By Jack Witthaus

A former Ocoee orange grove owned by citrus magnates may soon transform into a new apartment project.

The proposed 410-unit Lake Lilly Apartments may rise on a former orange grove in Ocoee.

Longtime local orange barons and property owner Heller Brothers, in partnership with Chicago-based developer Fore, plan to build a 410-unit apartment complex northeast of Maguire Road and Florida’s Turnpike, according to city of Ocoee documents. The 16.6-acre site is perhaps one of the largest undeveloped parcels in the city.

Lake Lilly Center
Lake Lily Center

The project may cost $77.9 million to build, based on industry standards. Maitland-based Charlan Brock Architects is the architect; Orlando-based Harris Civil Engineers LLC is the civil engineer; Orlando-based Perry Becker Design is the landscape architect; and Casselberry-based L&S Diversified is the surveyor.

Project representatives weren’t immediately available for comment.

“There’s a tremendous demand for land for any type of residential — especially suburban multifamily,” said Angel de la Portilla, president of Orlando-based government consulting firm Central Florida Strategies and economic consultant for the city of Ocoee. “Ocoee is a great suburban market and it’s surrounded by great access roads. It’s a very desirable area.”

The property is already entitled, so the development team is currently seeking site plan approvals from the city of Ocoee. The project is expected to go before a planning and zoning meeting in July and a city commission meeting in August.

The backstory

A development agreement was reached in January 2020 between the city of Ocoee and Winter Garden-based landowner and longtime citrus family Heller Brothers Packing Corp.’s West End Professional Park Property Owners Association Inc. to encourage redevelopment on the roughly 26-acre site. The property, previously called West End Professional Park, was slated to feature 230,000 square feet of industrial space for more than a decade, according to Ocoee documents.

Meanwhile, Orlando is one of the hottest markets nationwide for apartment construction due to the region’s fast growth. In fact, the City Beautiful ranked No. 16 nationally for apartment construction for the four quarters ending first-quarter 2021, according to a CBRE “U.S. Multifamily Figures” report. In total, 6,800 apartments were built in this time period, which may have cost an estimated $1.3 billion, based on industry standards.

“The new construction currently underway comes off the heels of Orlando leading the country in population, job and rent growth for several years leading up to the pandemic,” CBRE Vice President Chip Wooten told Orlando Business Journal. “We continue to be one of the fastest-growing MSAs in the country, and developers are encouraged by even stronger projections going forward.”

Apartment stats

The west Orlando apartment market, which includes Ocoee, featured a 9.3% average vacancy rate, which is higher than the Orlando-area average of 8.8%, CoStar Group reported. In addition, the submarket’s average monthly rent is $1,218, which is lower than the Orlando-area average of $1,355.

Source: Orlando Business Journal

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