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SunRail’s extension to connect metro Orlando’s largest employers, encourage transit-oriented development (Video) – Orlando Business Journal

SunRail’s extension to connect metro Orlando’s largest employers, encourage transit-oriented development (Video) – Orlando Business Journal

As Nicola Liquori looked out of the window of a SunRail commuter train parked at a soon-to-be-operational station in Osceola County, she saw cows roaming in nearby pastures and a new residential development taking shape across the street.

She also talked about the future, as more than 1,000 people lined up to tour the station on a hot, rainy May afternoon.

Activity already is percolating around SunRail’s $186.9 million, 17.2-mile southern extension, which will debut by July 30. With the train comes opportunities for property owners around the four new depots to tap into an estimated 2,000 daily riders, adding to the roughly 3,500 people already riding the existing rail system.

“Transit-oriented development is a huge part of the SunRail corridor,” Liquori, SunRail’s executive director, told Orlando Business Journal during a tour of the Poinciana Station.

In fact, several developments — such as Orlando Health’s freestanding emergency room, multiple apartment complexes and hotels — already are in the works around the three train stations being built in Osceola County and one in south Orange County.

The Osceola projects alone are expected to generate a combined $18 million on the tax rolls by 2028. “This has been a long-awaited project,” said Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer, who also is chairwoman of the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission that oversees SunRail. “A lot of people focus on [SunRail] not paying for itself, but the way it pays for itself is by connecting people to jobs and the activity it spurs.”

SunRail’s new segment will extend the rail line from Sand Lake Road in south Orange County into Osceola County and add four new stations:

Orange County’s Meadow Woods neighborhoodDowntown KissimmeeOsceola Parkway near Tupperware Brands Corp.’s (NYSE: TUP) headquartersPoinciana

Already, the transit-oriented projects around those stops have sparked more than $2 billion worth of investment and will help increase the surrounding property values.

In addition, the commuter rail line’s extension will connect the region’s current spread-out workforce to large employers, such as Tupperware Brands.

“We did a ZIP code search for our employees, and some are living right on the SunRail route,” said Tom Roehlk, Tupperware’s vice president of real estate development. “We now are starting to gear up for information sessions in mid-June for our employees.”

In this special report, we take a closer look at each of SunRail’s newest stations and how new development is filling out around them.

Meadow Woods Station

The Meadow Woods Station is the first of the new stations the existing 31-mile SunRail route will extend to, south of what’s now the end of the line: the stop at the intersection of Sand Lake Road and Orange Avenue.

The area is a strong submarket for Central Florida’s workforce, said Atlantic Housing Partners LLLP Principal Scott Culp, because of its proximity to Lake Nona’s Medical City — which has more than 5,000 workers.

Culp’s Winter Park-based firm is building Landstar Village Apartment Homes, a 234-unit, affordable-housing complex at 13000 Breaking Dawn Drive, off Landstar Boulevard south of State Road 417.

The area also has redevelopment opportunities on land owned by the El Shaddai Christian Church Inc. off of Landstar Boulevard south of Wetherbee Road — the previous home of the Meadow Woods Golf Course.

Community activist Jose Hoyos represents the church owner and has advocated for the Meadow Woods Station as the best stop for SunRail officials to develop a transfer station, which would offer riders a direct link to Orlando International Airport in the future. The Florida Department of Transportation is studying an estimated $250 million link to the airport, but it’s still unfunded.

Even now, “there’s not enough road capacity for the residents,” Hoyos told Orlando Business Journal. “Traffic is horrible. I’m working on transportation here first so density will follow.”

Meanwhile, two miles away from the station is the estimated $9.3 million, 62,222-square-foot Landstar Marketplace, a Walmart Neighborhood Market-anchored shopping center being built at 13891 Landstar Blvd. The center is 98 percent leased by tenants including Anytime Fitness, Landstar Dental, Marco’s Pizza, East Wok restaurant and T-Mobile. It’s expected to be fully leased by next month, said Bob Bedard of Deerfield Beach-based project developer Konover South LLC. “It’s clearly a benefit to develop something around the SunRail station,” said the senior vice president of development for Konover South. “Most of our projects are driven by tenants wanting to be somewhere close to transit.”

Residential development also is growing in the area. For example, Meritage Homes is building more than 200 townhomes next to the Landstar Marketplace parcel called the Arbors at Meadow Woods. Townhomes in that community are priced from $231,990.

Kissimmee Station

For areas like Kissimmee — which is expected to have the highest daily ridership of the four new stations with 720 average daily boardings — the new train station in downtown creates a much-needed connection between existing employers and residents.

The Kissimmee Station, which features design elements that give a nod to the city’s history, is within walking distance of the Osceola County Courthouse and Government Center, and Osceola Regional Medical Center, the latter of which employs 3,600.

It also will help move a large portion of the region’s workforce — some of whom don’t have access to dependable transportation — across county borders, shuttling them more efficiently to big job centers in Orange, Seminole and even Volusia counties. “With SunRail, if we can get a decent aggregation of residential developments, it now opens up the job market in Orlando from Kissimmee,” said Kissimmee City Manager Mike Steigerwald. “Now people can live in Kissimmee and work in downtown Orlando.”

The Kissimmee Station is the only new station with an adjacent Lynx Intermodal Station, which serves as the hub for all transit services in Osceola County. That’s why this station is expected to attract more riders.

