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Questions about where kids will attend school and potential traffic issues punctuated a discussion about additional housing at the Oviedo Mall during last week’s Oviedo Local Planning Agency board meeting.
A plan to add 328 multi-family dwelling units to the mall property is moving forward following the board’s Jan. 31 unanimous approval of an amendment to the Oviedo Mall’s development plan. The proposed site is expected to be along the northwest side of the mall property – currently empty fields.
The amendment allows the mall to use 26,157 of its more than 1 million square feet of retail space for the dwelling units. In addition to the housing, 623 parking spaces will be changed from mall parking to residential parking, along with 16 bike spaces.
“The mall is a vital piece of property,” Jo O. Thacker, Esq., who represents the plan applicants, said at the LPA meeting. “It’s been underutilized and it’s been there for a long time, and so now it’s time to redevelop it, make it be a vital part of the city of Oviedo.”
This project is separate from the approved 425-dwelling unit project within the former Macy’s department store property. That project also includes plans for 127,000 square feet of retail space and a 124-room hotel.
The development is expected to hold about 1,000 new residents, including an anticipated 51 elementary school students, 20 middle school students and 27 high school students, according to the proposal.
To accommodate the additional students, Seminole County Public Schools have looked at the Concurrency Service Areas – the geographic boundaries of schools – to ensure that there is room at nearby schools for the students.
“We do [currently] have capacity,” Seminole County Public Schools facilities planner Jordan Smith said. “Our goal is not to have a student on the bus for [more than] 50 minutes. We do everything in our power to make sure that the students can attend and go to school.”
Despite the potential influx of new students, Smith said that rezoning is not needed at this time.
While the current amendment was approved, there are still major steps needed before construction begins. Additional applications will be needed to advance the process.
Among the concerns of local residents is how traffic will be impacted with the additional housing.
“If you ever stand on the corner of Oviedo Boulevard and Broadway at 8 o’clock in the morning or 5 o’clock in the evening, it’s a traffic nightmare. And Oviedo [Mall] Boulevard is the shortcut around that,” said Lawrence Dinapoli, who lives in a nearby townhouse complex on Silverweed Way. “The speed limit is 35 [mph]. Nobody travels at 35 miles per hour [at those times].
“These … developments are going to make things entirely worse, in extreme fashion. I’m concerned about it. There’s lots of children in our development.
“We can’t just continue to build, build, build without understanding what we need to do around it,” he said. “It just seems to be much too quick, much too fast.”
Mall officials do not believe the added units will generate too much of a traffic problem. One of the goals of the development is to create more foot traffic to the mall, especially as efforts to include more amenities for new residents at the facility continues. In fact, the plans aim to funnel foot traffic from the new buildings toward the mall.
“The traffic will be on major roads, they won’t be in their neighborhoods,” Oviedo Mall Development Director Kevin Hipes said. “Most of the traffic will be what we call internal flow, because if people live here and work here and eat here and play here, they’re not going on major roads.”
Hipes said the master plan he is working on with mall owners includes making one wing a medical-focused area, with retail, food and work spaces in the remaining portion of the mall.
“It’s the commercial district, and that area is set up for more traffic,” Hipes said. “It’s not a perfect world, but it’s the best place to put more residential [units].”
Editor’s note: Due to issues with the City of Oviedo’s system, the video for this LPA meeting is not available.