Orlando Health, which had a brief affiliation with Lakeland Regional Health that ended 15 months ago, has announced its intention to buy 80 acres in south Lakeland “for a potential future medical campus.”

The property, which is currently vacant, is along the east side of Lakeland Highlands Boulevard just south of the Polk Parkway. It’s currently owned by Ed and Mary Ann Holloway and is adjacent to their Sanlan Ranch RV & Golf Resort.

Plans for the property are still being developed, and construction is expected to take place in phases over several years, according to a news release.

Nevertheless, the private not-for-profit health system already has asked the city to annex the property, assign a future land use designation and zone it for a planned unit development.

The proposed conceptual plans show a free-standing emergency department with helipad, a regional hospital, an ambulatory surgical center, medical offices, a hotel and small retail space.

Kena Lewis, director of public affairs and media relations for Orlando Health, said there is no timeline yet. Orlando Health is still exploring the needs of south Lakeland and the surrounding communities, she said.

There will be a community meet-and-greet session from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Sanlan Golf Course, 2505 Sanlan Golf Drive, and company representatives will be there for informal discussions with area residents.

“They can meet us and get some concepts about other hospitals and facilities we have built,” Lewis said.

City Planning Manager Teresa Maio said city staff will meet with Orlando Regional representatives on Jan. 29 for a site plan review, looking at technical issues for utilities and other infrastructure concerns.

The annexation, future land use request and proposed zoning will go before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission during a public hearing on Feb. 18 and is expected to advance to the City Commission for action in April, Maio said.

“What we eventually build depends on needs of the community,” Lewis said. “This is long-range. We have to go through the planning process. We want to make sure we get it right.”

In addition to its flagship 808-bed Orlando Regional Medical Center in downtown Orlando, Orlando Health fully owns six other hospitals, a partial share in one hospital and operates six free-standing emergency departments.

Orlando Health’s consultants said in a document filed with the city “The initial phase is anticipated to be a free-standing emergency department supported by a helicopter pad and medical office space.”

Eventually, the campus would include the 30,000-square-foot free-standing emergency department, a 360-bed regional hospital, a medical office building or buildings totaling 180,000 square feet, an ambulatory surgical center of 20,000 square feet, a 150-room hotel and 20,000 square-feet of commercial office and retail space, according to the documents.

Lewis said the idea for the hotel came about because of the success Orlando Health has had partnering with Hampton Inn in downtown Orlando on a hotel that serves not only the general public but also families of patients at its three hospitals on the downtown campus, Orlando Regional Health, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.

At final build-out, which has no projected date, the Orlando Health facility is projected to bring 1,800 jobs to the community, the document says.

Changing market

Last year, the Florida Legislature changed the marketplace for hospitals to be more competitive by eliminating the 45-year-old certificate-of-need process. The CON process had been an attempt to rein in hospital costs by preventing expensive duplication of services and equipment by requiring hospitals to justify the need for more acute-care hospital beds.

Lakeland Regional Health and the the city of Lakeland were among those who had had lobbied against the change.

Elimination of the certificate of need process means Orlando Health can move into south Lakeland without going through the extensive and expensive CON process. The Orlando Health site is approximately 7.5 miles south of Lakeland Regional Health’s Medical Center campus and is approximately 9 miles northwest of the Baycare-owned Bartow Regional Medical Center campus.

Already, health systems across the state have been creeping into other hospital’s traditional territory by erecting free-standing emergency departments.

Hospital Corporation of America, a for-profit national hospital chain, is currently building a free-standing emergency department on South Florida Avenue, and not-for-profit Adventist Health System plans to break ground later this year on a free-standing emergency department on the 104-acre property it has owned for several years in northeast Lakeland, near Florida Polytechnic University.

Impact on city

The cty of Lakeland has a complicated relationship with the only hospital now inside the city limits, Lakeland Regional Health. The city owns the Lakeland Regional Health campus and leases it to the health system to operate its 864-bed hospital.

Proceeds from the hospital lease help fund the city budget last year that added up to 10 percent of the capital improvement expenditures.

When the city and Lakeland Regional Health were lobbying against eliminating the certificate of need process, they cited fears that other hospitals moving into the Lakeland Regional’s traditional territory would cut into the hospital’s already thin profit margin, impacting how much is available to reinvest in the community health care facilities, equipment and services and would impact Lakeland Regional’s ability to make its quarterly lease payments to the city.

