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ORLANDO-Emerson International Inc., the U.S. division of British-based Emerson Group, a major European developer, is on its way to creating Eagle Creek, an estimated $1 billion mixed-use community of 2,850 homes and an undetermined amount of retail, apartments and hotel product near booming Orlando International Airport, the area’s newest commercial hot spot.

Orange County commissioners voted to bounce Emerson’s plans up to Tallahassee, FL where the state’s Department of Community Affairs will pass judgment on the mega venture. Commissioners would formally vote on the project’s request for a development order in November.

If approved, Eagle Creek, planned on citrus grove land southeast of Lake Hart, would join a growing number of equally large projects planned or under way in the airport area of Narcoosee Road (County Road 15) and the Central Florida Greene Way.

An Eagle Creek ground-breaking, however, isn’t expected to happen until 2004 when all of the county and state permitting and approvals have been completed, area brokers intimate with the developer’s plans tell GlobeSt.com.

“Emerson is patient and has deep pockets so it’s a no-brainer for them,” a broker tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “By the time they’re ready to put the first spade in the dirt, the national economy will have turned around and the country and the area will be headed for another cycle of fast growth and property appreciation.”

Campus Crusade for Christ, for example, is already seeing some appreciation in its $50 million international headquarters complex on Lake Hart. Another developer is erecting 2,650 homes, hotels, shops and retail nearby. Wycliffe Bible Translators’ new headquarters is nearing completion next to Campus Crusade’s property. Nearby Lake Nona community has 9,000 new homes on the drawing board.

County officials backed the Emerson project largely because they could control its growth in unincorporated areas of the county. The city of Orlando is annexing land in the same area for the same reason. The county-city agreement to limit Orlando annexations expires in 2006.

Emerson International has a 20-year track record in commercial, industrial and multifamily development in Central Florida. Its newest venture is CenterPointe on the Park, a 55-acre, mixed-use development in suburban Altamonte Springs, FL.

The project comprises a five-story, 100,000-sf, $18 million office building and a planned $45 million, 11-story hotel/health complex overlooking Crane’s Roost Lake.

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