Photo:The new Kirkman Road overpass is part of the I-4 Ultimate project.
Economic Yearbook 2017
Central Florida: I-4 and more
I-4 and More
In February, Florida Department of Transportation contractors began their third year of construction on one of the most important infrastructure projects in central Florida history: The reconstruction of I-4 through the center of Orlando. The $2.3-billion project, which FDOT has branded I-4 Ultimate, has a ways to go. FDOT says it expects to reach peak construction, with about 2,000 workers scattered along the 21-mile construction zone, this year.
This year should also bring the first sliver of relief, says Loreen Bobo, the project’s construction program manager. By the fall, crews expect to complete an overpass near Universal Orlando and the International Drive corridor, an area that has become more congested with the opening of popular attractions such as Universal’s Harry Potter lands and Merlin Entertainments’ Orlando Eye. The new bridge will supplement an existing overpass in the vicinity, which also has been rebuilt.
Another relief valve should open in 2018, with a reconfigured interchange north of Orlando at I-4 and Maitland Boulevard, one of the region’s busiest commuter corridors. The project’s most significant additions — the installation of tolled express lanes and a rebuilt intersection of I-4 and the East-West Expressway, one of the busiest pinch points in all of Florida — won’t be done until sometime in early- to mid-2021.
A Plethora of Projects
Among the other major infrastructure projects under way around central Florida:
SunRail: The region’s commuter- rail service broke ground in April 2016 on a southern extension that will add another 17.2 miles of track and four stations, including the first three in Osceola County. Trains should be running on the southern expansion by early next year. A northern extension, which would add 12 miles and a station in DeLand in Volusia County, appears to be in limbo due to uncertain federal funding.
Poinciana Parkway in Osceola County: Central Florida’s newest toll road opened last year with a 10-mile, interchange-free leg that runs southeast from I-4 in the Four Corners area. It’s the first of what Osceola County officials envision as 47 miles of new toll roads through the rural interior of the county.
I-75 widening: By the end of this year, FDOT expects to finish widening 20 miles of I-75 in Sumter County from four to six lanes, part of a larger project to widen one of the state’s most important north-south thoroughfares. The agency also has begun improvements to the sometimes- chaotic interchange at I-75 and Florida’s Turnpike; that’s expected to finish in winter 2019.
Orlando International Airport: OIA expects to complete a people-moving complex that will include a parking garage, remote check-in facilities and a train station that should eventually accommodate services such as SunRail and the Brightline private passenger train. The complex is the centerpiece of $1.1 billion worth of improvements aimed at wringing more capacity out of a terminal building that was designed for 24 million passengers a year but now handles more than 40 million. The airport has also broken ground on a $1.8-billion terminal, dubbed the “south terminal,” which will add at least 16 gates. It’s now expected to open in 2020.
Wekiva Parkway (Orange, Lake and Seminole counties): The 25-mile, $1.6-billion tolled highway will complete a beltway around metro Orlando when completed by the end of 2021. A threemile segment opened last year and another five miles are expected to come online this spring.
Orlando leaders have struggled for years to reinvigorate the city’s historic Parramore neighborhood —an economically depressed, predominantly African-American area just west of downtown where the population has shrunk from about 18,000 50 years ago to just over 6,000 today. There has been some progress: Juvenile crime has fallen 61% in the neighborhood since the launch of a program called the Parramore Kidz Zone, which links neighborhood children with health care, after-school programs and employment. But leaders hope improvement accelerates this year, with the opening this summer of the $60-million Parramore Community School, a pre-K-8 school that will serve approximately 1,200 students and include a parking garage, health clinic, athletic field and a Boys & Girls Club. As part of the opening, the city will pilot a program called “walking school bus” from multiple locations around the neighborhood to pair groups of students with a supervising adult. Meanwhile, philanthropic grants from a foundation established by hotelier Harris Rosen will cover the costs of preschool staff and a scholarship program for students who want to attend Florida universities, colleges or technical schools.
