte is “grateful” to be a part of, said Max Perlman, the VP of Land Acquisition for the company’s Central Florida division.  e said homes within the project will have a mix of architectural styles and product types with lots ranging in size from 32 feet to one-acre.

Townhomes are planned to be between 1,600 and 1,900 square feet with 3-4 bedrooms while detached homes will range in size from 1,600 to over 5,000 square feet.  Specific styles and floorplans are currently under design, he added.


“Pulte is excited to be a part of this thoughtfully planned community with its’ immense natural beauty, an excellent location and tremendous opportunity to create a lifestyle unlike any other in Central Florida,” Perlman said in an email.


Jim Hall with HDSi is the community planner for the master community design. VHB serves as the civil engineer on the project.  Bio-tech Consulting is handling environmental affairs and Allen and Company is the surveyor.

HDSi planning a 270 acre mixed use project in Lake County; September 7, 2022

Developer revives Mount Dora Groves mixed-use project, but in Lake County

By Yvette C. Hammett and Laura Kinsler


Sep 07, 2022 at 3:45 pm

Mount Dora Groves would straddle U.S. 441, next to the Country Club of Mount Dora. (Lake County Property Appraiser)


Bering Homes’ plan for a 224.6-acre mixed-use development on U.S. 441 next to the Country Club of Mount Dora, scrapped in January, appears to be getting new life, this time in Lake County, not in the city. The project will be split into two separate planned unit developments – one on the north side of U.S. 441 and one on the south side.


Lake County’s Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved the Mount Dora Groves cases, which will go to the Board of County Commissioners on Oct. 4.


Mount Dora Groves primarily consists of vacant citrus groves. The properties are owned by the Simpson Family Partnership LTD, of Mount Dora, with Robert L. Simpson named agent and Mount Dora and naming Mark R. Simpson of Mount Dora Groves, Inc. as president of the partnership.

The applicant is proposing 275 single-family residential lots for Mount Dora North, containing 4.42 dwelling units per net acre. It is requesting a comprehensive land-use amendment to change the land use from Urban Low Density and Regional Commercial to Urban Medium Density.

The Concept Plan for Mount Dora Groves North would establish a 50-foot buffer along Loch Leven, then a row of estate homes on 70-foot lots. The North Neighorhood (yellow) would allow a minimum lot size of 40 feet.


Under the existing land use, the site is entitled for a maximum of 436 homes. However, the PUD application would limit the number of homes to 275. The PUD zoning requests 70-foot lots on the shore of Loch Levin and a mix of lot sizes over the rest of the subject property. A frontage road would allow residents to access the shopping center next door without exiting onto U.S. 441, and a golf cart path would connect the property to the country club.

For Mount Dora Groves South, the applicant proposes a mixed-use development containing 783 single-family and multi-family dwelling units with a density of approximately 9.75 dwelling units per acre), 150,000 square feet of commercial uses, and associated recreational facilities. The partnership is asking for a large-scale comprehensive plan amendment from Regional Office to Planned Unit Development. A case will be filed shortly for rezoning to PUD.


Planner Jim Hall with HDSi said the request would represent a downzoning from the existing Regional Office land use. “We were allowed 1,000 dwelling units and over 10 million square feet of nonresidential. The amount of traffic that would generate makes my head spin,” he said.

Hall said that because of the site configuration, the commercial lots would not accommodate big-box retailers. “It would be smaller, individual users,” he said. The request and future PUD would allow for a maximum height of 65 feet. Hall explained that one of the parcels could be used for a hotel, which would need that kind of height, but retail and office buildings likely wouldn’t exceed 35 feet.

Mount Dora Groves South would allow for 150,000 square feet of commercial or hotel uses (red), apartments, rental homes and single family homes. (HALFF)


The U.S. 441 corridor in Mount Dora has been a draw recently for new hotels. A new 4-story TownePlace Suites by Marriott is being built next door to the Mount Dora Groves South. And a pair of hotels, Holiday Inn Express and Home2 Suites, are coming in just east of the site.

In addition to the commercial use, the concept plan shows 783 residential units consisting of a 360-unit mid-rise apartment complex, 103 detached single family homes and 320 lowrise multifamily homes, which by definition would contain one or two dwelling units per building.

Mount Dora City Manager Patrick Cominsky asked the board to add a condition prohibiting built-to-rent units as a housing category. “Our staff wanted to see instead of build-to-rent, we wanted to see build-to-own. We felt that the character of Mount Dora needed to have more build-to-own properties in this land instead of creating a big swath of rental units,” he said.


Attorney Thu Pham with Akerman said that land development decisions cannot be based on the type of ownership. “I’m not sure that’s even a valid criteria as part of your consideration,” she said.