Meanwhile, several major projects are taking shape in downtown Kissimmee as it gears up for SunRail’s debut:

St. Petersburg-based Mosaic Development LLC is redeveloping 11 acres in downtown Kissimmee, directly across from Lake Toho and the city’s Lakefront Park, which was just part of a $34 million upgrade that also included streetscape and utility enhancements. The $65 million, mixed-use Mosaic project is just two blocks from the downtown Kissimmee SunRail Station and is expected to be completed by 2020. It will feature 570 apartments, 13 townhomes, a 120-room hotel, 15,000 square feet of retail and a 400-space public parking garage.Winter Park-based Group One LLC this month bought a 1-acre site on the northeast corner of Neptune Road, where it wants to build an estimated $41 million, 250-unit market-rate apartment complex — offering new homes within walking distance of the SunRail station for workers at Osceola Regional Medical Center. “Our thought was to secure a developer with a primary focus on residential,” Steigerwald said, adding that Kissimmee has more than 4,000 people working in the medical industry.

Plus, the city expects to issue a request for proposals from developers in about a year to create even more high-density residential development with shops and restaurant space on 20 acres of city-owned land near the SunRail station, Steigerwald told OBJ.

Tupperware Station

As the finishing touches are placed on a Tupperware logo that will be sandblasted onto station signage and benches, it becomes clearer how much is riding on this particular SunRail station.

More than $1 billion in new developments around this station near the intersection of Osceola Parkway and Michigan Avenue — including hotels, a freestanding emergency room and multifamily units — are expected to generate $150 million in economic impact for Osceola County.

Among the projects now underway are:

Orlando Health’s $32 million, 60,000-square-foot Orlando Health Emergency Room & Medical Pavilion-Osceola, which will create 1,000 jobs at buildoutA $52 million, 350-unit market-rate apartment complex being developed by Palm Beach Gardens-based Eastwind Development LLCAn estimated $27.8 million, 128-room Hampton Inn Hotel by Birmingham, Ala.-based Daniel Corp.The 106,882-square-foot, 120-room Sage Park Assisted Living & Memory Care complex being developed by Lake Mary-based Providence One Partners LLC

Orlando Health’s new three-story ER — which is set to be completed this year — will provide a convenient and affordable health care option within close proximity of Tupperware employees. It also will help drive up occupancy rates at the Dr. P. Phillips Hospital that’s roughly 14 miles away off Turkey Lake Road in southwest Orlando. It even will have a ripple effect on the other nearby projects, especially when it comes to the area’s continuum of health care.

The Sage Park project will provide more services to nearby senior living communities, allowing people to comfortably age in place, said Michelle Pierce, chief operating officer at Providence One Partners. “The station is going to have a direct impact on our employees who can use SunRail, as well our residents’ visitors,” Pierce told OBJ. “The greater effect is the impact to the area — it’s going to makes Sage Park and this area more popular.”

But that’s not all, as more development is coming in the near future.

Tupperware’s related Deerfield Land Corp. is in talks with several developers regarding 150 acres still available to accommodate up to 2.5 million square feet of office space, another 1,000 apartments, two hotels with about 250 rooms each, and 200,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, Roehlk said. “The ultimate intent is for us to bring in retail and office development between our headquarters and station. We have the road and utilities to serve the acreage, and the lots are almost all pad-ready.”

Poinciana Station

The city of Poinciana has seen its population surge, as many Puerto Ricans whose homes were destroyed in Hurricane Maria last fall found their way to this western Osceola County community. Poinciana already is one of the county’s fastest-growing residential areas with more than 62,000 residents, as well as being among the region’s fastest-growing employment centers, with more than 1,600 workers at places like the Walt Disney World Resort and Valencia College.

But the city in the past has struggled with having some of the worst commutes in the nation, so a new transit option that doesn’t use roadways will be welcome to residents and workers. It also will help encourage more development in what’s currently the most undeveloped area among the SunRail stations, according to public documents. “Poinciana is going to have the most potential as it has the most available land,” said Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer.

The demand already is there for Poinciana to provide more to its residents and workforce. In fact, Valencia College had 1,200 students enrolled when it opened its Poinciana campus in 2017.

“The reason we built the campus is that community had one of the lowest college-going rates, and that simply was due to a lack of access to higher education,” said Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia’s Osceola and Lake Nona campuses, earlier this year. “Students now will be able to complete an associate of arts degree from Valencia College at the Poinciana campus and then commute via SunRail to Kissimmee to complete a bachelor’s degree at UCF’s Osceola campus or go to Rollins College in Winter Park.”

And there’s more ahead, as the 76-bed Poinciana Medical Center broke ground this year on a $10.1 million expansion. The project includes increasing the hospital’s emergency department beds from 22 to 31, and renovating the lab, ER waiting room and entrance. “In 2017, we saw over 50,000 emergency room visits, and with the population growth in Poinciana and influx of Puerto Ricans, we need to grow our ER,” CEO Chris Cosby previously said.

Meanwhile, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based AV Homes Inc. wants to build Solstice, a new community with 116 townhomes and 211 single-family homes — across from the Poinciana SunRail station.

Track the facts

How well do you know SunRail?

Here are some quick takeaways you should know about the commuter rail:

All emergency call boxes at the stations feature bilingual information.On-board riders have access to free unlimited Wi-Fi, and power outlets to supply power to electronic devices in seating areas that have tabletops.SunRail is installing positive train control technology, which helps keep trains informed about what’s on the tracks ahead so they can avoid crashes safely.SunRail launched operations in May 2014.The existing Sand Lake Road station experiences the highest average ridership.SunRail anticipates having a future connection to the Orlando International Airport.

Source: Florida Department of Transportation, OBJ archives

Who to call

SunRail transit-oriented developments

Here are some key contacts for the projects around the newest commuter rail stations:

Tupperware station: Tom Roehlk (407) 826-4514 Landstar Marketplace near the Meadow Woods station: Bob Bedard (954) 354-8282; bbedard@konoversouth.comDowntown Kissimmee development opportunities: Mike Steigerwald, Kissimmee city manager (407) 518-2314;

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