Lake Nona developers plan 24,000-acre project

Orlando Sentinel/March 21, 2016

By Mary Shanklin

ke Nona's developers are expected today to request approval for what would be one of Central Florida's largest developments — Sunbridge, stretching across about 37 square miles southeast of Orlando.

Planned for 7,300 houses and hundreds of acres of shops, offices and hotels, the project is separate from Lake Nona in south Orlando. It would be built on property owned by an affiliate of the Mormon Church. The approval process could take months. If the project wins the OK from local governments, construction is expected to start as soon as 2018.

"We are excited about this unique opportunity to further demonstrate how to responsibly develop a community that drives significant employment and economic activity for years," said James Zboril, president of Tavistock Development Company, parent of the 11-square-mile Lake Nona development known for neo-urban residences, schools, hotels, and medical-related uses.

Most of Sunbridge would be south of State Road 528 and in the eastern reaches of Orange and Osceola counties. Particularly in Osceola County, it rests next to environmentally sensitive areas including the state-owned Split Oak Forest and Isle of Pine Preserve.

Over the years, much of the property in Orange has been through government-approval processes but still requires updates to the county's blueprint for growth. Zboril said the new plans are consistent with the type of development Orange County is encouraging near the Innovation Way corridor east of Orlando International Airport. Tavistock will continue working with Osceola County officials on plans for what would be the largest part of Sunbridge, he added. It also will work with environmental activists.

But Marjorie Holt, conservation chairman of the Sierra Club for Central Florida, said her group is particularly concerned because the state had wanted to conserve that land.

"It was called the Upper Econ Mosaic for its intricate dynamic of uplands interspersed with wetlands," she said.

The new project avoids many of the environmentally sensitive areas that have hindered earlier attempts to develop in Orange County, Zboril said. With a lush setting marked by three connected lakes in Osceola and wetlands throughout, more than half of Sunbridge would remain undeveloped.

Plans also call for new routes to access the property.

Construction is expected to start in the spring on a planned State Road 528 interchange at Sunbridge. The interchange was funded by Orange County, the Central Florida Expressway Authority and Mormon affiliate Suburban Land Reserve.

Another key part of the project calls for a new north-south road that would be privately funded and connect the 4,787-acre piece of Sunbridge in Orange County to the 19,111-acre chunk that is about 10 miles to the south in Osceola County.

And in Osceola County, officials are considering a 2-mile extension of the Osceola County Parkway that would be funded by the landowner and the Osceola County Expressway Authority.

Holt said she will study plans for the new roadways and how they will impact sensitive areas. A preliminary plan calls for the parkway to run through Split Oak, for instance.

"I'm disappointed it's going in but at the same time realize that Osceola County has approvals for this project," Holt said. "I'm dubious about Osceola County's quest for economic development there. I think it's a long shot with a lot of resources to be sacrificed. And I hope they can put the alignment in without impacting a lot of wetlands."

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