Only a pair of speakers addressed the P&Z Board Wednesday regarding the Mount Dora Groves project. It was a 180-degree turnaround from when the case was heard earlier this year. The Tampa-based homebuilder faced heavy pushback from neighbors when the plan was presented to the Mount Dora City Council in January, leading Bering Homes to pull applications that would have allowed the project to move forward by early 2023. Bering Principals Chad O’Brien and Ronald Rakunas had gone to the city with requests to get a comprehensive land-use amendment to allow for the mixed-use development on U.S. 441, including 100,000 square feet of commercial and 776 single- and multi-family homes, both low/medium and high-density units with a maximum height of 65 feet.


The city council approved the annexation in December 2021, but delayed votes on the land-use amendment and the Planning Unit Development zoning so a public workshop could be held. And that is where the project went south.


A dust-up occurred when Planning and Zoning Commissioner James Honich made comments to the audience considered improper for a member of a quasi-judicial board, which is to remain impartial. He told the audience the project was all about “more house and more money.”

There was even a call to remove Honich from the board, but that failed. Still, Bering Homes Attorney Cecilia Bonifay told the city council her clients were withdrawing the applications. She told the council her client could not get a fair and unbiased decision in Mount Dora.

HDSi working on a mixed income project in Apopka; August 9, 2022

Orange County wants to incentivize developers to build mixed-income communities

By Dustin Wyatt


Aug 09, 2022 at 6:00 pm

Monroe Landings, built by Wendover Housing Partners, is an example of a mixed-income community in Sanford. (Wendover Housing Partners)

Last summer, the longtime owner of 40 acres of land in Apopka began hashing out development ideas for the vacant property.

LandDesign submitted an application to Orange County to discuss a proposed 181-lot subdivision — a mix of detached single-family homes and townhomes — under the name Cascades at Marden.

A year later, a new plan for the same property was submitted to the county for review. And while it wears the same name, the newest iteration is much larger and includes a focus on affordable housing.

Jim Hall with Hall Development Services filed an application to the county this week seeking to rezone the 40 acres of former agricultural land, shown here, from R-2 to a PD in order to construct 216 single-family attached residential dwelling units and 400 multi-family units, with 20% of the apartments being affordable.

This mix of market-rate and affordable housing within the same community is a product that Orange County planners are pushing for more of.

In a recent interview with GrowthSpotter, Alberto Vargas, the county’s planning director, said the county anticipates having submittals for 80,300 new multifamily units by 2030. Of that number, the county’s goal is for 30% of those units to be designated as affordable.

“We are trying to have that conversation with the development community,” he said. “They may just be thinking of submitting for market rate; what we are saying is that we have mechanisms in place right now to incentivize mixed-income, where you have affordable, attainable and market rate combined. That’s the approach we are going after.”

Developers of projects that introduce a mixed-income program could see incentives such as an expedited review process, a reduction in impact fees, and other financial incentives, Vargas explained.

The initiative is tied to Orange County’s Housing for All initiative, a ten-year plan to address housing affordability and supply by removing regulatory barriers, creating new financial resources, targeting areas of access and opportunity, and engaging the community and industry, according to the county’s website.

Vargas said mixed-income communities should be designed in a way where the affordable units are indistinguishable from market-rate units by either appearance or amenities.

“The residential units shall be dispersed at all affordability levels throughout the development, neighborhood, or community with a continuum of income levels rather than a demarked division between market rate and low-income residents. New mixed-income neighborhoods should fit seamlessly into the surrounding community.”

Vargas said the county is working to move away from stand-alone affordable housing communities.

An example of a large-scale mixed-income project in the area is Wendover Housing Partners’ plan to build a 1,000-unit housing community for Universal called Catchlight Crossings. It’ll include an on-site tuition-free preschool and medical care, 16,000 square feet of retail space, fitness trails and a transportation hub for buses, ridesharing and employer shuttles.

The idea is also referred to as inclusionary zoning, and many government jurisdictions have gone a step beyond incentivizing it. Large cities such as Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, Atlanta, and Denver have policies requiring it.

In Denver, for example, developers can either build more affordably priced units as part of any construction project or pay a mandatory fee to offset the construction of affordable units elsewhere.

That policy, which was approved in June and amended a month later to include the mandatory in-lieu-of fee, also provides incentives.

