Central Florida Roundup
Boundless? Orlando extends its growth eastward
Named generations ago by Native Americans for the man-made earthen mounds along its banks, the Econlockhatchee River twists and turns though central Florida for more than 50 miles. And for many years, the “Econ” has marked an unofficial boundary for metro Orlando’s eastern sprawl.
No more. In mid-July, a divided Orange County Commission voted to rewrite the county’s growth plan to accommodate two developments east of the Econ, which together could bring more than 4,000 housing units on about 2,800 acres.
The person most responsible for the decision was local developer Dwight Saathoff, whose mixed-use community, Grow, is the furthest along of the two east-of-the-Econ housing projects. Saathoff won over county planners (and four of the seven commissioners) by arguing that Orange County, which is growing at nearly 60,000 residents each year, will soon need new housing stock, particularly on its eastern side near the University of Central Florida — which itself sprawls almost to the river’s west bank.
“Anybody being recruited to work at UCF or the other major companies in that corridor is told, essentially, ‘If you want a new house, you’ve got to look 10 to 15 miles away,’’ says Saathoff, who has spent about four years working on his project.
It helped that Saathoff was pitching a novel project. Billed as an “agrihood,” the 1,237-acre Grow will be centered around a nine-acre working farm and include 12½ miles of trails with edible landscaping and 21 acres of 4-by-10-foot community garden tracts equipped with irrigation systems and implement sheds.
Saathoff, who comes from a family of Midwestern farmers, says the concept for Grow arose after a family health scare prompted him to begin researching healthy living trends. The developer brought in Farmer D Organics of Atlanta as a consultant to help flesh out the details.
Though he says it wasn’t the primary motivation, the agricultural neighborhood approach softened some of the opposition to the project. “In an area where some of the opposition was based on the notion that you’re entering a rural area, it seemed to really help with respect to creating a compatible-type use,” Saathoff says.
Innovation Strong Signal
Two-year-old Helical Communication Technologies develops omnidirectional antennas designed to offer improved communications with satellites in both low Earth orbit and deep space. The company, based in Rockledge, says its specialized antennas, which can be both ground-based or space-based, offer more reliable communication than traditional linear polarized antennas, which can experience signal fades. Helical was one of five Brevard County companies chosen for Technology Docking grants through a partnership between NASA and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. The goal of the program is to support small and medium-sized manufacturers that can work with NASA to “solve a technology challenge.”
LAKE BUENA VISTA — Walt Disney World erected signs warning visitors of the presence of alligators and snakes in its waters and removed alligators from certain areas after an alligator killed a child at the resort. » A new attraction at Disney World based on the Frozen movie opened to hours-long lines.
LAKE COUNTY — County economic development officials are considering building half a dozen or more disc golf courses in hopes of carving out a new sports-tourism niche.
MELBOURNE — Aerospace tech company Thales will add 327 employees by 2020.
MERRITT ISLAND — The Brevard Veterans Memorial Center opened a 6,000-sq.- ft. Expansion housing a two-story military museum. The project was financed in part by state and local economic development grants.
ORANGE COUNTY — Former ’N Sync member and Orlando resident Joey Fatone plans to open a hotdog business at the Florida Mall called Fat One’s Hot Dogs and Italian Ice.
ORLANDO — Kenneth Feinberg, the mediation attorney who served as special master of the federal government of the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund, was appointed administrator of the OneOrlando fund, set up to help victims of the June 12 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub. The city also appointed Orlando Magic President Alex Martins chairman of the board that oversees the fund. » The Small Business Administration offered long-term loans to businesses affected by the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub. Meanwhile, the county- run Orange County Regional History Center says it will collect mementos left on the lawn of downtown’s performing arts center in a makeshift Pulse memorial and preserve them in a permanent exhibit. » A team comprised of SchenkelShultz Architecture, Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Skanska USA Building won the designbuild contract for the $60-million academic building that will serve as the centerpiece of the University of Central Florida’s new downtown campus. » The U.S. Department of Transportation gave JetBlue Airways permission to begin commercial service between Orlando and Havana, Cuba. » Fairwinds Credit Union signed for onefifth of the space and the naming rights to a 28-story tower that will be the first new high-rise in downtown Orlando since the recession. The tower, developed by Lincoln Property, will also house the region’s first indoor SunRail station.
OVIEDO — Health Central Hospital, part of the Orlando Health chain, opened an emergency room with 52 beds — 10 more than it had — and a new tower, boosting its total capacity to 211 beds.
SANFORD — HCA’s Central Florida Regional Medical Center was designated a level II trauma center, as was the company’s Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee.
SEMINOLE COUNTY — County commissioners voted to begin allowing some residents to raise chickens in residential areas. Three more cities in Seminole County — Lake Mary, Longwood and Sanford — joined Altamonte Springs in subsidizing trips using the ride-sharing app Uber that begin or end within their borders. Maitland, in Orange County, has also joined in.
SUMTER COUNTY — TECO is installing a natural gas pipeline south of The Villages in anticipation of future growth spurred by the mammoth retirement community.
» The Florida Department of Transportation appointed Nicola Liquori executive director of the SunRail commuter train system. Liquori had been CFO of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise.
» Florida Hospital Medical Group, a subsidiary of Altamonte Springs-based Adventist Health System, appointed Howard Drenth CEO. Drenth, previously president and CEO of Presence Medical Group in Chicago, will oversee a network that includes more than 140 offices and more than 370 physicians.