People to Watch
Djuan Rivers: Disney has a chance to steal the spotlight back from smaller rival Universal Orlando and its Harry Potter-powered attractions with the May opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar, an expansion that industry watchers say was inspired by Universal’s success with Potter. The job of ensuring that the Avatar opening goes smoothly — and that Disney maximizes its investment in the project — will fall to Djuan Rivers, vice president of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Rivers, a nearly 30-year company veteran, oversaw the launch of Aulani, an $800-million hotel and timeshare that opened in Hawaii in 2012.
Chip Wile: The president of Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach ran the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina for 2½ years until International Speedway Corp. picked him last year to run its most important venue. Wile will be responsible for maximizing the company’s returns on the $400 million it put into rebuilding the Daytona Speedway
Bob Richards: The Canadian-born space entrepreneur, once a special assistant to Carl Sagan, is the co-founder and CEO of Moon Express, the first private enterprise to win U.S. government approval to travel beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the moon. The company is improving launch complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it plans to develop and test a fleet of spacecraft for transportation to the moon.
Loreen Bobo: An 18-year veteran of the Florida Department of Transportation, Bobo earned a master’s degree in engineering from UCF. She has to keep traffic moving even as she oversees the I-4 Ultimate project’s reconstruction of 21 miles of interstate.
Kurt Kamperman: Kamperman is the chief executive of USTA’s National Campus in Lake Nona. Local leaders are banking on the facility to boost sports tourism in central Florida.
P. Barry Butler: The former executive vice president and provost of the University of Iowa took over last month as president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.
Terry and Glendora Yoder: The husband-and-wife team started T&G Distribution in Wildwood in 2010. The business, which distributes siding, soffits and other building supplies, expects to add more jobs, thanks in no small part to the growth of The Villages.
Hector Lizasuain: Lizasuain’s Magic Development hopes to build a $1-billion-plus luxury vacation home community. He also chairs the community agency charged with redeveloping U.S. 192, a blighted corridor in the shadow of Disney World.
John Moore: Clermont’s South Lake Hospital, where Moore is president, is adding an emergency center in the northern half of the county. The hospital’s National Training Center is a magnet for athletes in training and a tourism engine.
County Population: 572,858, Ï+4.6% vs. 2012
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 6.9%
Per Capita Income: $42,016
BREVARD COUNTY — Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has begun building a 750,000-sq.-ft. rocket manufacturing facility in Exploration Park at Kennedy Space Center. Meanwhile, Moon Express is making improvements to launch complexes at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that will allow it to develop and test new spacecraft. And OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defense and Space, will build an $85-million manufacturing facility, also in Exploration Park. > Port Canaveral’s capital plans include multimillion- dollar improvements to the roadway network around the cruise terminals and a deeper turning basin.
County Population: 335,088, Ï+10.4% vs. 2012
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 19.2%
Per Capita Income: $38,736
LAKE COUNTY — Residential development in the southern half of Lake County, already one of metro Orlando’s major bedroom communities, is expected to accelerate this summer with the opening of a new interchange along Florida’s Turnpike.
There are at least four housing developments in the works around the area, which combined will add approximately 10,000 homes. Farther north, the county and Mount Dora planners have been working with landowners to figure out a vision for the Wolf Branch Innovation District, a rural area that’s expected to develop soon with the impending opening of a spur from the under-construction Wekiva Parkway toll road. > The county scored an important economic- development win when electronics giant Samsung agreed to move into a 700,000-sq.-ft. warehouse that had been vacant for years since the collapse of Circuit City.
County Population: 1.31 million, Ï+9.2% vs. 2012
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 18.9%
Per Capita Income: $40,735
ORANGE COUNTY — There are mixed signals for tourism. Attendance at Walt Disney World and county hotel-tax collections both slipped in late 2016. Reasons for optimism include the May opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the biggest expansion at Disney World in years. That same month, Universal Orlando will open Volcano Bay, a water park that Universal is billing as its third theme park. Longer term, Disney has announced that it will open a Star Wars-themed land at Disney Hollywood Studios in 2019. > Downtown Orlando adds another residential tower in July, when Summa Development Group completes its 25-story apartment building CitiTower.Meanwhile, the University of Central Florida and Valencia College may break ground this year on a downtown campus, an anchor of the long-planned Creative Village project. The Orlando City Lions will open their soccer-specific stadium on the western edge of downtown later this year. > Local and state officials are still scrambling to find a way to salvage the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, but the broader Lake Nona community is a hub of activity. Tavistock Development plans to begin construction of the next phase of its Lake Nona Landing development. A new hotel is expected near the United States Tennis Association’s training campus. And financial services giant KPMG should begin construction this spring on its $430-million training center.
