A snapshot of what West Orange County’s top towns are planning both commercially and residentially.
Back in 1989, when I moved from New Jersey to Orlando, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Not that I didn’t like New Jersey, but when I learned there was a place in my very own country where the sun shines every day, I knew I would never go back. I’m not the only one who loves sunshine since nearly 750,000 people followed me here. Orange County’s population grew from 650,500 people in 1989 to nearly 1.4 million this year.
The people haven’t stopped coming, with 1,500 new residents moving into Orange County every week. With this population gain, there are challenges. Housing, schools, roads and parks are all struggling to keep up with the demand. However, our local leaders are aware of the issues, and they work together for regional gains. I have the pleasure of meeting with our County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey and the mayors and managers of Oakland, Kathy Stark and Steve Koontz; Ocoee, Rusty Johnson and Rob Frank; Windermere, Jim O’Brien and Robert Smith; Winter Garden, John Rees and Mike Bollhoefer; and our school board representatives, Pam Gould and Melissa Byrd, on a quarterly basis. These informal luncheons generate wonderful ideas that strengthen our region.
The region is so strong that there is too much to talk about, and I know I won’t do them justice. However, here’s just a snapshot for these communities which is why we continue to attract new residents.
Oakland, even though nearly built out for residential projects, is working on commercial development along SR 50 and is building The Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center along the West Orange Trail. Ocoee hasn’t only seen growth in residential units but also in its areas for commercial development with projects in the Community Redevelopment Agency area along SR 50, Maguire and Clarke Roads, and a master plan for its downtown. A new city hall will break ground later this year and will be located near the Lakeshore Event Center on Starke Lake.
Hamlin in Horizon West, a sustainably designed, 900-acre development with more than 2,000,000 SF of commercial entitlements is the town center for this area with a movie theater, shopping, dining and soon a 200-plus-acre regional park. Windermere maintains its small town feel by hosting monthly activities for its residents and neighbors including farmer’s market and food trucks. Winter Garden is ranked as one of the best places in Florida to raise a family and start a business. This is due in great part to its historic downtown, which continues to grow with a new boutique hotel and more restaurants, shops and businesses situated along the popular West Orange Trail.
It’s no wonder West Orange continues to grow and grow. We are the “Best” place, no if ands or buts about it!