A visionary group of property owners, whose groves had died, knew the future was in real estate not growing citrus and met in a restaurant in Winter Garden to create a new future. They organized Horizon West in 1993. They met with experts from the public and private sectors and developed a master plan. The two-year process led to a comprehensive plan with five villages and a town center.
Original plans for Horizon West called for up to nine villages on 38,000 acres. But throughout the years, Reedy Creek Improvement District annexed some of the land, and, in 2004, residents around Lake Avalon and Johns Lake opted out of Horizon West, deciding to designate their 4,500-acre community as a rural settlement, which would limit the lot size and maintain the country flavor of the area.
Lakeside Village was the first to break ground, and The Lakes of Windermere was the first neighborhood in the village. Boyd Development built a Publix Super Market-anchored shopping center in Lakeside Village, which is doing very well. Residents are using a trail system to access restaurants and retail. The Walt Disney Co. built apartments for temporary workers in Lakeside Village.
Horizon West, with only about one-fourth of its 23,000 acres built out, already has carved out a place among metro Orlando’s most successful newer developments.
Started less than three full decades ago in southwest Orange County, north of the Walt Disney World Resort, Horizon West today boasts more than 20,000 residents and, by at least some measures, is one of the three fastest-growing master-planned communities nationwide. Also, just behind The Villages in Sumter County, it has the second-fastest growth in Florida.
All totaled, approximately 9,700 single-family homes and five apartment complexes have been built within Horizon West’s 38 square miles. But even as construction activity continues and traffic mounts, portions of Horizon West remain rural; cows can be seen grazing in fields.
Highway access is one reason for development success. State Road 429, extending more than 32 miles and connecting Interstate 4 to Apopka, provides immediate access to Horizon West and links to much of Central Florida. S.R. 429 essentially is metro Orlando’s western beltway.
In addition, well-planned, incremental development has occurred based on the concept of town centers and surrounding villages. The plan was conceived by land-use experts and property owners whose citrus groves had died. Walkability and green space throughout the community are significant factors.
Lakeside Village, anchored by a Publix Super Market, was the first in the late 1990s, followed by the first neighborhood, The Lakes of Windermere. In 2012, development of the Horizon West Town Center began, with the creation of the centerpiece Hamlin community of lakeside retail shops, restaurants and homes. The first school was opened in Lakeside Village in 2016, with Orange County Public Schools adding Bay Lake Elementary School to accommodate more than 800 students.
There is more growth on the horizon. Among them is the 200-acre Horizon West Sports Complex Orange County plans. Also, to the west, Lake County has its own plans for development, including a roadway connector called Wellness Way.
The construction of an Orlando Health campus in Hamlin promises to bring even more growth. Scheduled to open in late 2018, the facility will include a freestanding emergency department and outpatient diagnostic and laboratory services. At present, Dr. Phillips Hospital (Orlando Health) and Florida Hospital Celebration Health are the closest facilities.