Senior housing kicked off Mall project; Students could be bussed 8 miles

Nydia Torres is a nurse at Advent Health. She’d like to retire in Oviedo, the place she’s called home for 26 years, and said it would be great to have dedicated senior housing in the community.

She attended the Oviedo City Council meeting Monday night with the hope that members would deny a developer’s request to remove the age restriction on 175 of the total 425 housing units planned to be built in the former Macy’s location at the Oviedo Mall.

The request was ultimately approved although several Council members expressed dismay that unassisted senior housing would no longer be part of the project.

“I am disappointed in getting rid of senior housing here. I think that’s a community we have here that was really looking forward to some senior housing,” Councilwoman Natalie Teuchert said, asking the developer to explain why it was being removed.

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Project consultant Jonathan Martin said that the project originally had two different developers, one of whom had planned to build the senior housing. Due to pandemic-related issues, both developers dropped out of the project and the current developer did not think the market would generate enough interest for the 175 units.

“It’s kind of interesting, when you think of age-restricted housing, you typically think that it’s subsidized somehow but it’s usually higher in rent,” he said, citing the costs associated with increased amenities at a typical senior-specific project.

“We are definitely interested in those tenants but the developer didn’t think he would be able to garner interest in those 175 units,” he said. “Our client wants to relieve himself of that restriction.”

Mayor Megan Sladek asked City Manager Bryan Cobb if there were any age-restricted communities within Oviedo’s city limits. “Not to my knowledge,” he said. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, 9.4% of Oviedo residents are 65 years and older.

Sladek said she’s confident that when the demand is there, developers will answer the call.

“I share everyone’s bummer mentality that seniors may not have an age-specific community in Oviedo, but these things ought to be market driven, in my opinion, and when there is sufficient demand, I think the market will come back and say that instead of Oviedo being a place where people say ‘I’m picking that because of the schools’, people will say ‘I’m picking that because it’s where I want to retire,’” Sladek said.

Councilman Keith Britton said the new amenities built into the mall project will likely still be attractive to seniors, saying that just having an indoor place to escape the heat will be a boon.

“The age restriction to me is kind of a moot point. Folks can still live there,” he said, adding that the city plans to offer more senior-centered activities.

During a recent budget work session, the Council agreed to nix the $2.5 million earmarked for a dedicated senior center in favor of offering daily senior programming in Riverside Park’s 2,442-square-foot multi-purpose room.

Nearby schools likely too full for children of new residents

The change to this project will bring 21 additional elementary students to the area for a total of 66. These students would likely have to be bussed to Layer Elementary School in Winter Springs – an 8-mile ride.

The removal of the 175 age-restricted units from the Oviedo Mall housing project in the former Macy’s store location is expected to result in more students in the area, according to City of Oviedo figures.

If the zoned schools are over capacity, Florida law says development can still occur so long as there’s capacity within a certain proximity to that school, called the attendance zone. When it’s time to pull building permits, residential developers must first get approval from the local School Board in the form of a School Capacity Availability Letter of Determination, or SCALD letter, based on capacity.

Seminole County Public Schools director of project management and facilities Richard LeBlanc told OCN in a previous interview that the School Board has never denied a developer’s SCALD request because there has always been capacity within the attendance zone.

Sladek said that because of state law, there’s nothing the Council can do.

“We’re concerned that kids will be bussed past the three closest schools to go to the fourth closest school but the way things are in Florida, that’s not one of our choices,” Sladek said.

Cobb said there’s sufficient capacity at the project’s zoned middle and high schools.

A quick note on traffic

In order to ensure that the traffic the project will generate stays within the required limit, the developer decreased the total retail square footage slightly as retail was said to generate more traffic than residential.

 Watch the full meeting

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