With young families and professionals increasingly priced out of the Orlando residential market, there’s a place not far away poised for exponential growth. That setting is Osceola County, just south of Orlando.
Having surpassed Orange County to lead the region with 5,372 new home starts in 2019, Osceola County is set to attract successive waves of new development in coming years. That should give it growing appeal for those working in Orlando-area job hubs like Lake Nona Medical Park, Kissimmee’s Neo City and Orlando International Airport, who find Orange County home prices less and less affordable.
With the exception of The Villages, in Sumter County northwest of Orlando, no other area in the Sunshine State is in store for as rapid an anticipated population explosion.
Among those intrigued by the promise of Osceola County is Fort Lauderdale-based BTI Partners. The real estate development and land investment firm acquired 1,400 acres of prime Osceola County land last year. Its plans? To build a community called Crossprairie, made up of 5,200 residential units, 1 million square feet of commercial space, 1.9 million square feet of office space and 600 hotel rooms. Hallmarks of healthy lifestyles – bike lanes, a linear park and extensive trail systems and natural areas – are part of the plan.
“Nearly two decades ago, Osceola County recognized the impending shift of metro Orlando growth toward the county, and saw the need to transform its rural and low-density suburban development pattern,” says Susan Caswell, AICP, Osceola County assistant community development administrator.
“Working with the Urban Land Institute, the county explored this opportunity and developed an urban growth model, which was implemented through several mixed-use districts encompassing more than 50,000 acres of land.”
Crossprairie is part of what is called the East of Toho Mixed-Use District, she continues.
“These areas are developing with a mix of residential and non-residential uses: parks, trails and amenities located throughout; and highly-connected road networks that will provide easy access to jobs, services and amenities and will be accessible by car or transit, as well as [by] pedestrians and bicyclists,” Caswell says.
Osceola County is primed to be the Orlando MSA’s fastest-growing county in the coming decade, its population forecast to surge by more than 50%. So says Noah Breakstone, CEO of BTI Partners. Orlando, like several other MSAs in Florida, continues to suffer from an undersupplied housing inventory. Given the steady job and population growth in the Orlando area, the byproduct has naturally been rapid home price appreciation, he notes. “We received significant interest from the nation’s largest homebuilders very early in our community planning process, all of whom recognize the current transformation of Osceola and the rationale for a significant increase in housing supply at our location,” he says.
Lake Nona and Narcoossee Corridor are high-salary job hubs that in addition to the Disney attractions create development demand, says Ken Krasnow, vice chairman of institutional investor services for the Florida region for Colliers International Florida.
“As vacant and redevelopment land in and around Orlando CBD are absorbed or become cost prohibitive, developers and builders are forced to focus more on the outlying areas of Central Florida, where suitable property is available and significantly less expensive,” he says. “Osceola County has been a target area for some time, and [interest] has grown more intense in the past couple years.”
With retailers and distributors seeking Central Florida distribution centers, industrial development will also be essential in the years ahead. “Because of the central location of Osceola County and easy access to major thoroughfares, industrial use has come to the forefront of demand in and around Osceola County, Krasnow concludes.