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Skepticism aside, Wyld Oaks looks impressive

A massive project that could potentially springboard economic development in Apopka

Managing growth in a city like Apopka can be challenging.
It requires careful planning and execution. With an influx of population, cities must find ways to accommodate the increasing demand for services and infrastructure while maintaining their unique character and quality of life.
Major developments from the private sector can be a godsend or be disastrous.
Last week, the Wyld Oaks Development broke ground in Apopka. It's a 255-acre, $1.2 billion development in the northwest corner of Orange County (3620 West Kelly Park Road) triggered by the expansion of SR-429 and the Kelly Park interchange.

"January 19th marked an important milestone for Wyld Oaks and its future as a dynamic mixed-use destination that will be the epicenter of Apopka’s growth for generations to come," they said in their release. "It was a day of celebration, inspiration, and ideation for a place where people will live, work, stay, dine, dance, and play."

Excuse me if this sounds all too familiar. Let's go back a few years to 2020...

"A highly-anticipated, roughly 100-acre project is expected to start work next year. President Tony Benge told Orlando Business Journal that Winter Park-based Benge Development Corp. and Gainesville-based The Colliers Cos. aim to begin horizontal construction first-quarter 2021 on its $500 million-plus Floridian Town Center mixed-use project."

The Floridian Town Center project is expected to feature:

  • Roughly 600 apartments
  • A hotel
  • An assisted-living facility
  • A YMCA
  • A park
  • Retail space with a grocery store

"It's been a quiet boomtown," said Tony Benge, President of the Benge Development Corp., about Apopka. "I get yelled at once a day about getting this thing going."

In 2024, little progress has been made on the Floridian Town Center.

Then, in 2022...

“Following the success of the new Hilton Garden Inn and the enhanced Highland Manor, Apopka City Center is now breaking ground on the restaurant and retail phase of construction,“ said Jeff McFadden, Managing Director at Taurus Investment Holdings, in a release from the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce. “Today, we celebrate a significant milestone that brings quality amenities to the residents of Apopka. This has been a long time coming, and we are thankful for the community’s efforts to get us to this groundbreaking.”

 In 2024, The Highland Manor and Hilton Garden Inn are for sale, and the restaurant and retail construction phase is moving at the speed of a glacier.

Will Wyld Oaks follow suit or break the mold?

First off, Wyld Oaks is not Taurus or Benge Development. Their success rate in Apopka is unblemished, and they bring a plan that should be seen with optimism.

Its release continues...

"They say it takes a village, and the Wyld Oaks development team is grateful for the support of so many Apopka and metro Orlando community members who are championing this effort.

City of Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Apopka Chamber members, representatives from the Orlando Economic Partnership and Central Florida Expressway Authority gathered with business and industry attendees to witness and take part in the groundbreaking of one of the largest and most valuable, mixed-use developments to emerge in Central Florida in recent years.

A highlight of the occasion was a short video presentation called “Preserving the Muses of Wyld Oaks,” in which attendees learned about the efforts to preserve and protect the majestic heritage oak trees that will provide the canopy for Yonder, a 10-acre nature preserve. As part of the groundbreaking celebration, guests were invited to add their names to a commemorative plaque, which will be installed inside Yonder to honor these namesake century-old trees."

Joseph Beninati, the visionary founder behind Wyld Oaks, expressed his appreciation for everyone in attendance and unveiled the new master plan, which features:

    • Up to 280,000 square feet of retail space
    • 70,000 square feet of restaurant space
    • Expansive outdoor entertainment venue
    • Up to 200,000 square feet of office space
    • Yonder, a 10-acre park and preserve, including America’s greatest dog park
    • Wyld Green is a place to revel and relax that includes an extensive multi-use trail network

“We are honored to celebrate the groundbreaking of Wyld Oaks. Apopka is one of the fastest-growing submarkets in metro Orlando, catalyzed by the 429 expressway, the newly completed interchange that jumpstarted unprecedented new home development in this area,” Beninati said. “We believe Wyld Oaks will be the new urban epicenter of this growth—filling a deep opportunity gap for experiences, tastes, and businesses to branch out well into the future.”

Nelson also addressed the many residents and business leaders in attendance and remarked that Wyld Oaks would have a significant, positive economic impact on Apopka.

“We are excited about the Wyld Oaks master development,” he said. “It’s an innovative project that will support Apopka’s exponential growth with residential and commercial uses that will generate long-term economic impact and benefits for our community.”

On its Facebook page, the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce expressed satisfaction with Wyld Oaks's emergence and hoped to build momentum from the groundbreaking event.

"The Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce could not be more proud of our collaborative partnerships to bring new business opportunities to the Apopka area. If you are interested in learning more about available commercial opportunities in the Wyld Oaks development area, do not hesitate to contact the chamber or the Apopka Growth Alliance. Growapopka.com."
As Apopka continues to grow and develop, there are hazards accompanying them. Development can significantly impact people and the environment, from increased traffic to overcrowded schools. The displacement of communities and the loss of green spaces are potential hazards. As such, it is essential for city planners and policymakers to carefully consider the long-term impacts of development and prioritize sustainable and equitable growth strategies that benefit all community members.

Development can also bring a range of advantages that can improve the quality of life for its residents. Increased economic opportunities, such as job creation and business growth, can lead to a thriving local economy and a higher standard of living. Development can also bring new and improved infrastructure, including transportation, housing, and public amenities, that make cities more livable and accessible.

But with planning and execution, developing a growing city can lead to a prosperous and sustainable future. An ambitious economic development director can turn this challenge into a benefit for Apopka.

And setting past failures and skepticism aside, Wyld Oaks is an impressive venture.

Editor's Note: This article was later updated to include the location of Wyld Oaks and a link to the Apopka Economic Development Director hiring.

Wyld Oaks, Apopka, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Development, Opinion


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