The Next Generation of Growth in Central Florida

As a Florida native and a professional planner for more than 30 years, I've seen a lot of change in the Sunshine State. The diverse development we are now seeing in Central Florida, however, is the most exciting and promising I've seen in my career. The region is making the most of its opportunities for revitalization and growth with a far-reaching vision for new public transit and improved transportation, vibrant employment centers, and live-work-play communities offering a range of housing options.

Transportation, a Catalyst of Development

One of the drivers of this growth is the development of the new commuter transit system, SunRail, which will ultimately extend from Deland in Volusia County to the Poinciana area south of the city of Kissimmee in Osceola County. The first phase, which runs from DeBary to just south of Orlando City, is set to open in the spring of 2014. The system uses existing rail lines as the main artery, and with 17 stations planned along the complete route, transit-based redevelopment and new projects are springing up along the corridor.

One of those projects, for which our Orlando office provided planning and site/civil engineering services, is the new STEELHOUSE Apartments. STEELHOUSE is an award-winning, four-story community with 327 units developed by Pollack Shores Real Estate Group. Residents will be able to walk right up to the new SunRail Central Station, about a quarter mile away, as well as the "Uptown" part of downtown Orlando, also a scene of extensive redevelopment.

All Aboard Florida, a higher-speed rail service that will run along the Atlantic Coast and connect Orlando to Miami, is another game-changing project currently in the planning stages. The proposed rail line is estimated to serve approximately three million riders per year. Interstate 4, the heavily traveled highway extending throughout Central Florida, is also undergoing significant improvements.

STEELHOUSE-1

Lake Nona Medical City

Other exciting initiatives underway in Central Florida include the ongoing development of Lake Nona Medical City, a 650-acre health and life sciences park in Orlando. Anchors of the park include the University of Central Florida Health Sciences Campus, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Nemours Children's Hospital, and the University of Florida Academic & Research Center. The park has been a catalyst to bringing in more businesses in the region focused on healthcare, life sciences, and biotechnology.

With a sophisticated infrastructure system including public transit, dynamic places to live and work, a well-trained workforce, and great year-round weather, Central Florida is rapidly transcending its reliance on tourism as the dominant economic driver. Planned carefully and with smart, sustainable growth in mind, the next generation of economic development should be exciting and transformative.

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