Orlando Health’s plans to build a free-standing emergency room and eventually a hospital, hotel and other amenities at the southeast corner of the Polk Parkway and Lakeland Highlands Road has garnered first-round approval in a months-long process.

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

Long-term, over 20 years, the plan also includes 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.

The health system has asked the city of Lakeland for annexation of 79.6 acres, a land-use designation of Office Center and zoning of Planned Unit Development.

Because of the scale of the project, it likely will be mid-August before it goes before the City Commission for final approval, said Phillip Scearce, the city‘s principal planner in development review and zoning,

Check the city’s review of Orlando Health’s plans here or at the end of this article.

Kena Lewis, director of public affairs and media relations for Orlando Health, said in an email to LkldNow, “We don’t have a specific timeline at this time. We are just prudently planning and pursuing required approvals before we close on the purchase of the property.”

The land is currently owned by E. Edward and Mary Ann Holloway and is connected to their Sanlan Golf Course property.

Because of the review process, it would likely be late fall or early 2021 before the hospital system could begin construction on the free-standing emergency department and other first-phase structures, Scearce said.

On Tuesday, the Lakeland Planning and Zoning Board, meeting via teleconference, gave unanimous approval after listening to city staff explain the entire project and special conditions Orlando Health has agreed to follow.


City staff has worked with the developer on addressing concerns raised Feb. 18 during a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Board.

Special conditions are being placed on the plan that address traffic, noise and building height concerns that were raised by board members, staff and residents of the nearby Meadows and Waterview subdivisions, Scearce said.

The parcel, which is south of the Polk Parkway, east of Lakeland Highland Road and north of the Winter Lake Extension Road, would be developed in five tracts, with differing uses and height restrictions, he said.

The hospital could be no higher than 120 feet tall – scaled back from the originally proposed 150-foot height limit. It would be in the middle of tract, more than 700 feet from Lakeland Highlands Road and a considerable distance from the two residential neighborhoods, Scearce said.

A staff report described the medical campus as a step-down intensity from the heavily commercial area to the north of the parkway, which includes Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, Bealls and two restaurants.

Five tracts

Development would start in Tract A, adjacent to the Polk Parkway, with the stand-alone emergency department, helipad and medical offices. The hospital would be built later in the same tract.

Tract B would include medical support offices with a maximum height of 90 feet. It runs along the Winter Lake Extension Road and is south and east of the stand-alone emergency room and the planned hospital. It would include medical offices , an ambulatory surgical and other medical support services.

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 maximum building height would be 90 feet. The tract is east of the planned hospital.

Tract D, located adjacent to Lakeland Highland Road, would include retail uses in buildings up to 36 feet tall and a hotel no more than 60 feet tall. There could be no more than two fast-casual restaurants that would be limited to one drive-through lane open no earlier than 6 a.m. nor later than 10 p.m., Scearce said. Other retail establishments could include a pharmacy but it could have only one drive-through that would close before midnight, he said.

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.

To change from conservation use would require development plans to go through the PUD modification process, including environmental permitting by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Traffic Issues

Chuck Barmby, the city’s transportation and development review manager, said that at build-out in 2040, the project would generate some 12,616 daily trips in addition to the traffic that would be added by other development and population growth.

“It is going to be a balancing act to ensure that the developer is responsible only for conditions he is creating,” Barmby said.
Orlando Health has agreed to several special conditions to lessen the impact of increased traffic, including:

  • The developer must add a traffic signal where Deerfield Road and Winter Lake Extension Road connect with Lakeland Highlands Road before any building occupancy permits are issued. Negotiations are under way for Orlando Health to share the cost with a planned development on the west side of Lakeland Highlands Road, Barmby said.
  • Before an occupancy permit is issued for the first building, the developer must extend to 600 feet the northbound left-turn lane off Lakeland Highlands Road onto the Polk Parkway. The extension would essentially double the length of the current turn lane.
  • Driveways off Lakeland Highlands Road would be restricted to right in, right out and left in. A left-in turn would be allowed off the Polk Parkway. The driveways must be constructed before an occupancy permit is issued for the first building.

“We are looking in more detail at the impact on Edgewood Drive and New Jersey Road, both west of Lakeland Highlands Road,” Barmby said. “We cannot widen them beyond two lanes and so we are looking at ways to move people in and around the site.”

The Florida Department of Transportation already is doing a design analysis of widening U.S. 98 from four lanes to six lanes, he said.

Bus Service

Although Citrus Connection currently does not provide bus service in the area, that will change, according to Barmby.

Before the site plan is submitted for the stand-alone emergency room, plans must be developed for a transit super-stop that will be built when the Orlando Health project is generating 721 vehicle trips during peak hours. That threshhold is expected to come during the second phase, when the hospital is built, Barmby said.

The super-stop must include, at a minimum, a bus pullout area to accommodate at least two buses with shelters, bike racks, trash receptacles and underground utility infrastructure to house a separately metered automatic ticketing kiosk.

The developer of the Orlando Health campus would pay a transportation impact fee of up to $500,000, which the city will use to buy a bus for servicing the campus.

“Upon delivery of the bus, the developer shall provide funding of $150,000 per year for five years to fund operating costs of the bus, paying for fuel, insurance and other costs to support operating the bus route,” Barmby said. “The service must be provided Monday through Friday and for at least six hours a day.”

Trail Connectivity

Special conditions also require the developer accommodate extension of the planned Fort Fraser Trail, which will connect in with the Lake-to-Lake Bikeway Network between U.S. 98 and Lakeland Highlands Road and will also tie in with the health campus’s network of walkways.

The developer must dedicate a 40-foot wide easement before the first certificate of occupancy is issued, Barmby said

And, if at the time the trail extension is being built, projected to be in 2024, there is a shortfall in funding from the Florida Department of Transportation, county and city sources, Orlando Health must step up with proportionate funding but no more than $300,000, Barmby said. If sufficient money is available, Orlando Health will not be required to add to the funding pot, he said.

The Fort Fraser Trail extension is in the five-year plan for FDOT and the Polk Transportation Planning Organization with $2 million allocated for work in 2024.

What’s Next

Public hearings are tentatively scheduled on May 18 for the City Commission to consider the annexation request, the land use amendment and PUD zoning request, Scearce said.

If those are approved, the request must be forwarded to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for review and comment, a requirement on large projects.

The state review is expected back in August, Scearce said, and the final public hearings before the City Commission is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 17.

If the project is approved, the developer then will have to submit detailed site plans before construction can begin, Scearce said.

Planning and zoning report:

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