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West Orange Times & Observer Monday, Jun. 13, 2022 1 month ago

Dr. Phillips residents mobilize against apartment project

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Kimco Realty Corporation released its plans to build more than 850 apartments at the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips.
by: Andrea Mujica Staff Writer

Even though it has not yet filed any applications for zoning changes, Kimco Realty Corporation already has drawn the ire of residents in Dr. Phillips.

The development company released recently details of a plan to bring more than 850 apartments to the Publix-anchored Marketplace at Dr. Phillips. The plan calls for demolishing the now-closed Stein Mart, as well as the Office Depot and HomeGoods stores. In their place, Kimco would construct an eight-story building, as well as two five-story buildings and a parking garage.

If the project earns approval, it would become the first eight-story building in Dr. Phillips and set new standards for future developments. 

The current zoning for the property is commercial, so Kimco would have to apply for and receive rezoning for the project to continue.

Resident Rich Maladecki has lived in the area for almost 25 years and is worried about how this project could affect the area.

“I’m not opposed to growth; I understand growth is a sign of progress,” he said. “But, I’m tired of non-managed growth, because there should be some topics discussed before the growth is even approved.” 

Some of these topics include how the project will impact the traffic patterns and the local schools. 

Currently, Dr. Phillips Elementary School and Southwest Middle School already are at capacity, if not overcrowded. Maladecki raised concerns about how the schools would manage an influx of students if the project gets approved. 

“Is anyone adding that into the equation?” he said. “(Do we) add four more classrooms or three more? How do we manage that? Is someone conducting an analysis of that?” 

Maladecki said 850 apartments would bring more than 1,500 people, exacerbating traffic issues in the area.

“What are we doing about … Sand Lake Road?” Maladecki asked. “What about Della Drive? I ride my bicycle on Della Drive, and right now is a peaceful little road. But do we need to put in dedicated turning lights to keep the flow going? Do we need to widen the roads on Dr. Phillips Boulevard right in that area?”

Paul McGarigal, who has been living in Dr. Phillips since 1972, has been working as a Realtor in the area for 45 years and is currently the president of six or seven HOA associations. He provided an example of responsible growth. 

“Look at how nice the development in Horizon West came out,” he said. “They don’t get a lot of (complaints) from the people who live there, because it’s responsible growth. They are following the rules, they are not asking to do anything crazy, and in most cases, it’s another benefit for the neighborhood. But, this is no benefit to the neighborhood, there is nobody who would benefit from 900 apartments except for the developer.” 

Orange County Commissioner Nicole Wilson, who represents District 1, attended a meeting held Wednesday, June 1, at the Rosen JCC in Dr. Phillips, where more than 500 Dr. Phillips residents voiced concerns about the project.

“She said, ‘I want you all to understand, I will not support this, but I am one of six votes,’” McGarigal said. 

During the meeting, Maladecki informed attendees he is serving on the leadership committee for a new organization that’s being formed in Dr. Phillips, called “DP United.” 

“It’s time for the Dr. Phillips community to work as one,” he said. “I’m tired of very little action, so we decided to do a meeting … (and) challenged everybody to attend and volunteer.”

During the meeting, DP United managed to gather the names and email addresses of 20 to 25 Dr. Phillips HOA elected officials. 

“We’ve never had that before,” Maladecki said. “So if we can get all the HOA’s together representing their individual communities and we act as one unit, I believe that we can have a voice.” 

According to Maladecki, the original intent for the shopping center was to be a convenience for the neighborhoods that were being established in Dr. Phillips. 

Both Maladecki and McGarigal brought up a developer who, pre-pandemic, wanted to develop the northwest corner of Conroy Windermere Road and Apopka Vineland Road into a multi-use residential community. This project was known as “Isleworth area development.” Residents of the area developed yard signs and scattered them throughout Windermere, which essentially stopped the development. 

“DP United’s goal is to develop yard signs that we hope to get out in the next two to three weeks,” Maladecki said. ”We are hoping to print a couple thousand, and everybody can have that on their lawns saying, ‘It’s time to stop this project.’” 

There’s currently a petition to stop the project, with 4,409 signatures of 5,000 already collected, where multiple Dr. Phillips citizens have expressed their opposing arguments to the proposed development. 

“Our neighborhood is already too crowded,” Shaista Usmani wrote in the petition. “It takes 30 minutes from exit at I-4 on Sand Lake Road to Apopka Vineland Road. In the past, it took five minutes only. I am a physician, and to go to Arnold Palmer Hospital or AdventHealth for Children for an emergency has become a nightmare.” 

Dr. Phillips resident Seema Rafay agreed, also voicing her opinion in the petition.

“I have lived in Dr. Phillips for over 20 years and have been seeing the constant increase in traffic while the roads remain at 1980 capacity,” Rafay wrote. “It is an inconceivable idea to erect a building to house 800 apartments without the infrastructure of roadways and access to support the population influx as a result of it. The fact that it would be an eyesore to a quiet residential neighborhood is in and of itself, an atrocity!”

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Andrea Mujica is a staff writer for the West Orange Times & Observer, the Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida....

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