To meet the needs of Central Florida’s growing Lake Nona area and southeast communities, Orlando Health is building a freestanding emergency room and medical pavilion on a 15-acre campus located at the northeast corner of Dowden Road and Randal Park Boulevard. The first public meeting took place Sept. 18 at Sun Blaze Elementary and was attended by Orlando Health leaders and physicians, representatives from various community entities including municipal planning, city planning and traffic engineering, and emergency medical services to discuss their respective roles related to the project.
A recent application to the City of Orlando for a Master Plan Amendment outlines a health and wellness campus with the first phase to include a two-story, 44,000-square-foot freestanding emergency department and an adjacent three-story, 60,000-square-foot medical pavilion. The campus is scheduled to open in spring 2020.
Matt Taylor, vice president of asset strategy for Orlando Health, said of the timeline, “The planning and approvals process is underway with expected municipal planning approvals in October with city planning approvals to follow in November, which would allow us to go into permitting and break ground by February 2019.”
This event gave residents an opportunity to learn more about the project. A variety of tables lined the room, allowing the community to directly engage and ask both Orlando Health and city leaders pressing questions.
Taylor disclosed that the total investment in the lifespan of the project equals $400 million. “It’s important for the community to share with us their thoughts. We would like the community’s input on how they like to see the site, traffic, access, parking, what specialists, and what the needs are. We are looking to be a full-service center for the community. We feel the community will benefit from the services. We are a not-for-profit system, so every dollar invested, we scrutinize and it has to have demand, need, and market analytics behind it. We feel very confident that the services we are going to offer are already needed.”
Dubbed a “rock star” by his colleagues, Dr. Michael Cheatham, a surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC), was also present. Dr. Cheatham led his team the night of the tragic Pulse shooting. “The community will benefit from everything we have done for years at ORMC. We want to bring that caliber of care here to the Lake Nona area.” He credited training and disaster drills conducted three times a year for preparing the emergency room that night. Three months prior to the Pulse tragedy, the drill was an active shooter on UCF campus.
Dennis Buhring, president of administration for Orlando Health Physician Associates, shared his input on adding a new medical facility near Lake Nona. Buhring said, “The Orlando population is growing almost 18% a year. Think about baby boomers, retirees, and young people. We need the infrastructure to support all of these people.”
Linda Zinkovich, COO of Physician Associates, explained, ”A lot of people don’t know Winnie Palmer Hospital is part of our family. I would say a large percentage of babies here in the Lake Nona area were born at Winnie Palmer and are already a part of Orlando Health and don’t even know it.”
City of Orlando Fire Station 15 at Savannah Park will be the paramedics assigned to respond and transport to the new Orlando Health ER. District Chief Edward Torres feels the new ER will fill a need in our area.
Common concerns from local residents included changes to traffic patterns, possible congestion, and noise. The location of the medical facility lies across from apartments, next to an elementary school and on the same street as a community with one way in and out. Where will the entrance go? What about ambulance noise? “We need medical services out here to support the growing population. However, we want to minimize traffic congestion for the immediate community,” said Commissioner Jim Gray.
Site access is a major concern, especially for Randal Park residents and parents of Sun Blaze Elementary students. In response to early community input, Orlando Health is pursuing full vehicular access in and out of the planned campus from Dowden Road. It is noted that initial feedback from City staff would preclude this full access to Dowden Road, thereby shifting half of exiting movements from the site to Randal Park Boulevard.
If you support Orlando Health’s efforts to direct its primary traffic for in and out of Dowden Road, please contact the individuals below to express your views. A templated message was provided to let Commissioner Gray and City of Orlando Planners know if you do not support the Randal Park entrance: “I support Orlando Health’s efforts to have a left turn in and out of its medical complex onto Dowden Road, as I believe this will reduce the congestion on Randal Park Boulevard. I would ask the City of Orlando to approve full access onto Dowden Road.”
Commissioner Jim Gray
City of Orlando Commissioner, District 1
Elisabeth Dang, AICP
Chief Planner, City Planning Division
Planner II, City Planning Division
*This parcel was initially reported in the April edition of Nonahood News as a grocery-anchored retail center, adjacent to Mattamy Homes’ new townhome subdivision, Randal Walk. Orlando Health closed on the purchase of 15.13 acres of vacant land on June 18 for roughly $9.9 million.
Sophia Rogers is a Lake Nona area real estate professional and founder of NonaHomeGuide.com. A wife and mom of four, family, relationships, and real estate are her passions.