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Vision of corporate village raises questions on growth

Some see thousands of good jobs; others fear too much too fast in east Orange.

By Joe Newman

Sentinel Staff Writer

March 22, 2005

As east Orange County grapples with an onslaught of new residents, officials soon will decide whether to ratchet that growth pressure even higher.

Already, east Orange must figure out how to accommodate the aggressive expansion of the University of Central Florida and Orlando International Airport and the tens of thousands of jobs and residents they generate.

Now, developers are pushing plans to turn a long-dormant industrial park into a high-tech village, adding thousands of homes, shops and the kind of clean industry county officials covet.

The project at International Corporate Park, which sits on 3,000 acres along the Bee Line Expressway, would fill a gap between the airport to the west and UCF to the north.

But is it too much, too soon?

The debate will play itself out in the next month when the developers of International Corporate Park present their plans to the Orange County Commission and the regional planning council.

From Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty's perspective, the development plan fits well with his goal to create a high-tech corridor stretching from UCF to the airport.

That corridor, Crotty says, is critical to Orange County's economy, which for too long has been dominated by the tourism and service industries.

But remaking International Corporate Park from an industrial park that never took off into a 10,000-resident community where high-tech employees can "work, live and play," faces one significant hurdle: Linda Stewart, the county commissioner who represents the area. Stewart says the plan, which includes 3,440 homes, is "ridiculous."

"It's too premature," Stewart said. "We should not have to be worrying about this now."

Local officials must answer key questions as they map east Orange County's future.

For example, how much longer can the county keep development from the Econlockhatchee River, the line commissioners have long held as their eastern growth boundary?

Even without revamping International Corporate Park, east Orange's population will continue to boom.

Metroplan Orlando, the region's transportation planning agency, projects east Orange will add nearly 100,000 residents by 2025.

According to the agency's figures, the corridor along Central Florida GreeneWay (State Road 417) from Seminole County to Orlando International Airport will grow from 106,000 residents in 2000 to 206,000 residents by 2025.

Add thousands of homes and jobs at International Corporate Park, and that growth could shift into overdrive.

Developers already have carved subdivisions out of wetlands on the west side of the Econ.

Landowners on the east side of the river, a mostly rural area with large swaths of forest and wetlands, want to do the same.

Developing the corporate park would increase the pressure to build more homes in east Orange, even if it meant jumping the Econ.

In the coming months, county officials will spend $350,000 to study growth and environmental issues in east Orange. Stewart says the new owners of International Corporate Park should wait until the county completes the study before they ask commissioners for approval.

"Why don't we wait and hear what might be the best recommended development for that corridor instead of doing it backwards?" she asked.

Last week, the county's planning advisory board agreed, recommending 4-1 against moving the project forward.

Board members said they first want to see the study, which would look at how International Corporate Park fits in with growth surrounding UCF and the airport.

UCF, with about 42,000 students, has new buildings and dorms on tap, including a 10-story tower that would combine housing and retail.

The university also wants to build a football stadium and is lobbying for a medical school, which could end up at International Corporate Park.

Airport officials, who saw some of their plans slowed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, envision adding a terminal.

The corporate-park proposal says a fully developed site could create 20,000 new jobs. That's just a piece of the 71,000 new jobs that could be coming to the area within 10 miles of the park by 2025 -- maybe as early as 2015.

All those workers would need 36,000 new homes, according to the development proposal. Today, county and city planners have approved only 28,000 homes within 10 miles of International Corporate Park.

While opponents say they fear the development will worsen traffic, the developers and their consultants say the housing component is essential to their success.

They say they want to create a community that will appeal to executives of high-tech companies.

Such firms want neighborhoods within easy driving, biking and walking distance between home and work, the proposal says.

Joe Wallace, executive director of Central Florida Research Park, which has signed a deal to expand into the corporate park, says adding homes to the project will help recruit companies that are now going elsewhere.

"When I lose a deal, it's because they went to Lake Mary or Heathrow, where they can live right next door," Wallace said. "Housing is the absolute critical thing for high-tech companies now."

It makes sense to change International Corporate Park from an industrial park into a community that integrates homes and shops with places to work, said Owen Beitsch, a real-estate consultant who developed the International Corporate Park market analysis for the developers.

Approved in 1986, the park languished because it was seen as too remote, Beitsch said.

"It doesn't seem like that distant a location anymore," he said.

One key to the success of the park and Crotty's high-tech corridor is the extension of Alafaya Trail to the airport. Current plans call for extending the road only to the Bee Line Expressway.

Beitsch, who says it is important for county officials to protect the Econ River, concedes that at some point, development pressure will force commissioners to decide whether to cross the river.

But he said he doesn't think International Corporate Park, which has been approved for development since 1986, is the piece that will tip the scales.

"There's some point where that is going to happen," he said. "The next piece may be the one or the next piece after that, but I don't think we're they're yet."

Joe Newman can be reached at [email protected] or 407-420-6140.


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This wouldn't be a problem for me if it was incorporated into the city of Orlando, but once again, its the county running the show. Orlando will never be able to compete in the big leagues if it doesn't reap the benefits from big money makers like corporate parks or the I-Drive corridor.

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This wouldn't be a problem for me if it was incorporated into the city of Orlando, but once again, its the county running the show.  Orlando will never be able to compete in the big leagues if it doesn't reap the benefits from big money makers like corporate parks or the I-Drive corridor.



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I admit to being somewhat naive on the subject, but I will NEVER EVER EVER understand why so much unincorporated land exists in Orange County (Central Florida in general). I believe last time I checked, 67% of Orange County residents live in unincorporated areas. To me, that i just mind-boggling.

Florida in general has so much unicoporated land, even the the counties which are home to the largest state cities.

Orange County has 13 municipalities, with 67% of its population in unincorporated areas!

Miami-Dade has 35 municipalities, with 46% of the total poplation living in unincoprated areas.

Broward County has 29 municipalities with 8% of population is unincorporated. Miami-Dade has.

Hillsborough County has 3 municipalities with 65% of the population in unincorporated areas.

Pinellas County has 24 municipalities, with about 31% of its poulation in unicorporated areas.

I didn't include Duval County, as that is pretty much just Jacksonville. There is just so much better use the cities can do with all of this land than can the counties, primarily Orlando:Orange. I would suspect Miami-Dade is a different story as so much of it is part of the Everglades, though I'm not sure.

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