Lake Nona: Houses, hotels next to come near Medical City

nemours lake nona

Not every community could pull off naming its streets for Nobel laureates.

But that is what Lake Nona plans to do with Laureate Park —– the first community being built to complement the giant development’s Medical City cluster of hospitals and bioscience-research laboratories.

Styled like Orlando’s neotraditional Baldwin Park neighborhood, the 2,500-home project will have an average home price of $315,000 and feature narrow lots with back alleys. And, like Baldwin Park, it will charge its homeowners fees not only for maintenance but also to construct and keep up the roads and utilities.

“We’re going to pitch it to employees [in the Medical City] as a place where they could walk to work,” said James Zboril, president of Lake Nona Co. “We think the right residential play is more neotraditional.”

The government-permit process is also under way for Lake Nona’s Watermark apartment community, and the developer is selecting companies to build and operate an extended-stay hotel and a conference-style hotel next to the emerging medical complex.

Lake Nona quietly plodded along as an outlying country-club development until 1996, when Tavistock Group, an investment holding company for British billionaire Joseph Lewis, purchased the 7,000-acre property. The new owner has worked in recent years to create a cluster of health-care and bioscience facilities anchored by the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, a Nemours Children’s Hospital and a VA Medical Center.

The development now stands as one of the region’s chief hopes for economic development and high-paying jobs.

Although surrounding landowners have had a three-year head start building and selling homes near the Medical City, Tavistock and its Lake Nona unit are only now launching their residential plans. The Windermere-based parent company will start with 200 of what eventually will be 2,500 residences in Laureate Park, which is southwest of the Narcoossee Road interchange on State Road 417.

The developer envisions a pedestrian lifestyle. Plans call for a small village center that might accommodate a fitness center, sales offices and possibly a restaurant and coffee shop. Northeast of S.R. 417 and Lake Nona Boulevard, Watermark is planned as a 342-unit apartment complex with 11,800 square feet of commercial space slated for child care.

About two thirds of Laureate Park’s homes will have back alleys. Home lots will be less than 50 feet wide in the first phase, and town homes will be 30 feet wide. Though the housing will be near the medical city, the walk could be more like a hike for employees at Sanford-Burnham, which is more than a mile away on Sanger Road (named for 1958 Nobel laureate Frederick Sanger).

Like Baldwin Park, Laureate Park will charge each homeowner a community-development-district fee on top of a homeowner-association fee. But unlike many other developers that have charged that extra fee, Lake Nona has not incurred bond debt on any improvements so far.

“It allows us to put in a high level of infrastructure and maintain it,” Zboril said. “There’s a sensible way to do CDDs.”

The average price in the initial phase will be $315,000 — more than triple the median price for resales by members of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. Some prices will be less than $200,000, and the initial phase won’t feature large estate homes, a segment with particularly slow sales during the past year.

Zboril said he doesn’t expect such price tags to be problem because new-home competitors are selling town-home-style units for $190,000 and single-family homes in the $300s.

With new-home construction at a relative standstill for the past three years, brokers and others in the real-estate business will be watching closely the progress of what may now be Central Florida’s most-anticipated residential project.

Land Advisors broker Steve Flanagan, who recently researched Orlando’s southeast area to help market the Randal Park development, said Lake Nona should attract premium buyers because the jobs being created there are higher paying than the local average and the development will be distinctive.

“Trying to carve out a niche for a new-urbanist village is a good way to differentiate yourself from other communities in the area,” he said.

Potomac Land Co. Division President William Sullivan said the market for that area appears to be slowing slightly, with Lake Nona’s nearest competitor, Eagle Creek, having sold 45 houses in the high $200,000s and low $300,000s last year. So far this year, Eagle Creek has had about four sales a month.

Plans for two hotels make sense, he added: An extended-stay facility can target families of hospital patients, while a conference-style inn will appeal to affiliates of Burnham and the medical school.

Sullivan noted that several other residential projects are in planning phases for the Lake Nona area generally. Already under construction: Camden Lake Nona expects to complete by this summer a 420-unit apartment complex at Narcoossee and Dowden roads.

Lake Nona Co. expects to announce a lineup of four or five production builders in the next two months for Laureate Park. Though the developer isn’t calling for specific energy-conservation standards in the homes, Zboril said Lake Nona will be pushing builders to offer “more green and environmental products” as part of a “compelling and appropriately priced” product.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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