Update on Apopka Medical Campus

from the Orlando Sentinel

The spot where Adventist Health System wants to move Florida Hospital Apopka is in the middle of nowhere.

But not for long.

Concerned the project will soon spawn a torrent of new development, Apopka City Council imposed a moratorium this week on requests to change zoning or land-use rules on the 2,500 acres surrounding the site of the proposed medical campus, now slated to open in 2017 near Harmon and Ocoee-Apopka roads.

“We need time, in my opinion, to get it right,” Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer said.

As recently as 18 months ago, few would have predicted that the vacant fields southwest of U.S. Highway 441 would evolve into a town center or the economic catalyst envisioned by Apopka’s leaders, who are banking on a boom tied to health-care and technology in Orange County’s second-largest city.

Apopka sees the $180 million Florida Hospital project as the centerpiece of a “showcase corridor” that will boost the image of an agricultural community that still bills itself as the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World” but is sometimes lampooned as Central Florida’s discount dollar-store hub.

“I don’t want to name names, but we’ve had a dollar-type store wanting to locate in this area,” Apopka Planning Director David Moon told the city planning commission this month while appealing to the panel to endorse the moratorium around the proposed medical campus.

“I’ve also had phone calls from a used-furniture store interested in moving [to a site nearby] as well as other similar businesses that may not be what the city is expecting.”

Not-for-profit Adventist announced last year that it was planning to leave its 40-year-old downtown-Apopka location on Park Avenue for a medical campus it would build on 33 acres near the confluence of three toll highways, State Roads 414, 429 and 451, which loop around the city’s Main Street.

The hospital is expected to submit construction plans for the new campus next month.

Adventist, which obtained a required “certificate of need” from the State Agency for Health Care Administration in June, owns 22 acres south of the hospital site on which it could add medical offices, a wellness center or spa, and other related businesses. The hospital also owns nearly 15 acres across the road.

Adventist has not disclosed plans for either of the sites.

But the health-care giant was among five property owners that funded a study by Littlejohn, a national planning firm with offices in Orlando and Tampa. The analysis, detailed in a 142-page report with color-coded maps, addressed growth regulations and offered suggestions to maximize the area’s potential.

The document prompted the moratorium, which runs through Oct. 31.

The planners proposed branding the area with a unique identity and even offered a list of possible names. Among the suggestions were titles that alluded to its location, East Shore Apopka; its function, Wellness Pointe; and loose historical connections, Coacoochee Heights — for Seminole warrior Coacoochee, also known as “Wild Cat.”

The hospital site, about a half-hour drive from Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World, is east of Lake Apopka and State Road 429, which connects to Florida’s Turnpike. Most of the surrounding land is vacant with the exception of Emerson Park, a neighborhood with an entrance on Ocoee-Apopka Road.

More than 250 acres are currently used to grow oranges; another 100 acres are used to grow houseplants.

Where there are groves and greenhouses, some planners see apartment buildings and town houses.

Though the hospital site is 1.3 miles from the closest toll-road ramp, a developer has approached the Central Florida Expressway Authority about building an interchange on S.R. 414 at Marden Road, said Michelle Maikisch, expressway spokeswoman. An interchange would provide quicker access to the new hospital from the east.

Laura Griffith, who lives on Boy Scout Road, attended public meetings moderated by the consultants who, she said, left her with an impression of a place like Celebration, the master-planned community near Walt Disney World. She was both excited and worried by the prospect of ambitious change.

“It looks pretty good on paper,” she said. “But we’ll have to see.”

Leave a Reply

single.php