DOWNTOWN ORLANDO – College Park apartment project moves forward, earns mixed reaction from residents
The largest real-estate development to come to College Park in nearly a decade won preliminary approval Tuesday.
The Princeton at College Park would include 226 apartments on a key block just off Edgewater Drive, the commercial artery that’s at the heart of the neighborhood. It would sit behind a commercial plaza that fronts Edgewater, on a trapezoid of land between Princeton and Smith streets.
It would be next door to the Wellesley, a seven-story mix of condos and shops that opened in 2006, prompting a lot of hand-wringing in a neighborhood where longtime residents treasure the past and most commercial buildings were a single story.
In contrast, the Princeton project had a much easier time when it went before the city’s planning board Tuesday. More than 100 neighborhood residents attended the meeting. Some supported it, saying more people living in the area would be good for businesses.
“If you live in a city, you need people, you need homes,” said salon owner Debbie Sheehan, “As a business owner, we want more people walking along the street.”
Most of those who objected said they weren’t opposed to the overall project, but to its architectural design or size.
As planned, the 3.4 acre project would be five stories at its highest point closest to Edgewater Drive, then step down to four stories and then three stories as it extends east, closer to houses.
The planning board supported a request for a density bonus, allowing 226 residential units within the property, 89 more than would have been allowed otherwise. It also includes a 439-space parking garage, an existing surface parking lot and street parking. The project still must be approved by the City Council.
“We understand growth and look forward to it in College Park. It’s really just the management of that growth,” homeowner Robert DiCerbo said, adding that the project should be scaled down “from what seems to be a very big building in a very small space.”
The commercial strip, which the developer does not own, would remain largely unchanged because its tenants have long-term leases.
But residents also are worried the new development would put more traffic on busy Edgewater Drive, as well as intersections at Princeton and Smith. A traffic study predicted the project would add about 1,500 additional trips per day.
“It is an increase in traffic, but we believe the intersections can handle the increase,” city planner Michaëlle Petion said.
A representative of the Atlanta developer, Pollack Shores Real Estate Group, committed to install traffic-calming features and redesign access to the site in a way that would reduce traffic impacts.
The developer has met with neighborhood residents to hear their concerns and launched a Facebook page to share information and answer questions. Anthony Everett, the company’s Central Florida director, said the developer reduced the number of units and the height on the east side of the property in deference to residents’ concerns.
“We want to be good neighbors. We’re trying to lessen our impact as much as possible,” Everett said.