Last year the lease payments totaled $14,378,675. The money went toward such capital improvements such as routine replacement of fire trucks, playground equipment and upkeep of the police station, improving city cemeteries and paying off the debt for Fire Station No. 7, Mike Brossart, the city finance director told LkldNow last spring.

During the 2019-2020 city budgeting process, the city agreed to Lakeland Regional’s request not to enforce a planned 2.5 percent annual increase in the lease payment for the next five years, which means that the city will be unable to follow through with some planned capital improvements, most notably its proposal to buy land and build a regional park in south Lakeland.

Broken affiliation

Orlando Health and the 864-bed Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center forged a merger that lasted only a year, from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018.

When asked about what impact each entity’s knowledge and experience could have on future competition, spokespeople for each entity addressed the services that their respective hospitals and health systems provide.

Timothy J. Boynton, Lakeland Regional Health vice president of development and chief public relations and communications cfficer, said in an email, “Lakeland Regional Health is proud to be an established and prominent hospital and health system. For more than a century, we have been providing nationally recognized, life-saving care to many generations of families in our community.

“As we embark on our next century, we look forward to not only continuing that legacy of exceptional trauma, chest pain, emergency, cancer and orthopedic care but also building on that legacy with our new Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children and the just-announced Center for Behavioral Health & Wellness,” Boynton said. “We feel deeply privileged to be a part of this amazing and dynamic community and are committed to serving the healthcare needs of the patients and communities in and surrounding Polk County.”

Lewis, speaking for Orlando Health, said, “We have always looked at the Polk County area, the Lakeland area, as a potential market The population is growing very rapidly. It was always on our radar.”

And, she said, Orlando Health enjoys a national and even international reputation and is in a position to be competitive in any market.
The news release cites its facilities as including the area’s only level one trauma centers for adults and pediatrics, its statutory teaching hospital system that offers both specialty and community hospitals and the more than 3,100 physicians that have privileges across the system.

Orlando Health provides more than $620 million in total value to the community in the form of charity care, community benefit programs and services, community building activities and more, the news release said.

Orlando Health System’s facilities include:

  • Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center in downtown Orlando – 808 beds
  • Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, on the downtown campus – 158 beds
  • Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, also on the downtown campus – 258 beds
  • Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, near the Sand Lake area in western Orlando – 237 beds
  • Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital, serving the Longwood community – 206 beds
  • Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital, serving the Winter Garden-Ocoee communities – 211 beds
  • Orlando Health South Lake Hospital, serving the Clermont community – 170 beds
  • St. Cloud Regional Medical Center (Orlando Health has 20 partnership partnership) – 84 beds

Orlando Health also operates six free-standing emergency departments in Central Florida.

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: newstips@lkldnow.com

Join the Conversation


  1. And where’s the consideration for additional traffic in our area? And what about the utilities? Just another way the city puts the populus second to money.

  2. Linda, it will cause the City to have to restructure the traffic lights, put in actual sidewalks through the intersection and start controlling the nearly cattle-trailer stench coming from the sewage treatment North of Lowes. I’d think having an *enforced* 35mph zone in that stretch of traffic would be great. It would certainly also drive the property values of The Meadows and Waterview upwards.

    *My* main concern is whether the contractors will do enough sub-structure and pier work in construction since this stretch of the tollway literally had piers sink out of sight on their own during construction.

  3. I have mixed feelings about this hospital project. I’m not sure how it will affect home values here in Waterview and the traffic will increase. But maybe we will at least get a traffic signal now.
    I know alot of people just hang around LRH’s emergency room and it will probably increase foot traffic in the area.
    I guess growth in this area was inevitable. I just wasn’t expecting it on such a large scale.

  4. I was expecting a large hospital proposal to happen in this area for some time. Lakeland has tremendous growth and has been growing for years. if someone is just opposed to growth , they are in the wrong geographical area of the state. I know this is competition for Lakeland Regional Heath,but if was inevitable. Lakeland is becoming a real city. I believe this will be a first class project and all the concerns such as traffic and adjacent property values will be address in the PUD zoning. Prepare yourself, there are more projects like this in Lakeland’s future.

  5. We should be all thankful for the growth that are coming to Lakeland. Aside from this additional health project, the Linder Airport is now converted to International. This is the real deal here here as we can be a hub and will surely have more developments coming. I think we should thank the Lord for this!

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