OVIEDO, Fla. – When Oviedo Mall General Manager Kevin Hipes first presented an idea to add several hundred apartments to the Oviedo Mall in place of the empty Macy’s store, the climate at Oviedo City Hall was different.
Former Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere, who did not seek a sixth term, and city council members had voted for development projects over the years that brought rapid growth to the city.
Newly-elected Mayor Megan Sladek campaigned on "smart development" and said she would not approve any new developments that require a change to the city's comprehensive plan.
Sladek was sworn in as Oveido's mayor Monday night.
Tuesday night, the Oviedo City Local Planning Agency (LPA) decided the proposal to build senior housing and traditional housing on Oviedo Mall property fits the comprehensive plan.
The proposal will now be sent to City Council.
Sladek and her fellow council members will hold a first reading on the proposal on Jan. 6.
Sladek said, as of right now, she's considering the proposal.
“I would not say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ right away to anything, I always want to get full information,” Sladek said. “We don’t have enough housing for it to be affordable here, so I’m very intrigued by the possibility of possibly having something there, intrigued by the the walk-ability between the housing and all of the services at the mall. The hospital’s right there. The senior component is especially interesting with medical right there within walking and biking distance oh, so I’m very interested to see how this shakes out.”
Hipes said the mayor and city council must approve the apartments or the mall will not survive.
“The reality is Sears closed yesterday,” Hipes said. “We now have two empty department stores. So the reality is this mall must evolve with the times. Malls must be mixed-use.”
Sladek said she understands the mall must evolve.
“At one point we had Macy’s there and Sears now has closed, but at one point we had a bustling store that was about a 180,000 square feet I want to say,” Sladek said. “That’s never coming back. The economy has changed. So something has to change for the mall to thrive and this is an idea that the market has brought forward that seems like it might keep them all in that space alive and economically viable.”
Hipes believes housing on mall property will relieve - not worsen - some of the traffic on local roads.
“Developing the mall I think actually helps that because it keeps all of the trips of the residential people that live here and work here and play here on the property,” Hipes said. “And it keeps people up and down the 417 and does not put them in the dense residential areas where we don’t really want any traffic.”
Sladek said Monday night during her swearing-in ceremony, the three existing board members voted not to select Sladek as chair of the council, as is a tradition. The city charter does not require the mayor to be the council chair but Sladek said it’s the first time in Oviedo city history that the mayor isn’t also the chair.