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West Orange Times & Observer Monday, Jan. 10, 2022 2 weeks ago

FORECAST: Fifteen minutes from everywhere: City Center West Orange phase 1 opening delayed to 2024

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Despite delays caused by COVID-19, the developer behind City Center West Orange in Ocoee remains confident in his dream to build Ocoee’s crown jewel.
by: Chris Martucci Sports Editor

It’s been four years since the developer for Ocoee’s City Center West Orange project broke ground. 

David Townsend, CEO of CCWO, had the West Orange city buzzing when he unveiled his “city within a city” project. The massive 300,000-square-foot, mixed-use facility includes retail, office and residential spaces. The site is located north of State Road 50 and east of South Bluford Avenue with Maine Street running through it, resting on roughly 100 acres of land. 

Originally, the project’s first phase was scheduled to be completed in 2022. However, Townsend said the timeline has been pushed back two years — to 2024 — because of delays caused by COVID-19.

However, Townsend believes two years is a short time to wait for what he hopes will be a source of pride for not only the city but also the future residents of City Center West Orange. 

“It’s designed around the residents’ convenience,” Townsend said of the project. “The way the whole project is designed, you are within a few hundred feet of grocery, restaurants, hair, stores. You literally just have to walk across the street, and you are right on top of the retail space or you’re living above it, so it’s designed for renter convenience. You don’t have to get in your car to go to the grocery store.” 

Ocoee Planning and Zoning Director Mike Rumer believes when it finally opens, the project will be a “destination location” for not just the residents of the complex, but for all residents in the city of Ocoee. 

“It is just off (Florida’s) Turnpike,  (State Road) 408, and (State Road) 429. It will be a destination spot with the retail and restaurants that are there … in that first phase,” Rumer said. 

He said City Center West Orange already has submitted another building permit for one of the structures tied into the project. The parking garages that will be part of it already have been constructed.

“They have finalized the design on the wraparound building, and it will be big mobilization,” Rumer said. “You won’t be able to go near the place for a good year-and-a-half.”

THE FUTURE

So far, only Phase 1 of the project has been approved. This will feature two mixed-use buildings —one residential and one vacation rental. Both will have retail and restaurant space, along with office space. This will take up 200,000 of the 300,000 total square feet of the entire project. 

Phase 1 also will feature between 500 to 600 apartment units, primarily used as senior living space. Phase 2 , when approved, would provide an additional 700 apartments. Once the whole project has been completed, there would be more than 2,000 apartments for a variety of residents. 

With amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants and more within walking distance, residents would not have to rely on their cars for much of anything. Plenty of garage space is expected to be provided within the property. The easy access to Orlando’s attractions and Orlando International Airport also is expected to be a draw.

“You are, in essence, 15 minutes from everywhere,” Townsend said. “While it will be a leisurely 25 minutes over to Orlando International, it’s not that crazy of a drive, like going to (Los Angeles International Airport).” 

After originally being scheduled to be completed in 2022, Phase 1 is now expected to be completed in 2024 after experiencing delays due to the pandemic. Townsend said although the work inside the office has changed, that does not mean that construction has been on hold. 

“We’re managing along right now,” Townsend said. “Just like everybody else, we’re doing the best we can to keep the fires burning. Other than that, not much has really changed other than we’re not in our offices. We’re still building and going forward. It’ll take a bit longer, but we are still going.” 

Rising inflation, which reached a peak of 6.8% in November, has added an extra 6% to 8% cost on construction goods for the company, on top of its $200 million budget for Phase 1 of the project. Townsend, however, said he is optimistic the company will stay within budget. 

GROWING WITH OCOEE

In addition to City Center West Orange, there is still plenty going on in Ocoee as the city works to accommodate the increase in population.

The population of the city from the 2020 census was 48,623 but is now steadily approaching 50,000 residents, according to latest estimates provided by the city.

Rumer said most of the projects that already were in development prior to the pandemic still are going at full speed. That includes the refurbishment of the exterior of City Hall, which is expected to be completed in April or May. 

“I’m on the first floor, so I’ll be the last one to move in,” Rumer said. “The skin of the outside is finishing up.” 

One of the other projects that is in the beginning stages of work has been the Master Pond Park in downtown Ocoee. The park will stretch from Bluford to Cumberland avenues. The area between Cumberland and West Oakland avenues will be refurbished to accommodate the next expansion and the inevitable foot traffic the park will bring. 

“They’re a good ways into that project,” Rumer said. 

The project is estimated to cost $6 million. 

The city also has earmarked $2.25 million for the Wellness Park construction project and $750,000 for the Bluford Complete Street project. A total of $690,000 is set aside for other park improvements, which include $100,000 to replace the natural turf with synthetic turf at Withers-Maguire House, $170,000 to renovate the tennis court at Tiger Minor Park and $250,000 for the installation of a skate park to a designated park. 

Rumer said City Manager Robert Frank and the city commissioners remain dedicated to supporting growth for the future of Ocoee.

“We’ve had great support (from the commission),” Rumer said. “They see the vision; they get it. We’re starting to see a lot of rehabilitation, a lot of sales … and that migration of jobs. Value is being added to the downtown, even with all the skeleton work we’re doing.

“(The commission) is on board; they’re excited,” he said. “They understand the fruit of what we’re trying to do, and it’s working out. It takes a while. Making the meatloaf you don’t see, but you eventually get to enjoy it.” 

Townsend agrees.

“Ocoee is a wonderful place; a very nice town, and the people that run it are very accommodating, and it’s a very progressive place to be,” he said. “The staff and Mayor (Rusty) Johnson have been wonderful. I could not be more pleased in their assistance helping us along with the project. It has been the most pleasurable city relationship I have ever had in developing.” 

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Chris Martucci is the sports editor for the West Orange Times & Observer,  Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. He holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism, as well as a bachelor's degree in...

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