Proposal to turn former jai alai fronton into new development hits roadblock in Seminole County

Seminole County Commissioners deny developers request to get project on ballot

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A proposed project to redevelop the former Orlando Jai Alai in Seminole County hit a roadblock Tuesday at the Seminole County Commission.

The property owner of former Jai Alai paired up with developers Cordish Companies to propose a $500 million, high-density, mixed-use development called Oxford Park that would include nearly 1,200 luxury apartments, high-end retail and restaurants and a large sports entertainment venue that would also have poker and gambling.

“There will be no slots, no blackjack, no other casino,” said Mark Jones, Attorney for developers Cordish Companies. “This is a small poker room. Of the 50,000 square foot venue, it is only 5%.”

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However, it’s that small poker room that put a big stop in moving the project forward. Because it has the element of gambling, in order for the project to be approved, the Seminole County charter reads the citizens must vote it in on the November ballot. The developers have two ways to get it on the ballot: No. 1: Get 25,000 signatures through a citizen petition. No. 2: Get the Seminole County Board of County Commissioners to draft and approve an ordinance to put it on the ballot.

“We are here to ask the commissioners put this matter on the ballot for the voter to decide if they want this incredible project to go forward,” Jones said.

The developers explained to the commissioners they didn’t want to go door-to-door to get citizens’ signatures because of other petitioners fighting for gambling in Florida on a larger scale against the Seminole Tribe, believing it could confuse citizens more.

“We would get misunderstood. That is not what we are about,” said David Cordish, Chairman of Cordish Companies. “It’s a small social. It would be a mistake for us to go out in the face of these massive petition drives that are going on that we have nothing to do with.”

During public comment, only four residents were in favor of the project. The rest were opposed.

“I think this is wonderful for I-Drive,” Nancy Harmon said.

“I’m for a family-oriented neighborhood with parks and small retail and shops, I don’t’ believe this is going to be so,” Lisa Houston said.

In a 5-to-0 vote, the county commission unanimously opposed the request to green light this project on the ballot.

“I just didn’t feel this is the right move for Seminole County,” Commissioner Lee Constantine said.

“To bypass the citizen petition and that’s going to be expected on other issues,” Commissioner Andria Herr said. “I can’t get past the fact that if the poker room doesn’t go through, we can’t go through with this project.”

“We got a great group of citizens and they deserve to have the time to be courted if you will for this potential change,” Commissioner Amy Lockhart said.

After the vote, the developer’s attorney Mark Jones said most likely the project will not move forward.

“Economically or logistically, it is not possible to get 25,000 signatures in 3 months,” Jones said.