Wendover Housing Partners plans to build a 1,000-unit mixed-income housing community for Universal with on-site tuition-free preschool and medical care, 16,000 square feet of retail space, fitness trails and a transportation hub for buses, ridesharing and employer shuttles. (Provided by Wendover Housing Partners)

“Denver’s position is that inclusionary housing can’t solve the housing crisis alone, but it is a proven strategy for cities and states to create, maintain, and preserve housing units that are affordable for generations,” Laura Swartz, the city’s Community Planning and Development spokesperson told the Denver Gazette. “An important element of successful policies is to combine requirements with incentives, such as lower fees, parking reductions, and height increases, to help offset the cost of building affordable units and increase the overall supply of housing.”

As of now, short of a requirement, Orange County’s top planner is hoping the prospect of incentives is enough to entice developers to move in this direction.

The extent of the participation could come down to how far the county is willing to go with the incentives, said Lee Steinhauer, the general counsel of the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando.

“It’s expensive to build anything when you consider land prices, materials, labor, financing, and impact fees,” he told GrowthSpotter. “I think if the county is serious about incentivizing this they are going to have to figure out a way to make it pencil out for a developer. By either waiving impact fees for units targeted to be affordable, expediting the entire project, or waiving permitting fees, etc. They are going to have to make it work from an economic standpoint.”

If the county offers all of the above, it could convince some to pursue mixed-income, but not all, he added.

“We certainly need more affordable housing, I don’t think anyone is going to argue with that,” Steinhauer said. “And getting creative in terms of how to create affordable housing is always a good thing and a positive. I think in this scenario, it sounds good on its face and it can work under the right conditions, I just don’t think it’s going to be for everyone. It’s going to be something the county will have to heavily incentivize.”

Central Florida is faced with a critical shortage of affordable housing as rent rates climb. The average rent for an Orlando apartment is currently $1,813 per month, according to Co-Star.

Hawthorne Park, a new affordable housing development for senior residents over 55 in the Pine Hills area with a workout room, barber and hair salon, theater room, gazebo, garden and a pool with wheel-chair access in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel) (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel)

As of 2020, the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse showed that among all income levels, more than 86,000 Orange County households spent more than half their monthly income on housing, along with nearly 27,000 in Seminole County and more than 17,400 in Osceola County.

According to research from the Florida Apartment Association, Orange County currently has a shortage of 5,188 apartment homes and will have a shortage of 54,477 apartment homes by 2030.

In an effort to add to the affordable housing inventory, the Orange County Commission, in 2020, started the taxpayer-funded Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The county has invested $25 million into the program thus far. Over the next 10 years, the county is expected to funnel $160 million into it.

The first wave of allocations from this program came in September of 2021 when the county awarded $13 million to developers for four separate multifamily communities.

Among recipients, Wendover Housing Partners received $2 million for its Southwick Commons project, with a promise to bring 195 workforce housing units to Apopka’s city center.

But the city denied the project, citing a contract with the city center developer that banned affordable options. Wendover Housing then sued the city, citing discrimination.

The county is also exploring a controversial rent control measure. Commissioners voted 4-3 Tuesday to put a rent stabilization ordinance on the Nov. 8 election ballot.

The site of the proposed Cascades at Marden is owned by an entity titled Marden Properties Inc, led by Ann Carr. Records show the company has controlled the land since the 1980′s.

Materials submitted to Orange County do not indicate which developer has been tabbed to lead the project. The county deemed it an insufficient application, so it will not be reviewed until more information is provided.

On adjacent land to the west, construction is underway for the Class A, 264-unit Summer House apartment community, which is being developed by NM Residential and Nvision Development.

Summer House will consist of 264 multifamily units surrounding a lake in Apopka, next to the Marden Ridge Apartments. (Forum Architecture)

To the south of Summer House is another luxury living NM Residential asset: The 272-unit Marden Ridge.

The Cascades at Marden property is surrounded to the north and east by a subdivision.

Apopka has seen a flurry of residential development in recent months. Mercury Advisors is seeking approval from the county to build as many as 160 single-family homes along the north side of Orange Blossom Trail/S.R. 441 near Zellwood.

That’s located less than two miles from the company’s Avion Pointe project which is being built out by multifamily developer Taurus Investment Holdings and homebuilder D.R. Horton.

Plans for Avian Pointe call for more than 750 residential units across of mix of single-family homes, townhomes and apartments. The master-planned community will feature a large amount of community/recreational space that will include multiple sports fields, courts and public parks.

KB Home recently submitted plans to the city for 150 townhomes and 27 detached homes on 45 acres at the southwest intersection of Kelly Park Road and Chandler Road in the city’s Kelly Park interchange district.

Illinois-based Wingspan Development Group is teaming up with Tampa-based developer ABC Capital Corp to bring a mix-use village with restaurants, retail space and multi-family apartments to the Kelly Park Interchange.

