The planned $1.1 billion Vertical Medical City won an enthusiastic thumbs up Tuesday from Orlando’s Municipal Planning Board, which recommended approval of the 444-foot tower Master Plan, as well as the conditional use permit to allow assisted living units in the downtown core.
“I think the vision is fantastic,” MPB member Tim Baker said. “I think it will be a pioneering concept for the city.”
Vertical Medical City would rise on roughly 2.5 acres at 1000 N. Orange Ave. and at 35-stories, would dramatically change the downtown skyline. The developer, Ponte Health CEO Tabitha Ponte, told GrowthSpotter the firm is negotiating a 100-year land lease for the site bounded by the SunRail tracks and Orange Avenue on the east, Marks Street to the south and Garland Avenue on the north and west.
Dan Kirby, principal with Jacobs, presented the project, which is divided into two buildings. The shorter building would house a mix of Class A medical offices, research labs and a rooftop atrium with a working urban farm. The taller building - 35-stories - would have 955 senior living units with a mix of assisted-living, advanced care and memory care services.
“We have a passion for this project,” Kirby said. “I’ve had the privilege to work with some really talented folks in terms of design of this project. In our first meeting, we asked everyone what they expected as they grow older and what they’re afraid of.”
Ponte and Kirby said their goal was to create a dynamic, urban environment where residents could receive a continuum of care. “It’s intended to be a groundbreaking project in terms of the aging in place process.”
Providing 350,000 square feet of Class A medical offices within the community eliminates one of the biggest transportation hurdles facing seniors: getting to and from medical appointments.
The tower, which could anchor downtown Orlando’s North Quarter District, had already earned praise from the city’s Appearance Review Board for its design. The MPB echoed those remarks, calling the design beautiful and forward-thinking.
“This is probably one of my favorite renderings I’ve seen since I’ve been on the board,” Chairman Mark Suarez said. He especially liked the developer’s decision to build the parking garage with level floors instead of slanted -- so it could be converted to interior space in the future. The majority of the parking -- 600 of the 800 spaces -- would use mechanized lifts to further reduce space needs. Kirby said the developer would provide valet parking services for residents and employees.
“In looking at the market demographics, ALF residents want to have their cars but, but the truth is they’re not using them much,” Kirby said.
Kirby said they considered the feasibility of incorporating a SunRail station into the project, but the curvature of the rail line made it impossible. As a compromise, Ponte agreed to work with the city and Lynx to add a bus stop that could extend the free Lymmo service another two blocks north to the property. Another condition of the approval of the intensity bonus is that Ponte must incorporate a public art element into the building.