City Council Preview: Hilton Garden Inn expected to be the first project under the City Center banner
The Apopka City Center has been described as a pillar of economic development, and it has been on the community’s horizon for years, but is it about to break ground soon and become a reality?
The Apopka City Council will hear a proposal and then discuss the Final Development Plan (FDP) submitted for the Apopka City Center Hilton Garden Inn Hotel at tonight’s 7 PM meeting. It is the first time the project has appeared before Mayor Bryan Nelson and new City Commissioners Alice Nolan and Alexander H. Smith since taking office.
The City Center, which is expected to comprise approximately 35 acres centrally located at the interchange of U.S. Highway 441 and State Road 436, is proposed for 207,000 square feet of restaurants, retail, and office space as well as a hotel and homes. Eleven acres are proposed to be a community park, pond, and boardwalk. The long-term plan, which phases-in the project through the next 20 years, includes a possible 180 acres of development.
According to the agenda packet for the June 20th meeting, the proposed hotel will be located within the Apopka City Center development, specifically on the northeast corner of McGee Avenue and East 6th Street. The property is subject to a Development Agreement, which allows staff-level approval of the FDP. Therefore, it will be presented to the City Council for discussion purposes only.
The procedures for review of the proposed development within the City Center is established within a development agreement between the City of Apopka and Taurus Southern Investments. Accordingly, the development agreement authorizes the Development Review Committee to approve the FDP within the City Center if it is found consistent with the City Center development and zoning standards and the City’s Land Development Code. The City Council has already approved the Master Plan and Preliminary Development Plan for the City Center through the executed Development Agreement.
Back in April 2017, The City of Apopka closed on a sale of these first two parcels for the new Apopka City Center. It was described as “a major project that will transform downtown into an attractive mix of stores, restaurants, professional offices and a scenic public park,” from a statement released by the City’s public information office at the time.
The City negotiated the sale of two city-owned properties to development partner Taurus Southern Investments comprising about two acres south of Main Street in Apopka. Both parcels are part of Apopka’s Highland Manor facility. Taurus seeks to continue using Highland Manor as a destination for meetings, weddings, and special events.
Under a development agreement approved by the Apopka City Council in July 2016, Taurus will acquire parcels over time to develop the City Center.
“Apopka residents have been looking forward to the redevelopment of our downtown business district for more than a decade,” said then-Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer. “Today’s transaction represents concrete progress toward making that happen. Based on reports from the Taurus team, I am very encouraged by what I’m hearing about the prospects for the kinds of businesses that our City Center will attract.”
Jeff McFadden, managing director for Taurus Southern Investments, said back in April:
“We are very excited that we are able to take the first steps toward fulfilling everyone’s desire for a successful and vibrant City Center in Apopka.”
The City Center has been long-anticipated in Apopka. The project started more than a decade ago when the city purchased much of the proposed property from 2006 to 2011. The Apopka City Council approved a sales and purchase agreement in February 2016. A development agreement was reached with Taurus in July 2017.
In December 2017, Kilsheimer described the Apopka City Center as one of the pillars of economic development.
“As many of you know, the City’s development partner Taurus Southern Investments announced in April of 2017 that it had signed a preliminary agreement to build a Hilton Garden Inn Hotel within the City Center project,” said Kilsheimer during his 2017 State of the City address. “And in June of 2017, Taurus signed a long-term lease with Dubsdread Catering for the preservation of Highland Manor on the property and linking it to the new hotel.”