By Tony Judnich
By mid-March, West Orange residents and visitors should be able to enjoy treats such as homemade bread, artisan chocolates, gourmet coffee and craft brew at the Plant Street Market.
But before that vision becomes a reality, a vacant eyesore must be removed from the project site at 426 W. Plant St.
During the next couple of weeks, workers from CW Hayes Construction Co., of Oviedo, will remove asbestos from the former Shady Hill Garden Apartments at the project site, Winter Garden Economic Development Director Tanja Gerhartz said on July 9. Workers then will demolish the three, two-story apartment buildings.
Gerhartz said the asbestos removal and demolition work will take a total of about three or four weeks.
“Then they’ll pour the foundation and start construction,” she said.
The grand opening of the 12,000-square-foot Plant Street Market is scheduled for March 14, the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. The market is owned by Plant Street Market LLC, which is led by West Orange residents Robert Scott, Jared Czachorowski and Andy Sheeter.
The company closed on the property June 26 and is investing close to $3 million on the project. That figure includes the purchase of the property, Gerhartz said.
The project site is one block west of City Hall. It’s bounded by Plant Street to the north, South Central Avenue to the east, West Smith Street and the city of Winter Garden ball fields to the south and a few businesses, single-family homes and South Park Avenue to the west.
The low-income Shady Hill Garden Apartments consisted of 20 units that were built in 1973 on a site that is just less than an acre in size. Many people won’t miss this development, city officials indicated.
For example, City Manager Mike Bollhoefer on July 2 recalled problems he experienced when he lived across from the apartments many years ago. On most weekends back then, he said, many Shady Hill residents partied and fought loudly, which led to him frequently call the police.
“It was a dump,” Bollhoefer said of the apartment complex.
Gerhartz shared a similar sentiment.
“It was pretty rough,” she said July 9.
The city is supporting the Plant Street Market by providing:
• $30,000 worth of building fee assistance
• $60,000 in façade grants from its Community Redevelopment Agency
• Up to $86,000 in streetscape improvements. These include adding sidewalks, streetlights, utilities, benches, bike-racks and on-street parking spots, as well as converting an empty green space adjacent to South Central Avenue into a 55-space parking lot.
Previously, South Central Avenue “wasn’t a street that anyone felt comfortable walking down, so it makes sense for us now to put in sidewalks and streetlights and activate it, because it will have a great commercial use,” Gerhartz said.
The market will include a microbrewery and taproom operated by Plant Street Market LLC’s Crooked Can Brewing Co. It also will house businesses such as Axum Coffee, Euro Bake World, David Ramirez Chocolates and The Red Pan, which will offer authentic paella.
Other possible vendors include artists, a charcuterie, sushi bar, cheese maker, wine store, fish market, juice bar, plant store, local farm store and raw oyster bar, said Suzanne Scott, who is Robert Scott’s wife and handles sales and marketing for Plant Street Market LLC.
“My hope is to have everything your heart desires under one roof,” she said.
In addition to a variety of vendors, the market will host live music and art shows and provide a space for local community group meetings, events and classes.
“Florida needs more community-oriented locations,” said Suzanne Scott, who grew up in New York and used to live in Seattle.
She said Plant Street Market’s look and ambiance will be somewhat similar to Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the East End Market in Orlando’s Audubon Park neighborhood.
The Plant Street Market building’s exterior will feature a stucco and brick façade, consistent with many of the historic buildings downtown. While the market structure will stand two stories tall, its interior will resemble a one-story building with high ceilings, Gerhartz said.
The market “will help extend the downtown to the west,” she said. “It will be an anchor destination for downtown.”