The Orlando Business Journal’s annual “Doing Business in Medical City” event brought together leaders from some of Lake Nona’s anchor institutions to discuss ongoing and future projects happening right here in our backyard. Business and community leaders from across Central Florida came together to learn about featured research and technology projects, unique collaborations and upcoming community projects that are shaping this community’s future. The Guidewell Innovation Center, which opened last year, hosted the event, marking a unique opportunity to bring community leaders to Lake Nona to witness Medical City for themselves. “The Orlando Business Journal has been doing this event, ‘Doing Business in Medical City,’ probably six or seven years,” said Orlando Business Journal publisher Robert Bobroff. “But this is the very first time we’ve actually done this event in Medical City.” Attendees and panelists who live and work in Lake Nona were interested to learn about the next phase of additions to the Lake Nona Town Center from Tavistock Development Company President Jim Zboril.
The Town Center is a very important project for us because it has a big impact on everything about Lake Nona,” Zboril said. “The next phase we’re really excited about because it focuses on food and beverage, extra hotel space and entertainment. We’re working right now with a movie theater and bowling, and we have a unique thing we’re working on with UCF that’s a medically integrated fitness center. It’s not a traditional all-soft retail goods, it’s really meant to be an outdoor entertainment area.
Zboril also mentioned the possibility of some Town Center tenant announcements sometime in May, following the annual ICSC conference, with hopes to break ground on Phase II by the end of this year. Discussion also shifted to the forthcoming Crystal Lagoon, which will use large-scale water treatment technology to effectively create a 10-acre swimming pool in the community. “The Crystal Lagoon has been designed for a couple of years, but the challenge has been all the development around it,” Zboril said, citing condominiums, a resort and spa, and other project plans adjacent to the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club expansion, which recently broke ground near the newly opened USTA National Campus.
Among the keys to Lake Nona Medical City’s success, panelists agreed, is the collaborative, convening spirit across the community. “The only way we can come up with the best drug discovery or the best clinical research hypotheses to test is through interaction,” said Dr. Layton Smith of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. “Those are the kinds of things that allow us to reimagine how we might accelerate the development of new therapies, new diagnostics, come up with new discoveries,” Smith said. “We can only do that through collaboration.” Smith and other panelists discussed incredible research being done right here, including an innovative disease modeling program in Parkinson’s research that has led to promising precision medicine techniques. This study attracted the attention of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which recently renewed funding for the project. “We’re using technology in ways we didn’t even think we could do five years ago,” Smith said. “And it’s going to be the way that we get to this faster, cheaper, better drug discovery operation.” But Smith also noted the challenge of sharing the incredible stories coming out of Medical City. “I’ve been in the coffee shop at Canvas and someone said, ‘Oh, Sanford Burnham, that’s a law firm?’ I’m like, ‘No!’ It’s an amazing resource!” He says he gets responses locally such as, “ ‘We didn’t know this was in Orlando,’ but we can’t help recruit scientists and let people know about the great Nemours operation if my neighbor doesn’t even know about it.” “There’s a lot more going on,’ Smith says of Medical City’s impressive assembly of researchers and innovators. “If someone were to ask me how the community can help, I’d say, ‘Come on down.’”