‘They’re deconstructing our community:’ Dr. Phillips residents fight plan to build hundreds of apartments

Traffic, school overcrowding are top concerns for residents

ORLANDO, Fla. – There’s a growing push in the Dr. Phillips community of Orange County to stop hundreds of new apartments from being built in a busy shopping center.

Neighbors are fighting back against plans to bring up to 850 apartment units to the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, a bustling shopping center along Sand Lake Road.

Gina Coman has lived in Dr. Phillips for almost 10 years but says she’s concerned about the future.

“They’re deconstructing our community,” Gina Coman said. “It’s all turning into high-end restaurants, and now more apartment buildings.”

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Kimco Realty is behind the project that calls for redeveloping and rezoning a number of shops in the plaza, including a former Stein Mart.

“I think having it right here, in an area that was zoned for retail and trying to rezone it for residential, is wrong,” Rich Maladecki said. “That’s not the original intent.”

“It’s a 1,500-car, eight-story hyper-development,” Will Graves said. “It’s completely out of character. This is a historic town.”

Not only do neighbors see it as a bad fit, but they’re also especially worried about what it could mean for their already congested roads.

“The gridlock would be ridiculous,” Graves said.

“All the roads in Dr. Phillips are being overtaxed,” Maladecki said. “I would suspect with another 6-7-800 units we would see more traffic.”

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Maladecki is part of the ‘Stop Kimco Save DP’ community group. He says more than 20 HOA presidents in Dr. Phillips are opposed to the apartment proposal.

“We’re not opposed to growth, but we want smart growth,” he said.

Another area of concern for residents is the potential of overcrowding nearby schools.

The apartment idea isn’t the only redevelopment project being eyed in the shopping plaza. Unicorp National Investments wants to demolish a bank to build new restaurants and a three-story parking garage.

“I always hear, ‘greedy developer, greedy developer,’ but I’m in this business because I love it,” Unicorp president Chuck Whittall said.

Whittall says he’s owned the Valley Bank for more than 20 years. The prime real estate, which is at the corner of Sand Lake Road and Dr. Phillips Boulevard, is right in the heart of Orlando’s “Restaurant Row.”

“We’re in the right spot,” Whittall said. “Why wouldn’t you want to bring more restaurants to ‘Restaurant Row?’”

For Coman and others who live in Dr. Phillips, it’s the same reason they’re concerned about the apartments: even more traffic.

“I feel like it’s sneaking up on us,” Coman said. “Thankfully we have social media, and news shows like yours now. If we didn’t have that, they could just do whatever they want and develop everything, every square inch.”

When asked if there’s such a thing as overdevelopment, Whittall responded, “I’m a developer, so I would tell you no. But yeah, there’s overdevelopment. I live here. The problem we have here is not overdevelopment. The problem we have here is the roads haven’t been expanded.”

News 6 has called Kimco Realty, the company behind the apartment idea, a number of times to get a statement on its proposal and whether they plan to meet with the community, but we have not heard back.

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Justin Warmoth joined News 6 in 2013 and is now a morning news anchor.