The financial impacts of COVID-19 may slow the development time frame for Orlando Health’s planned health and wellness campus in south Lakeland, a company representative told Lakeland city commissioners today.

But until those impacts are known, the nonprofit health system that owns Orlando Regional Medical Center and eight other hospitals is proceeding with requests for annexation and zoning on a 79.6-acre parcel south of the Polk Parkway, east of Lakeland Highlands Road and north of Winter Lake Extension Road.

In the short-term, Orlando Health plans to build a 30,000 square-foot free-standing emergency department with helipad and 60,000-square-feet of medical-office space.

First stage: emergency department, helipad, office building

The long-term plan includes building a 730,000-square-foot hospital of up to 360 beds, a 20,000-square-foot ambulatory surgical center, 180,000-square feet of additional medical office space, a 150-room hotel and 20,000 square-feet of retail space.

In today's virtual meeting of the City Commission, Orlando Health representatives made their case for annexation, designations of future land use as city office center and zoning of planned unit development.

The three issues are expected to come back before the City Commission in July for more public hearings and final votes. But first the plans will be reviewed by state officials.

Members of the public watching today's meeting could comment to commissioners via telephone, but none did.

“We use 20 years as an example for long-term build-out but it could easily be a longer time frame,” Aaron Bottenhorn, Orlando Health director of asset strategy, said. “For example, our Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando was built in 1985 and we are just now getting to 300 beds. This development would be slow and methodical.”


In answer to Commissioner Phillip Walker’s question about employment figures over the next two to three years, Bottenhorn said, initially about 200 jobs would be created.

When the hospital is built, which would come in stages starting with probably 120 beds, the job numbers would jump to about 600, he said.

Walker asked if the hospital project might be starting in 2022 or 2023 and Bottenhorn replied, “It is hard to say. We have had some financial impacts from COVID-19. Some of our projects are slowing down. It could be five years. We will have to see what the financial impact is of COVID.”

At full build-out, the project could be expected to create about 1,800 jobs, Bottenhorn said.

In today’s dollars, Orlando Health is planning to invest $720 million in the project, he said.

To Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley’s question about whether hospital leadership would be local or would come out of Orlando, Bottonhorn said there would be a local president, local chief nursing officer and other local leadership.

And, he said, Orlando Health would be working with local colleges to provide training for staff and employees.

Orlando Health does not expect to have an economic impact analysis done until the next round of public hearings, Bottonhorn said. However, he gave the figures for a similar project in Lake Mary: $142 million annual impact for the just-completed free-standing emergency department, helipad and medical offices and a projected $1.1 billion annual impact after build-out of a hospital.

In answer to questions raised by the public during a February hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission, Bottonhorn provided a justification for building another hospital in Lakeland, which has long been served by the 863-bed Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

The American Hospital Association says 2.6 beds are needed for each 1,000 people in a community, Bottonhorn said. Taking into account projected population growth, Lakeland is going to need another 600 hospital beds over the next 25 years, he said.

The Plan

The parcel is divided into into five tracts, which likely would be developed at various times.

  • Tract A, where the development would start, would include the stand-alone emergency department, helipad and medical offices and, eventually, the hospital. The tract is in the middle of the parcel, meaning the hospital building, which could no taller than 120 feet, would be at least 700 feet back from Lakeland Highlands Road.
  • Tract B would include medical support offices, an ambulatory surgery center and other medical support services. It runs along the Winter Lake Extension Road and is south and east of the planned stand-alone emergency department and hospital. Buildings could be no taller than 90 feet.
  • Tract C would be a hospital support zone, which would include uses allowed in tracts A and B plus ancillary maintenance uses, such as a parking garage, power supply, laundry, food service and storage. The tract is south and east of the planned hospital. The maximum building height would be 90 feet.
  • Tract D, located adjacent to Lakeland Highlands Road, would include retail uses in buildings up to 36 feet tall and a hotel that is no more than 60 feet tall. There could be no more than two fast-casual restaurants. One of those restaurants could have one drive-through lane open no earlier than 6 a.m. nor later than 10 p.m. Other retail establishments, such as a pharmacy or bank, could have one drive-through that would close before midnight.
  • Tract E, which is closest to the residential developments on the west side of Lakeland Highlands Road, is mostly low-quality wetlands. Initially it would be designated as conservation use. However, it is also identified for future health-care uses with buildings no higher than 60 feet. To change from conservation use would require development plans to go through the PUD modification process, including environmental permitting.

Although Orlando Health’s current plan does not have any such facilities, the PUD also allows for assisted living facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and skilled nursing facilities on the campus.


Chuck Barmby, the city’s transportation manager, explained details that have been ironed out regarding placement of driveways, a required traffic signal at Lakeland Highlands Road and Deerfield Road, and an extension of the turn lane onto the Polk Parkway.

The long-term concern is handling increasing traffic on Edgewood Drive and New Jersey Road, two roads that cannot be widened. That is being partially addressed by Florida Department of Transportation’s plans to six-lane Bartow Road, relieving traffic on nearby streets, he said.

And Barmby said, Orlando Health’s agreement to provide bus service once the hospital is built will also relieve the burden on connector and feeder streets. Orlando Health has agreed to build a transit “super-stop” on the campus, similar to those at several of the city’s major retail centers, to purchase a bus at a cost of up to $500,000 and to provide for $150,000 in annual operations costs for five years.

The bus service would kick in when traffic congestion hits a pre-set level and likely would begin in the 2025 to 2030 timeframe, Barmby said.

As traffic generated by the medical complex increases, Orlando Health will have to pay for an additional traffic analysis, Barmby said. It likely will look at ways to move traffic off Edgewood Drive to other streets and could include such proposals as installing a traffic signal at Sylvester and New Jersey roads.

“It has taken us quite a while to work out traffic issues but I am very comfortable with details we have today,” Barmby said.

Orlando Health presentation from today's meeting:

City staff report:

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: [email protected]

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Leave a comment

Your thoughts on this? (Comments are moderated; first and last name are required.)