County Population: 124,111, Ï+20.7% vs. 2012
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 22.0%
Per Capita Income: $40,480
SUMTER COUNTY — Retirement remains the main economic engine in Sumter County, where The Villages, the sprawling senior metropolis, has another 14,000 homes in the works. > Meanwhile, Calgary, Alberta-based developer Walton International has proposed developing another large retirement community west of I-75. Its 1,065-acre Panasoffkee Preserve will have roughly 2,000 age-restricted homes, plus more unrestricted homes and apartments and commercial space. The Barclay Group’s Trailwinds Village mixed-use development in Wildwood will include a Lowe’s, Aldi and other retail and medical offices.
County Population: 333,651, Ï+15.5% vs. 2012
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 25.5%
Per Capita Income: $30,531
OSCEOLA COUNTY — The tourism industry generally and demand for vacation homes specifically are fueling big developments in Osceola. The first phases of the Jimmy Buffett-licensed Margaritaville resort in Kissimmee are expected to open later this year, while economic development leaders hope Orlando-based Magic Development will break ground soon on a $1.7-billion luxury vacation- home community called Magic Village. > More than $150 million in development is under way in the ChampionsGate community. > The Four Corners region, where the Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk county lines come together, will get another boost this fall when Valencia College begins classes on a new Poinciana campus. > Osceola’s long-term high-tech play, the International Consortium of Advanced Manufacturing, rebranded itself with the name BRIDG. The entity manages a smart-sensor manufacturing research center that opened in March.
County Population: 464,012, Ï+7.6% vs. 2012
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 16.2%
Per Capita Income: $44,938
SEMINOLE COUNTY — White-collar professional and business services jobs anchor the Seminole County economy. Among the most recent expansions: Deloitte, which plans to add 850 jobs and invest $24 million over the next four years, is expanding a large campus in Lake Mary. > After spending $27 million on a new sports complex, local leaders are hoping youth sports can lift the local tourism industry. Two miles away, Orlando Sanford International Airport should soon have its first on-site hotel, a Hampton Inn — a development that boosters say is spurred in part by optimism about sports tourism. > HCA has opened a $109-million, 64-bed hospital in Oviedo, a fast-growing suburb just over the county line from the University of Central Florida.
County Population: 520,538, Ï+4.7% vs. 2012
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 13.0%
Per Capita Income: $38,932
VOLUSIA COUNTY — NASCAR track owner International Speedway Corp. continues to be the big dog in Daytona Beach. Last year, ISC completed a $400-million renovation of its famed Daytona International Speedway. Company executives say the new facility drove more than $15 million in incremental earnings gains in year one alone. The company is also midway through the $120-million first phase of its One Daytona mixed-use development adjacent to the speedway. Cobb opened a luxury theater there in December, and Bass Pro Shops opened a store in February. The first phase, which also includes a Fairfield Inn & Suites, should be done later this year. > The area’s tourism industry cheered in January when Gov. Rick Scott announced he would spend nearly $15 million on emergency beach restoration in St. Johns, Flagler, Volusia and Brevard, the counties that bore the brunt of Hurricane Matthew last fall. Brokers say there has been growing interest in Volusia County as a logistics hub since a large Trader Joe’s distribution operation opened there.
The Orlando Utilities Commission has developed a partnership with the United States Tennis Association’s National Campus in Lake Nona, serving as the USTA’s Official Sustainability and Utility Sponsor. OUC has installed solar panels, electric vehicle and mobile device charging stations throughout the complex, along with “H2OUC hydration stations,” which enable users to refill disposable and reusable water bottles and reduce waste. The USTA complex is the nation’s largest tennis center, with 100 tennis courts and dozens of programs for players of all ages and abilities. For more information, visit oucpowersgrowth.com.