Boomtown: Controversial RoseArts District project passes Orlando planning board for second time

Many Rosemont residents against new 128-acre, 5,650 multi-family development

It’s been a two-year-long battle between developers and residents over the proposed $1 billion, 128-acre RoseArts District project set to be built on an abandoned golf course in Orlando’s Rosemont neighborhood.

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s been a two-year-long battle between developers and residents over the proposed $1 billion, 128-acre RoseArts District project set to be built on an abandoned golf course in Orlando’s Rosemont neighborhood.

Tuesday, developers Westside Capital got unanimous approval for the project for the second time, after withdrawing and re-submitting with changes following criticism from an April city commission meeting and a lot of opposition from residents in the neighborhood.

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The project is designed as an urban development, bringing 5,650 multi-family homes in the form of apartments, condos or age-restricted spaces to the Lake Orlando area along with retail space. Developers say there is nothing like it in the area currently and it is similar to a project in the Lake Ivanhoe area called The Yard.

The developers have made adjustments to the project this time around which included removing 350-apartments from the first proposal, adding more green space, pushing back development at least 150 feet from existing homes in the area, reducing density, adding walking trails and incorporating attainable housing, making 10% of all the units affordable housing according to market value.

However, even with the changes, many residents spoke in opposition to the project at the 6-hour long public hearing Tuesday, including Vicki Vargo.

“It’s not compatible,” Vargo said at the meeting Tuesday.

News 6 met Vargo at her Rosemont home on Wednesday.

“We want a nice neighborhood, Rosemont already has 3,500 apartments and quite frankly the apartments give us a bad name. So, who wants 6,000 more, that would be 10,000 apartments in a two-mile radius,” she said.

Outside Vargo’s home is a green sign that reads “Save our green space at Rosemont.” It’s one of the dozens in yards in the neighborhood which garnered more than 600 signatures on a petition against the development. City planners also showed surveys had 651 residents in opposition with only 24 in favor.

“This was our way of sending a message to our elected leaders that we don’t want incompatible development,” Vargo added.

She was one of the 50 speakers at the meeting Tuesday.

“As a resident, co-worker, your neighbor, your friend, as a regular person, I beg you to not approve this,” one resident said.

“We urge you to deny this application,” another added.

However, while most spoke out against the development about a dozen supported the project speaking in favor of the plans.

“I have lived in Rosemont for the last 30 years. I strongly support this project because I see this community depleting more,” resident Diane Fox said.

Ultimately, the Orlando municipal planning board voted to approve the project for the second time unanimously.

A spokesperson for the RoseArts District Developer releasing this statement to News 6 Wednesday.

“We are pleased with the unanimous decision of the City’s Municipal Planning Board, and grateful for the dozens of supporters who spoke in favor of this transformational project. We will continue to work with all the neighbors to make this a project that truly transforms this special area of the City. The RoseArts spirit has already activated the neighborhood and facilitated many new connections, friendships and community involvement. We are grateful for the opportunity and look forward to bringing the entire neighborhood together as this project moves forward.”

- Dana Loncar

However, given the pushback from a majority of city commissioners the last time this project was in front of the Orlando City Commission for a final vote, residents plan to appeal the project again. There is no word on when it will be brought back for a final vote.

For more information on the proposed project including renderings and applications to the City of Orlando, click here.