"It's the real deal - to have this quality of turnout is proof we're really onto something," said Bill Martin, executive director for GOPEP. "The whole state is going to benefit from this."
The pre-submittal conference was mandatory for anyone wishing to respond to to Osceola County's request for letters of interest to master plan the 500-acre Judge Farms research park, home to the Florida Advanced Manufacturing and Research Center, which is under construction and expected to open in 2017.
There was plenty of local interest, too. Kissimmee-based Rj Whidden & Associates, which designed Osceola Heritage Park, could team up with Orlando-based Scott + Cormia architecture. Principal John Adams said the tech park has the potential to spin off thousands of high-wage jobs in a county that traditionally relied on tourism and retail for economic development.
Developer Donald Gordon and civil engineers Franklin Hart & Reid are looking for potential partners, too.
"This could change the complexion of Osceola County, big time," engineer Tom Franklin said. "The average salary will be much higher than everything in the county. It'll be nice to have our own generation of rocket scientists."
The research park could eventually be home to residential, retail and industrial uses. It's zoned employment commercial, which allows for the highest density in the urban growth boundary.
The RFLOI specifies that the team should include experts in planning, marketing, park design, development of architecture design guidelines, and landscape architects who develop streetscapes, signage and lighting plans.
Each team should provide examples of similar work that includes experience with the placement of buildings, parking, and roadways, with particular emphasis on urban design."
Perkins+Will Principal Cesar Garcia-Pons said the Judge Farms project is exciting because it allows a firm to utilize a multidisciplinary approach. Perkins+Will has designed research parks in Beijing and Gainesville's Innovation Square.
"I can't wait to get back home and start collaborating with my colleagues," he said. "We'll probably have a dozen people working on it in the next two weeks."
The proposals are due Dec. 15. Procurement Supervisor Rebecca Jones said that only teams who respond to the RFLOI will be invited to interview and submit formal proposals.
While the plan is to invite up to three teams to submit formal proposals, Jones said if one LOI meets every criteria, the county could opt to negotiate with the top firm without going through the RFP process.