Development called ‘a chain reaction for positivity’

Published 8:35 pm Monday, February 24, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A former resident of the city’s Orlando neighborhood will get the chance to develop property there.

With strong support from members of Greater First Baptist Church Orlando and residents in the neighborhood, Ephraim Goodman’s proposal to bring 23 single-family homes along with a retail space, a gas station and convenience store to property on Factory Street received City Council approval.

The property is about two-thirds of a mile south of downtown, and four blocks south of the Birdsong Peanut Factory.

Email newsletter signup

Council voted 7-0 last Wednesday in favor of rezoning for the project, with Councilman Mike Duman abstaining from the vote “to avoid any appearance of impropriety based on a potential investment related to this matter.”

Goodman said his project would give the Orlando neighborhood “a breath of fresh air.”

He and Whitney Saunders, the attorney representing him and his company — Goodman Developers — on the project, came before council to ask for the property on 611 and 711 Factory St. to be rezoned to accommodate the development.

“This project grows out of his concern and his desire to promote change within the neighborhood where he grew up,” Saunders said, noting that there are homes across the street from the site to be rezoned that are boarded up.

Goodman said his project would start the process of revitalizing the community, while Saunders has noted that it is 2.7 miles for residents to get to the nearest store, a Family Dollar on East Washington Street.

“This is an opportunity to bring back enthusiasm from the community and to provide for those residents, a way to get a gallon of milk if they need it, or gas for their cars,” said Betty Montgomery, assistant pastor at Greater First Baptist Church Orlando, 600 Factory St.

She said it would be a “shot in the arm” for the city to support the Orlando area by approving the rezoning.

The church’s senior pastor, Moses Ware, said the project would be “a chain reaction for positivity.”

“We’ve been trying to make things look much brighter in that one area, and I think we’ve done a great job, but it would an even better thing to … have more housing,” Ware said.

Goodman has proffered that each home would be at least 1,600 square feet, and that no more than 17,000 square feet of commercial space would be built. Though not proffered, the price of the homes would range from $175,000 to $195,000.

Though city planners had recommended denial of the project because it does not adhere to the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the rezoning.

The specific reason for the recommended denial by planners was because the proposed residential density of the project is 4.9 units per acre, below the recommended 13 to 24 units per acre in the Central Growth Area’s Core Support Use District, which calls for a mix of housing types. The Orlando neighborhood, according to the staff report for the project, has mostly single-family homes. The staff report also noted that the proposed location was not ideal for a general commercial zoned area.

Councilmembers, including Mayor Linda T. Johnson, praised the project. Councilman Roger Fawcett said the project is an aggressive undertaking to help revitalize that area of the city and jumpstart the rest of the area “to be something really great.”

The mayor said the project would give a great opportunity to many people.

“I think this is an opportunity and a great thing to see happen,” Johnson said.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett believes the project would be a big improvement for the Orlando community.

“This is nothing but an uplift,” Bennett said. “It’s not in any way letting the community down. It’s really a great improvement, and this is something that I have been hoping for many years to see that improvement over there. … Everyone in South Suffolk, Pleasant Hill and Orlando will cherish you for many years if you do what you want to try to get done over in that area.”