Long-awaited Ocoee master plans realized

City commissioners approved funding for the Downtown Master Plan and adopted the State Road 429 Master Plan.

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  • | 9:58 p.m. January 19, 2016
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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OCOEE  Excitement exuded palpably Jan. 19 from Ocoee City Hall as the Ocoee City Commission approved not one, but two master plans that will produce infrastructure for economic development residents have demanded for decades.

First was a budget adjustment of $635,710 for debt service payments on the $14 million planned bond issue to fund the Ocoee Downtown Master Plan.

"This is one of the most positive things I think I've heard out of this commission and the staff since we paved Clarke Road," resident Mike Hopper said. "I would also ask you to be diligent when you have to buy property ... to make sure it's the right parcel. ... I think it's going to be worth every penny that you spend."

Funding will go toward a corridor between McKey Street and Silver Star Road that will economically complement everything around it and serve as a block structure from street to street, Assistant City Manager Craig Shadrix said.

Second, Shadrix presented the State Road 429 Master Plan within the context of the Downtown Master Plan. The S.R. 429 interchange at West Franklin Street and East Plant Street that serves as a border between Ocoee and Winter Garden is a central point of four distinct economic areas, which makes it inherently valuable and important, Shadrix said. Those are an office and educational campus to the north near the West Road S.R. 429 interchange, revitalization of the West Colonial Drive corridor to the south and, most importantly, the downtowns of Ocoee and Winter Garden to the east and west.

"The crown jewel, believe it or not, was the Franklin-Plant interchange, because it connects the two downtowns," Shadrix said.

While Ocoee is trying to develop its downtown area and extend that west to West Franklin Street, Winter Garden is looking at developing East Plant Street, so the timing was perfect and made sense to continue forward in the synergistic relationship between Ocoee and Winter Garden to develop a corporate business hub and better connect Ocoee to the West Orange Trail, he said.

Resident Aleida Verdasco said she was proud of how far Ocoee has come, especially in the last few months, to start seeing fruition. She also wants Ocoee to follow this vision throughout the city.

"I do like the idea of the urban feel we're moving toward," she said. "I do ask ... that we try and continue this proactive way of thinking. Let's not just look at the here and now ... There's a lot of other areas in the city of Ocoee that we're looking to develop. ... There's a lot of commercials areas that still need to be built up."

All four commissioners and Mayor Rusty Johnson said they were thrilled to see these plans moving forward, with District 1 Commissioner John Grogan noting how impressed he was that staff already was prepared to enact them. District 4 Commissioner Joel Keller said he would meet with staff of Gov. Rick Scott to ensure Ocoee would have his support, unlike when he pulled funding last year.

Shadrix said implementing the necessary infrastructure -- starting immediately -- should attract quality businesses that provide great jobs and raise life quality in Ocoee as a result. Some aspects he mentioned that must be done to frame the downtown area were a coming Bluford Avenue streetscape project, a Main Street extension from Bluford Avenue to Maguire Road and downtown logo design.

"We got some things that we can do now," Shadrix said. "So there's going to be a short-term push to get infrastructure done. While that's going on, there's going to be a huge public involvement program that's part of this."

In adoption of the State Road 429 Master Plan, the commission also asked staff to create a moratorium of a few months in a specific area around that road, in preparation for a large land development code update.

"There's a tremendous chain reaction of projects," Shadrix said. "You're going to see a lot of roads torn up and a lot of signs out very soon -- you can see them starting now. With the level of investment you've taken in the city, it's time, finally, for us to start turning dirt, so it's a very exciting time."


In a followup to his comments at the Jan. 5 meeting, District 3 Commissioner Angel de la Portilla said talks with developers about the abandoned BP gas station at the southwest corner of Maguire Road and West Colonial Drive had led to developers agreeing to tear down the decrepit property soon.

Developers are preparing plans for a nice development in that location, and that would help increase dramatically the revenue for the city from that property and, eventually, the former Colony Plaza location, de la Portilla said.


  • District 2 Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen said residents had expressed displeasure with red light cameras in the city, most of which are along West Colonial Drive and temporarily affected by construction. She asked staff to look beyond just money to what statistics show as true benefits of red light cameras -- whether they actually make roads safer.
  • The commission voted to continue its lien reduction program after a trial phase of the final three months of 2015 showed a success of more than $30,000 in lien payments. Keller said alerting property owners to liens they had been unaware of was an added bonus.
  • Commissioners discussed citizen input on potential charter review but took no action on the matter.
  • Per commission vote, the March 15 commission meeting is canceled because of elections that week affecting three commission seats. No makeup date was announced.

Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].


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