One of the most exciting developments in Lake Mary history is about to break ground, and here’s your preview of the dining, shopping, and living opportunities that await at Griffin Farms Town Center
For decades, the cows grazing just off busy Lake Mary Boulevard proved an incongruous sight, surrounded by the bustling growth of our community. But that lazy stretch of pines, palms, and pasture at the intersection of Longwood Lake Mary Road is about to undergo a transformation of its own. A sophisticated complex of homes, apartments, restaurants, and stores will soon give Lake Mary its first “midtown” community, and the buzz is already building.
Work could begin as early as August on the 35-acre Griffin Farms Town Center, one of the largest developments Lake Mary has ever seen.
“We’re really excited,” says city planner Steve Noto, who notes that midtown will join the city’s downtown and its high-tech corridor along International Parkway as places where citizens live, work, shop, and play.
The project can be seen as two halves. The first, facing Lake Mary Boulevard, will consist of a grocery store, gym, upscale restaurants, shops, and apartments. The second section, to the south further down Longwood Lake Mary Road, will be a projected 130 or so single-family homes and townhomes, with prices starting at around $300,000.
One of the first tenants to be announced is North Carolina-based Earth Fare, a natural-foods grocer that keeps a “boot list” of ingredients banned from all its products, including antibiotics, trans fats, and artificial colors. Customers get a $50 “bounty” if they find any of the ingredients in an Earth Fare purchase. A 24 Hour Fitness gym is another confirmed tenant.
The parcels directly facing Lake Mary Boulevard will most likely turn into a “restaurant row,” Steve says, with an emphasis on high-end casual dining. In other words, don’t look for drive-through tacos here.
“This is one of the last large undeveloped pieces of Lake Mary,” says David Johnson, Seminole County’s property appraiser. “The city wanted a quality development. They were intent on making sure it was done well.”
The $200 million Griffin Farms project, David says, will help make the city “the hottest area in the county.”
Unicorp National Developments, Inc., the Orlando developer that brought Trader Joe’s to Central Florida, will be responsible for the north half of the development, which will include some 260 apartments and a three-story parking garage that will be designed to blend in rather than stick out. In quality and price, the apartments will be similar to the recent developments around Lake Mary’s SunRail station. Unicorp expects to break ground soon and has a reputation of working quickly.
South of the stores and apartments lies the second half of the project, featuring townhomes and larger two-story and three-story bungalows that will be developed by David Weekley Homes, with prices ranging from $300,000 to $600,000. At press time, details of the project were pending final city approval, but Brent Bartholomew of David Weekley Homes says to expect a “modern coastal” and “modern farmhouse” feel to the development, with small lots and private gardens.
The homes will surround a swimming pool, open-air cabanas, and a covered terrace and a grill that’s great for parties, Brent says.
“There will be plenty of sidewalks and lots of places to walk around,” says Brent. “It’s going to be really nice.”
Construction should begin in the fall, with model homes opening as soon as next spring.
The potential traffic impact of Griffin Farms has been a concern for surrounding residents, and city officials say they have worked with developers to address it. A new traffic signal will allow access from Lake Mary Boulevard, while additional entrances on Longwood Lake Mary Road will spread the burden. A roundabout will allow Griffin Farms residents internal access to the shops and restaurants.
While planning for Lake Mary’s future, project leaders are also paying homage to the city’s past. There was a time when this property was a working farm, reflecting Lake Mary’s history as a cattle settlement. In the late 1800s, cracker cattlemen, fueled by dried beans, salt pork, and beef jerky, would journey from Lake Mary to Jacksonville and St. Augustine to load their cattle on ships bound for Cuba, says historian Jim Robison. According to county records, the Griffin family bought the property at Lake Mary Boulevard and Longwood Lake Mary Road in 1954, and its agricultural zoning held for some 60 years. The family kept a homestead on the land until 2012.
Over the years, cows continued to roam the land as development encroached from all sides, while the Griffins kindly declined offers to buy.
“I just like living here,” the late family matriarch Lillian Humphrey Griffin told the Orlando Sentinel in 1997. “It’s home.”
It was only in recent years that Griffin descendants began to seriously field offers. With Lake Mary rapidly growing and the economy rebounding, the family finally had a compelling incentive to sell, says David, the county appraiser.
To be sure, the cows were a charming fixture, roaming freely near a fitness center, a bar, Lake Mary High School, and the enormous Crossings community.
“There’s always a little tug at your heart, losing something like that,” David says. But fortunately, the Griffin Farms project will fit in nicely with the city’s renowned aesthetic sensibility. “When development does come, you hope it is done in a respectful way. And I think the city has achieved that.”
Want More Information?