Editor’s Note: This is the 20th in a series of articles published by The Apopka Voice in 2016 that were the most noteworthy events of the year. The Apopka Voice will publish them starting Monday, December 26th and running until Sunday, January 1st. On January, 2nd we will publish a poll and let the readers decide on which story is the most impactful of the year.
The State of the City Address
Mayor Joe Kilsheimer spoke this morning at the Highland Manor for approximately 35 minutes, laying out his administration’s accomplishments while in office and his vision for the future. The (approximately) 5,000-word State of the City address touched on several issues including business in Apopka, municipal government, public safety, city finances, grants, economic development, The City Center, the Highland Manor, growth, education, and even the environment.
Kilsheimer took a lot of time during his speech to illustrate the importance of the City Center project. This is the centerpiece of his vision for Apopka. He pointed out the economic potential for the city in dollars, as well as the possible increase in jobs once it is completed.
“After nearly a decade of hoping and dreaming, Apopka is moving forward to develop a City Center,” he said. “On July 20th, 2016, our City Council voted unanimously to approve an agreement with our development partners, Taurus Southern Investments to begin creating the kind of downtown gathering space that Apopka residents have been seeking for many years. And I am personally proud of the fact that our council’s vote was unanimous in favor of the agreement. Our team negotiated a good deal on behalf of Apopka residents, a deal which contains performance guarantees on the part of the developer; a deal that limits the exposure of the City to down-side risk and finally a deal that establishes a Look-and-Feel for a downtown area that Apopka residents want.”
According to Kilsheimer, the total investment by private businesses over the span of the entire development will likely exceed $100 million. He also said hundreds of jobs will be created by the City Center project upon its completion.
He also announced that Taurus has signed a letter of intent with a developer who intends to build a new $15-million hotel.
“Details on that project will come later after Taurus signs a binding contract for the hotel,” he said. “But overall, It’s an exhilarating time for the team working on the City Center project. The folks at Taurus report that interest from prospective tenants for the City Center is – in their words – ‘Through the roof.'”
Highland Manor: From a problem to be solved, to an opportunity to seize
“There is one more significant thing to report, and that is the conversation about Highland Manor where we are today,” he said. “There has been a significant shift in the conversation about the future of Highland Manor. I cannot report any details yet, but what I can report is that the Taurus team has gone from thinking that the future of Highland Manor was a problem to be solved to now thinking that the future of Highland Manor is an opportunity to be seized. Again, there are a lot of details yet to be worked out, and I want to caution everyone that no deal is done until contracts are signed and … until the checks clear the bank. However, I am greatly encouraged by what I am hearing about both the efforts to bring a City Center deal to fruition and about the future of Highland Manor.”
This news comes as a surprising, 180-degree shift from what was said last summer. Jeff McFadden, the Managing Director for Taurus Southern Investments, seemed almost certain the Manor would need to be removed from its current location in a July 13th City Council Workshop meeting.
“I just don’t believe there is a way to keep the Highland Manor in its current site,” he said. “It just sprawls and it takes up too much land.”
In a poll taken by The Apopka Voice in January, 83% of 1,672 respondents voted to “Save the Manor. Leave it where it is. Make the developer work around it.”
Tomorrow: Part Three – Municipal Government improvements