On Monday, March 19, Orlando City Commissioner Jim Gray held a community meeting at the Lakehouse in Laureate Park. Orlando Fire Department, Green Works, Orlando Health, and OUC were present to answer questions. More than 60 residents were in attendance, with standing room only. The meeting gave attendees an opportunity to hear what’s going on in the city.
Before opening the room to questions, Commissioner Gray began with PowerPoint slides, going back to Lake Nona in the year 2000.
In the city of Orlando, we make up about 275,000 residents, divided into six geographic districts. Lake Nona is District 1, the largest geographic district, which is because our district includes Orlando International Airport.
Where we’ve been in the last 20 years – looking at Google Earth in 2000, you can see very little development south of the 417. In 2017, we are almost grown up. Gray reminds us, “We’re still teenagers, we’re growing rapidly, we’re a little awkward, and we haven’t all quite filled in yet.”
How many cars do you think drive on Narcoossee every day? The answer is 40,000.
With that in mind, Narcoossee Road is being widened. The widening has been delayed to bring a reclaimed water pipe from the Beachline Expressway all the way to underneath Narcoossee Road, to connect with Lake Nona Boulevard. Widening will start in May and will take approximately 12-18 months.
Narcoossee northbound will look like it does south of the 417. In the end, we’ll have six lanes and a bike path on the west side of Narcoossee Road. This will finally connect the bike trail. The bike trail is pretty well developed in Laureate Park. It will go across Lake Nona Boulevard and end right behind Nona Blue. So, in theory, when this is done, you can ride your bike all the way from Laureate Park to East Park to Randal Park to Storey Park.
Orlando International Airport – We have a world-class airport, and it is driving the growth here in the Lake Nona area, not just residential but commercial. “KPMG will tell you that was one of their key decisions in coming here. Being able to get people in and out of the airport is important,” says Gray.
Parks – We have two city parks opening soon. McCoy Community Park off Dowden Road should open in a couple of months. The second park is Heroes Community Park in Laureate Park. The ribbon cutting is planned for April 13.
UCF – We should be very proud of the medical school we have here. Most people don’t know that the acceptance rate at UCF medical school is 2.5%. Open for 10 years, it is very tough to get in.
Audience Q & A with Commissioner Gray:
Is there a plan to extend the bike trail all the way to Moss Park?
There is not. It’s going to go to where North Shore is and stop. The county may have a plan that I’m not aware of.
For the bike trail, is it going to be a crosswalk or an overpass?
It will be a crosswalk. At Narcoossee and Moss Park, you’ll have to walk across the street. Then at Moss Park and the 417, you have to cross north to go into East Park.
What about a library? With Valencia College expanding, will there be a public library added?
So far, Orange County has not elected to expand to this area. I am not on the board, but that could be a possibility. We are in the process of trying to put a City Hall annex in the second office building at Lake Nona Town Center. Long term, we need a library-looking building where we as neighbors can go and meet as a community.
What about a Post Office?
Same answer. At this moment, the US Post Office has also not elected to open another branch in the area.
What’s the status of Turnpike on-ramp to the 417?
I’m not sure of the status. I do know they want to make it a full interchange.
What is the timeline for UCF teaching hospital with HCA?
Currently under construction, should open in November 2020. It will start as a community hospital with the capability of growing into a 400-bed hospital.
How can we help with your duties if you do have to go to the government or county for funds or support?
The state is usually supportive. We are one of the safest places to live in Orange County. Our issues are transportation, and roads are expensive. The Narcoossee widening will cost $25 million. Our big challenge is getting money for transportation – and those are big-ticket items. We are putting the most money in the tax bucket. This district puts $43 million in every year toward ad valorem taxes. It is my job with your help to get our share back out.
I read awhile back that AdventHealth purchased the property adjacent to Lake Nona Boulevard. Is a hospital coming?
It’s not approved yet but is going through the approval process. AdventHeath, formerly Florida Hospital, had plans to do an emergency room with small offices near Lake Nona Boulevard and the railroad tracks. There will be no access on Narcoossee Road, access will be from Lake Nona Boulevard.
(Orlando Health was also present to discuss the new freestanding ER, 50-bed hospital and medical offices at Dowden and 417.)
East Airfield – has there been any movement for development in retail?
East airfield is the 1,300 acres bounded by the area north of Beachline, near NorthLake Park. No development activity is underway. When they do decide to develop, whether they want to develop five acres or 500 acres, they have to bring the site plan to the city, and that will be a public process.
I heard a rumor that a 7-Eleven is coming on Lake Nona Boulevard. Is that true?
Yes, they are between the entrance to the USTA and Drive Shack. There is a retail approval, and it will be a 7-Eleven.
Is there an elementary school going across from VillageWalk?
Yes, there is one planned, however there is talk of Tavistock building a private school back where OSC would have been. There is a good chance that the elementary school may move from VillageWalk to south of Laureate Park.
City of Orlando Deputy Police Chief Velez addressed the room regarding public safety. “First of all, I have been with Orlando Police Department for over 24 years, in many positions. I have been to many community meetings throughout the city. This is the first time ever I’ve seen standing room only. So, I applaud the community for showing up. This is awesome.”
Effective March 31, the police department will have double the number of officers working during peak hours to manage calls. This, along with a crime analysis unit, will track trends and crime throughout the city.
Gray urges the community to lock their homes and cars and don’t leave valuables in plain sight. Criminals who are committing these crimes are “both lazy and smart,” he says. They go where it’s easy for them. “Statistics show this is still the safest place in the city, but we’ve got to work together to keep it that way. If you see anything of concern, call 911.”
In closing, Richard Wales, City of Orlando Deputy Fire Chief, discussed public fire safety.
(Orlando Fire Department stations 14, 15 and 16 are the responders for our area.)
This is a fast-growing area. What is your response time?
Across the city, we’re around seven minutes. We’re always looking for ways to shave that time.
We live in VillageWalk, where it is a gated community – is that a deterrent to you getting in?
Our systems carry those passcodes that will give us the community code. I would be remiss if I said it does not cause a delay, we still have to stop, but again, that takes seconds. You get security with gates, but you lose a little bit of response with a gate.
One of the issues we have in LP is parking on both sides of the street. Does that create any problems for fire trucks?
We run into this in any community where people park on both sides. It is more of a challenge and we are able to traverse these areas, but I don’t think it’s any different than another community. The city of Orlando encourages street parking to slow drivers down, so street parking is here to stay. There is a process to restrict parking on one side, but you must have at least 60% of the neighbors to agree.
Have questions for Commissioner Jim Gray? You can contact him directly at 407.246.2001 or email Jim.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sophia Rogers leads The Rogers Team at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. Family, relationships and real estate are her passions. She can be reached at email@example.com.