By Charlie Reed
For the News-Gazette
Osceola Parkway already has a dramatic new look on the west side of the bridge leading to Florida’s Turnpike and into Buenaventura Lakes.
Dozens of acres of undeveloped land on the north side of the toll road have been cleared, and construction is underway on the SunRail station and on Orlando Health’s new satellite hospital that will be adjacent to the new public transportation center.
By early 2019, the parcel, formerly owned by Tupperware, will be a hub of new activity.
“It’s really a perfect example of transit-oriented development,” said County Commissioner Viviana Janer. “Public transportation usually doesn’t pay for itself, so these types of projects are vital.”
The three-story, 60,000-square-foot Orlando Health site now under construction has a $30 million price tag and is expected to create 650 new jobs, according to hospital and county officials. More importantly, it will bring much-needed medical services to Osceola’s booming population, Janer said. “The ER services are critically important with all the growth in our county,” she said.
The Osceola County Commission, in a 3-2 vote in November, imposed a six-month moratorium on new construction to strategize smart growth initiatives to better fund roads, schools and other public services that for years have lacked sufficient funding to keep up with the population boom.
Janer, who voted to impose the moratorium along with Commissioners Brandon Arrington and Fred Hawkins, said the new SunRail station and Orlando Health center will not only transform that section of the Osceola Parkway corridor but also serve an example of how Osceola should grow.
The 14-acre medical center includes an emergency room and two floors of doctors including primary care, ob/gyn, cardiology and pediatric physicians. The ER will have full ambulatory services and a helipad to transport critical patients to Dr. Phillips Hospital, the larger Orlando Health facility with which the new site will be affiliated.
It will be Orlando Health’s first free-standing site in Osceola County. The nonprofit Central Florida hospital chain already owns a portion of St. Cloud Regional Medical center.
“Increasing access to healthcare is a big deal for us,” said Thibaut van Marcke, president of Dr. Phillips Hospital.
It’s being designed to meet both current and future needs of the community, he said.
Orlando Health approached Tupperware about buying the parcel, once covered with trees and now ready for the 130 tons of steel and 4,100 cubic tons of concrete that will soon stand in their place.
“Now you can see the vision we have here,” said Matt Taylor, vice president of asset strategy for Orlando Health.
The hospital paid full market value for the land, Taylor said, but Tupperware already had planned much of the site in anticipation of selling it.
“They were actually surprised we came to them,” Taylor said. “But it made great sense for us and we’ve really enjoyed the support of Tupperware and the county on this.”
Tupperware Brands land subsidiary developed The Loop and other retail and residential locations in the area near its international headquarters on Orange Blossom Trail. The company is also widening Orange Avenue in the area to a four-lane, divided highway.
Construction of the new ER and medical pavilion is expected be finished in early 2019.
Orlando Health has hospitals in seven Florida counties, employees 18,000 workers and annually treats two million Florida residents and 4,500 tourists.
By Charlie Reed