After Orlando County commissioners approved a new $1 billion development plan—dubbed “The Grow”—in a 4-2 vote last week, the project will move into its design and permitting phase, with construction scheduled to start next summer. The Grow follows a new development style trend, commonly known as an ‘agrihood,’ that champions farm-to-table living in a cooperative community.
The Grow will be situated on 1,189 acres behind the University of Central Florida campus. It will feature 2,078 homes, a community garden, a 20-acre community park, an elementary school, 12 miles of bike trails, and 172,000 square feet of commercial development, including retail spaces and a restaurant that incorporates food grown in the community garden, according to Builder Magazine.
Spearheaded by Project Finance & Development LLC (PFD), the project has been praised for its approach to sustainability and thoughtfulness in addressing the growth of east Orlando. However, critics of the project argue that it’s simply the next iteration of ‘urban sprawl’ slowly encroaching on the Econlockhatchee River and Lake Pickett, which have remained rural in the context of hyper-development, according to Orlando Business Journal. The development will require new roadwork, but PFD has agreed to foot the bill for a roundabout on South Tanner Road to ease the flow of traffic.
According to the Urban Land Institute, there are about 200 agrihoods nationwide and in states such as California, Idaho, Virginia, Hawaii, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, and Vermont. Though the agrihood trend has been 20 years in the making, it’s beginning to gain traction with the growing interest in how food is being grown and produced. Senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute told the Associated Press that these spaces have “fundamentally changed the relationship” between residents and the land. “It’s a lot more than growing vegetables; it’s really about growing community.”