Clearwater developer Mike Galvin is working on plans to bring 675 single-family residential units and 300 apartments to 180 acres between Effie Drive and Round Lake Road, just north of Kelly Park Road.

Pulte Homes is pursuing what could become its second residential community in the Kelly Park Interchange district, seeking to bring another 140 homes to 40 acres at 3100 Ondich Rd. and 5704, 5706 and 5708 Plymouth Sorrento Road.


After much travail, 1,000 room convention hotel approved near SeaWorld; April 20, 2022


New hotel planned for Orlando’s Westwood Boulevard near SeaWorld and OCCC

Westwood Boulevard ― a road that runs parallel to State Road 528 near the Orange County Convention Center and SeaWorld ― is poised for new hotel development, with one grandiose high-rise concept recently granted approval.   A 36-story, 1,000-room hotel and convention center under development by Orlando-based Skorman Construction and its affiliate Westwood Land Corporation received final approval on April 8.

The not-yet-named Skorman-led hotel project would cover 995,000 square feet and rise 36 stories tall.  It would feature three restaurants, with one on the roof offering views of four theme different parks.  “You can be on the roof and see all of the fireworks” from theme parks, said Kevin Skorman, Vice President of Skorman Construction. “This is single-handedly the best piece of property in Orlando right now.”

Atlanta-based architecture firm Smallwood is leading the building’s design, while Hall Development Services and Kimley Horn are handling planning and civil engineering.  Skorman couldn’t provide an estimate as to when the project will be complete.

The Grow Agrihood moves forward; December 7, 2021

PulteGroup will be the primary homebuilder within Dwight Saathoff’s The Grow

PulteGroup will build some of the first homes within The Grow master-planned community that will feature a 9-acre working farm, two major community gardens, and 20-acre public community park, and a farm-to-table restaurant.
PulteGroup will build some of the first homes within The Grow master-planned community that will feature a 9-acre working farm, two major community gardens, and 20-acre public community park, and a farm-to-table restaurant. (PFD)
Developer Dwight Saathoff is bringing in the Pulte Group to serve as the primary homebuilder within his 1,185-acre master-planned agri-hood community in east Orlando.  The Atlanta-based homebuilder is the first to be mentioned as part of plans for the mega-development referred to as “The Grow,” which will shape more than a thousand acres of pasture land between Lake Pickett Road and State Road 50 into a community inspired by the splendors of farm life.

In total, The Grow is entitled to feature 2,078 homes and 172,000 square feet of commercial space. Between that, the community will also feature 21 acres of community gardens, a 20-acre community park, 12 miles of recreational trails, edible landscaping, a street for farmers markets and a farm-to-table restaurant, among other agricultural amenities.  PulteGroup was mentioned in a recently submitted Preliminary Subdivision Plan seeking to subdivide 408 acres owned by Saathoff’s American Land Investments Of Orange County LLC on the southern portion of the master-planned community.  PulteGroup plans to build 701 single-family detached homes and 166 single-family attached homes on roughly 400 acres in east Orlando.  Of the roughly 400 acres, 217 acres are developable.

Max Perlman, VP of land acquisition at PulteGroup, told GrowthSpotter the company intends to build townhomes and single-family one- and two-story homes. The PSP states the project will be developed in four phases. Lot widths for single-family homes will range from 34 feet to 125 feet.  “The project has excellent proximity and access to UCF, Central Florida Research Park, State Road 408 and Waterford Lakes Town Center, making it an attractive place to live,” he said. “The master amenities and agri-hood lifestyle will make The Grow a true one-of-a-kind community in Central Florida and Pulte looks forward to being a part of it.”

Saathoff with Project Finance & Development said plans for The Grow’s master infrastructure are currently under review and right behind it is the recently submitted PSP application that covers the southern portion of the project. “There’s a high degree of collaboration between us,” he said. “It would be hard to bring in someone else after there’s been over a year of discussions, visioning sessions, and development of construction plans, budget and timing. We really wanted to have those discussions with one homebuilder.”

 Jim Hall with HDSi is the community planner for the subdivision plans. VHB  serves as the civil engineer on the project. Bio-Tech Consulting Inc. is handling environmental affairs and Allen & Company is the surveyor.

The first phase will consist of 300 homesites, setting the edges of the farm and starting to ready the soil, a working barn, a welcome center with adjacent café/bakery, the first couple of miles of the edible landscape trail, Saathoff said. He said he expects to be in the position to break ground next summer.

Banksville Of Florida Inc. is another major property owner in the community. Plans have not yet been submitted for its roughly 550 acres.

Copyright - Hall Development Services Inc. 2018