When it comes to securing housing, it’s been said that a key factor is location, location, location.
But these days, builders and housing advocates agree, there’s another issue that’s also become appealing to those seeking a place to live in the Orlando area: walkability.
When Florida Hospital decided to build a new apartment complex called The Ivy, with its workers in mind as likely tenants, the complex was constructed right off the Princeton Street exit for Interstate 4, providing easy access to the highway.
But what the hospital administrators had in mind was something else: allowing those employees to walk to the work and leave their cars behind.
Being able to walk to shopping, dining and recreation, noted Anthony Everett, is one of the reasons why his firm, Pollack Shores Real Estate Group, decided to apply to construct a new 226-unit apartment complex farther down on Princeton Street, near the intersection of Edgewater Drive.
It’s that close proximity to the popular Edgewater Drive business corridor, Everett said, that made College Park seem like the ideal location for a new residential complex.
If the Princeton gets built, Everett said, it will enable the tenants to leave their cars in the building’s garage and walk to the restaurants, coffee shops and stores along Edgewater Drive.
“People in these projects tend to drive their cars a lot less,” said Everett, the director of Central Florida for the Tampa-based Pollack Shores.
That’s also true, he said, for residents who don’t commute to an office but instead work out of their homes.
“These days, with a lot of people who work out of their homes, we don’t see their cars move all weekend, as they can walk to restaurants,” he said.
Although Pollack Shores initially wanted to build the Princeton as a condominium development, they could not get bank financing for a condo project and decided to make it an apartment complex instead, since banks were providing the loans for that.
Everett said people who want to live in a city don’t want to rent single family homes these days, because they are seen as too much responsibility. Instead, they want to live in an appealing and well-built apartment complex, he added.
“Some people don’t like living in a single family home,” he said. “They like having everything done for them. They want security.”
Walkability is, in fact, a great selling point for a city like Winter Park, noted Denise Weathers. The ability to find housing close to the popular Park Avenue shopping district is helping to drive up prices to any housing that is close by, she said.
“We live in a walkable community,” said Weathers, the executive director of the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust, which works to create more affordable housing options in a section of downtown close to Park Avenue, where home prices and rents are soaring.
By living in Hannibal Square, she said, “I don’t need my car when I come home. I’m going to Dexter’s (restaurant) for dinner tonight. ‘How are you going to get there?’ Honey, I’m walking. And now we have SunRail.”
The challenge moving forward, she said, is keeping homes in walkable communities affordable for a wide range of incomes.
“Housing is a necessity,” Weathers said, “not a social issue.”
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