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DESTINY, FL-Developers of the first “eco-sustainable city” in the US claim that it does not contribute to sprawl, while state officials argue that it’s dozens of miles from the nearest urban area. It may take several more years to determine who is right.

Land Co. of Osceola County LLC is moving forward with its plans to build Destiny, a 64-square-mile city at the crossroads of Florida’s Turnpike, US 441 and State Road 60. The first phase of development will involve the 500-acre Alternative Energy Industrial Park that aims to create thousands of “green collar” jobs.

“The basis for our city is building around jobs, not houses,” Randy Johnson, Destiny’s chief operating officer, tells GlobeSt.com. The idea is to develop 20 million square feet of commercial space in all sectors, along with enough housing stock that will not only provide homes for thousands of employees but render all other residential options in Central Florida obsolete, he says.

Destiny—not to be confused with Destin, the beachside city in the Florida Panhandle—is the brainchild of Delray Beach developer Anthony V. Pugliese III and Fred DeLuca, founder of the Subway sandwich shop chain. The partners are putting $250 million toward realizing their vision, according to Johnson: “This is not just a business for them, it’s a passion to change the world.”

State officials may need to be convinced otherwise. Destiny has yet to submit an application to the Florida Department of Community Affairs, which already faces a backlog of proposals for more than 600,000 new homes and 500 million square feet of commercial space statewide.

The DCA has already publicly criticized Osceola County over proposed changes to its comprehensive land use plan that would allow development over at least 500,000 rural acres. The department suggests that the county should consider clustering developments, rather than allowing standalone projects such as Destiny.

Johnson, a former state legislator, counters that Destiny will not contribute to sprawl because its 41,300-acre land mass includes a strictly enforced greenbelt around the city. He points out that only 5% of Osceola County is currently built, which puts pressure on local officials to encourage development.

“The old-school way of shoving people in houses in outlying areas and forcing them to drive long distances to work, play and shop contributes to an unhappy lifestyle,” he says. “It’s so much more difficult to replumb an old city than to build a new one. We have the capacity to do it right.”

The proposal to create Destiny has the attention of anti-sprawl groups such as the Urban Land Institute, which focuses more on the effectiveness of where projects are built. Although the city’s green intentions are good, the group points out that they could be countered by making people drive miles out of their way to get to those jobs. Destiny’s location is nearly an hour’s drive from Orlando and roughly 30 miles from the nearest existing city.

“We will have a return to greenfield building in America when the economy starts up again. The question we have before us now is how do we build it better,” observes Ed McMahon, senior fellow at ULI’s headquarters in Washington, DC. “Destiny appears to be trying to do the right thing, but they have to be able to provide jobs for the people there and they have to keep their footprint pretty tight.”

Destiny’s first phase, expected to start in late 2011 or early 2012, is being built in a partnership announced April 30 with Dominion Development Partners, an affiliate of Richmond, VA-based Lingerfelt Cos. Its Alternative Energy Industrial Park will initially include a technology incubator, distribution center and research-and-development facilities, with future phases including a “power island” supplying energy to the city, ethanol and biodiesel processing, and waste-to-energy plants.

The industrial park is aimed specifically at attracting companies that seek to develop and manufacture new, clean technologies such as solar power and fuel cells, allowing them to benefit from synergies that will ideally reduce startup and operating costs. “We have decided to do the hard part first,” says Pugliese, Destiny’s managing partner and CEO.

Johnson, who has met recently with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to discuss Destiny’s development plans, says the city is well on its way to signing multimillion-dollar contracts with companies and plans announcements at a later date. “We are writing deals at the absolute worst time that you can imagine for business,” he says. “We think we’re going to hit the market just right.”

One bit of unfinished business its developers must tackle first is a pending lawsuit filed last year by a Syracuse, NY-based company over existing use of the Destiny name. Johnson says negotiations are continuing with the plaintiff, Destiny USA Enterprises LLC.

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