Ocoee jumps on development opportunities in downtown, Starke Lake

Commissioners voted move forward with negotiating the purchase of the Gettings Studio property and voted to allow development 2 N. Bluford Ave.


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  • | 11:27 a.m. March 6, 2019
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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As the growth continues throughout Orange County, Ocoee seems to be growing along with it.

Ocoee commissioners during the March 5 commission meeting took steps toward furthering the city’s development opportunities along Starke Lake and in downtown.

City leaders voted to have staff work on negotiating a lease agreement and contract to purchase the Gettings Studio property, located at 275 N. Lakeshore Drive. Commissioners also voted to allow VMG Construction Inc. to build a two-story commercial building on the city-owned property on 2 N. Bluford Ave. in downtown.

The Gettings Studio property is appraised at $1.92 million, but the city is offering to purchase it for $2.5 million. The property’s unique location along Starke Lake makes it a necessary component to the city’s efforts to revitalize and improve the lakefront park. In addition to taking steps to purchasing the property, the city will be negotiating a lease with the current property owner so he can continue running his recording studio for period of approximately five years, Assistant City Manager Craig Shadrix said.

“We feel like this is a very good deal because they do have legitimate offers for more money to continue the use of the facility as a recording studio,” Shadrix said. “Obviously, that (type of use) is not something that we would be doing. There are a number of things that I’ve discussed with most of you that could be done there to enhance that (area), including aquatic recreational uses, commercial uses, etc.”

“We would enter into this five-year lease where they (current property owner) would still have the right to use the studio, but the city would have the right to use the rest of the property,” City Attorney Scott Cookson added. “We had also talked about some limited opportunities to actually use the studio for events during that five-year period.”

City leaders commented on the importance of the property as it relates to improvements of the lakefront park and expressed their excitement at the different opportunities purchasing the property opens up.

“Even though I’ve been a commissioner for six years, I’ve been with the city for 16,” Commissioner John Grogan said. “On many of the boards that (I’ve been) on, there was always discussion about that property and doing a lot of stuff over there. … We (don’t) have much of a choice but to pursue this and bring that (property) into the city and make that part of the development and make that part of the parks system. It’s pretty exciting, actually.”

“I’m excited about this,” Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen said. “I realize it’s quite a large amount of money, but I think that, overall, the benefit it will be for us in the city (is big). And I think it will just enhance our downtown project — the park. I think that it’s just one more piece of the puzzle, and I think it’s got a lot of potential.”

Although the city is offering to purchase the property above the appraised value, the city does not have to pay the full $2.5 million up front as there’s also an option to spread out the payments over a five-year period, according to the agenda.

The new commercial building VMG will be constructing in downtown will be a mixed-use building with spaces reserved for office and restaurant uses. After city leaders voted during the Feb. 13 commission meeting to rescind their decision to convert the house located on 2 N. Bluford into a bed and breakfast, city staff drew up some conceptual renderings of a two-story commercial building on the property. The renderings show a modern, two story building with outdoor patio spaces and outdoor dining spaces on the first and second floors.

In a recent meeting between city staff and VMG representatives regarding a separate project, the VMG representatives saw the renderings and offered to construct the building in exchange for the property. The building is estimated to cost $4 to $5 million to construct. VMG will be bound to constructing the building modeled in the renderings, Shadrix said.

“Once VMG Construction completes their obligations and receives a certificate of occupancy, then we would deed the property to VMG Construction,” Shadrix said. “In exchange for them building a $4 to $5 million commercial office/restaurant building with a rooftop deck and everything, that’s a very good tradeoff for us. … They have to build that building that’s rendered or the deal is off.”

Commissioner George Oliver was absent from the meeting.

 

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