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ORLANDO-West Orlando is destined to become the metro area’s unchallenged retail Mecca in the next seven to 10 years as separate developers refine plans for three open-air shopping centers totaling four million sf. The estimated aggregate hard-construction cost of the proposals is $750 million, according to preliminary conceptual plans filed with Orange County and the East Central Florida Planning Council.

The big question among planners and consultants, however, is can all of the three projects, five miles apart, survive, even with a booming residential market about 15 miles west of Walt Disney World. John M. Crossman, senior vice president and director of retail services at Trammell Crow Co., thinks all the projects will have enough of a new customer base to make it.

“The west side of Central Florida is well-positioned for growth since it has access to Downtown, Disney, the Beltway, the East-West Expressway, the Florida Turnpike and the airport,” Crossman tells GlobeSt.com. “As long as people keep moving there, there will be a need for more retail space.”

The projects are Winter Garden Village at Fowler Groves, a 1.6-million-sf, 174-acre power center planned by the Sembler Co. of St. Petersburg; Plaza Collina, a 1.2-million-sf, 138-acre enterprise planned by Phoenicia Development LLC; and Town Center at Horizon West, a 1,957-acre retail, commercial and residential community comprised of five villages and planned by locally based Miller, Sellen, Connor & Walsh Inc.

Winter Garden Village is planned to surface in 2007 at the north juncture of the Western Beltway and Winter Garden-Vineland Road, just south of State Road 50. In the project’s second phase scheduled for completion in 2010, Sembler also plans to add 260,000 sf of office and retail space, a small hotel and 50 residential units.

Town Center at Horizon West is planned for a few miles south of Winter Garden Village and just west of the Western Beltway. Buildout is tentatively set for 2020.

Northwest of Winter Garden Village on State Road 50, Plaza Collina will run from Orange County into neighboring Lake County for about a mile, according to filed preliminary plans. The project’s first phase is tentatively scheduled to open in 2006.

Various neighborhood groups are expected to oppose at least two of the projects, area brokers and planners tell GlobeSt.com. “They will offer the usual complaints of noise, traffic, pollution and property devaluation,” says a local planner not associated with any of the three projects. “And they probably will be right on all counts, but the county and the local governments are largely pro-development and realize the projects would increase their tax bases and make running a community a little easier from a funding standpoint.”

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