Benge Development Corporation is negotiating terms to take over a small piece of city-owned property in downtown Apopka in order to build multifamily housing and a community plaza for events and food trucks.
The vacant land, totaling a little more than three acres, sits along a railroad track at the intersection of Station and 5th Streets, a few blocks west of City Hall.
The city has owned the property since 2013, but Apopka officials have recently been exploring offers from developers, hoping to see ideas aimed at bringing foot traffic to this section of downtown. The city solicited bids for the land earlier this year.
The city has owned this property along Station Street since 2013, but Apopka officials have recently been exploring offers from developers, hoping to see ideas aimed at bringing foot traffic to this section of downtown. The city solicited bids for the land earlier this year. (Orange County Property Appraiser)
“The whole idea was to be able to get some density in there,” said James Hitt, the city’s community development director. “We want to give people things to do in the downtown area versus having to go somewhere else. The concentration is getting people coming downtown, and living downtown.”
Hitt said he envisioned the Station Street property being transformed into a park that can host food trucks and events such as farmer’s markets or live music. But it also, he added, has room for roughly 50 multifamily units overlooking the event square.
During the solicitation process, only the bid from Benge Development came in.
“It’s a very challenging piece,” said Tony Benge, the company’s president. “It’s just a very difficult one because it’s too small to really do anything of scale on. And you have uses that they (the city) want to see as far as what can become a catalyst for bringing more growth activity downtown, which we whole-heartedly embrace. But it’s just a very odd-shaped piece, relatively small, with a lot of constraints on it.”
The proposal by Benge falls in line with what city planners are looking for.
“We want to make this something very special,” Benge added. “We want to create a destination in town and bring a lot life into this downtown area. Our goal is to see all of Apopka thrive.”
Site plans submitted to the city as part of the bid proposal show two residential buildings totaling 24,000 square feet a piece in the center of the property with 24 units each. On one side of the buildings is a surface parking lot with 140 spaces. On the other is an open-air 52,275-square-foot plaza with a pavilion, lawn, and food truck staging area surrounded by trees.
Benge said he wants the 48 market-rate apartment units to target employees such as teachers and first responders.
The plan ultimately needs approval from the city commission before Benge can acquire the property. While some commissioners have stated a desire to see retail space on the property, HItt said there are plenty of other places in the city for that use.
He’s hopeful it’s given the nod to move forward. “Otherwise the property is just going to sit there for another five or 10 years.”
Benge Development has been bullish on Apopka.
Benge and The Collier Companies did the early site work for the Floridian Town Center, a mixed-use project spanning 75 acres underway in the city’s bustling Kelly Park District along State Road 429.
In April, the joint venture sold the land on the northwest corner of S.R. 429 and S.R. 441. to Birmingham-based Home Communities for roughly $23 million, according to Orange County deed records.
Home Communities is building out the project, consisting of 300 multifamily units, an assisted living facility with up to 180 units, a 120-room hotel, and more than 200,000 square feet of commercial space.
Nearby, along the northside of U.S. 441, Benge is planning to build a 324-unit apartment community with six commercial outparcels.
Benge is seeking approval for a project called Floridian North at the corner of Hermit Smith Road and Yothers Road with 78 detached single-family homes and 132 townhome units.
Benge is seeking approval for a project called Floridian North at the corner of Hermit Smith Road and Yothers Road with 78 detached single-family homes and 132 townhome units. (Site plans by Stringfellow Planning & Design)
And recently, the developer submitted an application to the city to rezone 16 acres of land along W. Kelly Park Road from a low-density designation to allow for a 300-unit apartment community.