The Apopka Community Redevelopment Area Board (CRA) made a rare appearance at City Hall last night, and approved what may be the biggest motion to come before it in years. By a 6-0 vote, it moved forward a developer’s agreement that lays the foundation for starting the long-awaited City Center project in Apopka.

After the CRA vote, the City Council followed suit and voted 5-0 in favor of the agreement.

“This is a big step forward for the city of Apopka,” said Mayor Joe Kilsheimer. “Ten years ago we bought this land to build a City Center. This was Mayor Land’s vision to build a City Center and I wish he were here to see it.”

Commissioner Kyle Becker has only been on the City Council for 86 days, but captured the importance of this vote on a Facebook post after the meeting.

“I’m feeling very excited about the future of Apopka,” he wrote. “This is a big step tonight, but the job is far from over. Work now turns to ensuring our future continues to be rooted with elements of our past, and we proceed responsibly to ensure an economically viable community for years to come.”Apopka City Center Street View

The biggest pushback for this project is the continuing saga of the Highland Manor and its unknown fate. Becker posted his reverence for the Manor and his belief the Council will continue to search for an appropriate solution.

“I very much appreciated the calls/e-mails of concern and support, and will do all I can to ensure the current Highland Manor is treated with the respect she deserves.”

During the meeting, Commissioners Billie Dean and Doug Bankson grilled developer Jeff McFadden of Taurus Southern Investments.

“What have you all decided to do with the Highland Manor?” Dean asked McFadden.

“That hasn’t changed since last week,” McFadden responded. “It isn’t in our plans right now. But the City will have a minimum of 18 months to decide what to do with the house. But we are open to suggestions on what to do with the house. I wouldn’t rule out a solution.”

“That house is one of the few historic places we have here in Apopka,” said Dean. “The building is over 100 years old, and it seems to me you could work out some sort of configuration to incorporate the Highland Manor into this City Center.”

“I think there are some solutions, but it has to get smaller,” said McFadden.

Bankson embraced the idea of the Manor getting smaller, and questioned McFadden about those possibilities.

Apopka City Center Hotel“If it was reduced in size from its current footprint, is that something you can look at?” Bankson asked. “I think in January in your original presentation you had made it the centerpiece of the project. And that’s one of the biggest responses I’ve gotten from people as commissioner. There’s a lot of emotion attached to this house.”

A five-story hotel could be the first business to open at the  City Center, according to  McFadden. The design would incorporate an architectural style known as “Florida Vernacular” in an effort to maintain the historic character of Apopka.  In addition to the hotel the Center would feature wide sidewalks, public gathering places and a boardwalk. A central parking area plus smaller parking lots are envisioned.

Taurus is proposing to have a minimum of 30,000 square feet of restaurant space which would include two stand-alone restaurants.  The rest of the Center would contain a variety of retail businesses.  Some of the business types mentioned included; day spas, a grocery store, coffee shops, bakeries, and dentists.

The approval by the CRA Board and City Council moves forward the process that began with a proposal in August of 2015, and formal negotiations that began in January of 2016.


 

8 COMMENTS

  1. You all can read what I thought about last night’s approval of the city center under the Apopka Voice’s article, dated July 19th, 2016, Apopka City Council Preview as I posted my thoughts last night after the vote. I have more to say however……….

  2. The biggest joke to date is the CRA board. Who is on the CRA board? None other than the five members of the Apopka City Council, which is the mayor and the four commissioners, plus one other person, Mr. White, and with all due respect to Mr. White, I am not referring to you, sir.. Why bother with the CRA at all, if it is going to be you five elected officials. Are you all “advising yourselves”? Such as Trump’s consultants is himself? Why not more business people, citizens, residents, experts, etc.? A total farce! Last night the CRA approved, then next the council approved…..of course. Is this how good government is suppose to operate? Maybe you all should just kick everyone off of the Planning Commission and you all can sit on it too, with only one other person. Cut out the middle men, or I guess I should say middle women too. You all already placed yourselves on the gas board. You all can be it all, hope you have lots and lots of hours to serve all your boards and committees you plan on MONOPOLIZING! I guess you all think there is no one else in the City of Apopka that has any brains but you all!

  3. I am glad Ms. Kidd said what she did last night, and further explained the Florida Vernacular style, and that was not what she expected! Neither did a lot of people. She deemed it “Florida Cracker”. I drove by the re-done Sonny’s Bar-B-Q just th!is morning, and there it is , a very good example, of Florida Vernacular on the outside of the building. Metal corrugated roofing, metal sides, etc. That is not what was expected when the residents were told the city center would be “upscale”. What is done is done, and the residents will have to live with looking at it everyday on our daily commutes. It is fine for Bubbalous Bar-B-Q and redone Sonny’s Bar-B-Q, but not for the city center! We expected better! More like Upscale Altamonte Center. You all better hope it is not completed too soon before your re-election campaigns, because if you all think that last night’s vote for THAT scored you big bragging rights for your campaign mail glossies next go round, you all are wrong! I am not calling you all out singly, because I am to address the council as a whole, remember the NEW rules! You all may go down with the ship next election time!

  4. Glenn Irby did a good job last night, didn’t he? Blocking the “talking about the Manor”, that we are on the city center, not the house’s fate tonight. This right after Commissioner Bankson inquired about being able to have a discussion with the developer about saving the home, and could it still be possible. Thank you Commissioner Bankson for trying to save the home! Also Commissioner Dean and Commissioner Becker on talking about saving the home. It means a lot to people here in this town. Where I got married is special to me too. The little church behind Robin’s restaurant that used to be the New England Heights Baptist Church in 1976, that is now a Hispanic church. I would be upset if it was demolished, so I understand the people that feel a connection to the Manor. It is a fixture that has been around here a long long time and should remain here enact!

  5. Surely if we can showcase and preserve a piece of New York City on the front lawn of the Apopka City Hall that is special to a lot of people, then surely we can preserve some of Apopka’s own history, by saving the Highland Manor!!!!!

  6. Funny how when in the past and new businesses came to town, that was to be built, and when the old downtown areas were upgraded, the council always requested from the builders to stay with the “colonial style” to go with the City Hall and other building to create a harmonious appearance. That is why the Gentry Insurance across from City Hall looks like it does, even though I think it is not Gentry Insurance anymore, but another company.

  7. Today we will examine the “when pigs fly” theory……or as related to the Apopka Community Redevelopment Advisory Board, “when pigs-in-the-poke fly theory.” That is, when the current CRA board majority votes NO to a new development, then the Apopka City Council majority votes YES to the new development, or visa versa. There, that summarizes and explains the “when pigs fly” theory, kind of like the “blue moon” theory, but OF COURSE THERE WILL BE MORE BLUE MOONS that “when pigs fly” on the CRA majority vote!!!! Wasn’t that nice of you to bring back the dinosaur board, the CRA? Why did you even bother? Should of left the dinosaur board to fossilize. Thought you wanted change……..

  8. Another subject…….I don’t consider it a crime, in keeping with Chief McKinney’s request, so it is okay to post. Does anyone know anything about the man who “works” one particular shopping parking lot in Apopka, and does not want money, but asked for people to go buy a box of pampers and give them to him. He does not come up in your face, he stands way back, and is not aggressive. I assumed he needed them for his child, but I have seen him repeatedly at the same parking lot on different days. Does he work for a diaper drive non-profit? Does he take them back to the store, and get a refund, or exchange? Does he sell them black market? I have not seen anyone give him a box or go to a store and buy a box, but I did see a young couple with a small child in a buggy, give him about five disposable diapers out of the mother’s diaper bag. He seemed happy. What gives, if anyone knows? I am curious.

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