As an architect with Baker Barrios, Wayne Dunkelberger has been involved in the design of four of the 38 osteopathic colleges across the country. He’s now lending his experience and talents to the three-story medical school coming soon to Horizon West.
“The school’s design is pretty awesome,” Dunkelberger said.
Glass cubes accent one end of the building and the main entrance, which leads into a spacious atrium designed to be a gathering spot with cushioned chairs, tables, and artwork.
“The way we designed this was to take the shared spaces and put them towards the center of the building so that you get a lot more cross-connection and a lot more interaction between the folks who are in the building,” he said. “I think the key components are connectivity with students, staff and faculty.”
The imminent arrival of the Orlando College of Osteopathic Medicine is expected to spur even more growth in what’s already one of the hottest real estate markets in the Orlando area.
The area along State Road 429, across the street from a newly-opened Orlando Health hospital, sits within Boyd Development’s 1,200-acre master-planned Hamlin community where restaurants, shops, and subdivisions have sprouted up.
Next to the school property, the same development team is building a 360-unit market-rate apartment community that Dunkelberger is also designing.
There’s also space on the doorstep of the college and the neighboring multifamily complex reserved for a 20-acre medical campus with 177,800 square feet of commercial space.
Since the Orlando Health hospital opened across the street from the medical school site in early 2021, it’s already driven development activity from the healthcare sector.
Anne Spencer, a health industry expert with Cushman & Wakefield, said that she recently closed a deal with a woman’s clinic that will move onto vacant land nearby.
But despite the hospital’s presence, Spencer believes the fast-growing Horizon West area could use more health services. She said the medical school will play a vital role in bringing more doctor’s offices and care specialists to this section of northwest Orange County.
“This will be really good for the area,” she said of the school. “Any time there’s an opportunity to train medical professionals, with a hospital nearby, there’s definitely synergy.”
That synergy will ignite other types of development as well.
“This medical school will be almost like an anchor,” Spencer said. “If there are students there going to school, or living there, it’s an opportunity for retailers, like restaurants to come in. This is going to be great.”
Plans for the 136,200-square-foot medical school emerged in the summer of 2021 when the land owner at the time, an entity affiliated with Boyd Development, sought approvals to mass-grade the 25-acre site.
GrowthSpotter reported at the time that prominent Tampa-based physicians and philanthropists Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel were supporting the construction of the medical college. The duo has made major donations to medical colleges before.
In 2017, Nova Southeastern University named its College of Osteopathic Medicine after the Indian American physician and entrepreneur, shortly after he and his wife announced a $200 million commitment to the school.
The partnership with Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel also helped fuel the construction of its Clearwater branch in Pinellas County, along the Courtney Campbell Causeway. The 311,000-square-foot campus was completed in 2019.
Records show their foundation made another $25 million donation to the university in 2018.
Using an entity named GHI RE Holdings LLC, Kiren Patel paid $17.1 million for the property in November of 2021.
Earlier this month, another entity tied to Patel took out a $70.7 million construction loan for the property. The loan was provided by Valley National Bank.
The Patels could not be reached for this story and Boyd Development declined to comment.
The Patels roped in familiar partners for the Orlando medical school project, securing a construction contractor and architecture firm they’ve worked with previously.
Element Commercial Construction has been tabbed as the builder.
Dunkelberger, with Baker Barrios, said this is the third project he’s worked on with the Patels. He said the design of Orlando’s college will be very similar to that of the Clearwater College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“They are both modern. They are both three stories,” he said. “Very similar design-wise and style-wise.”
One key element of the design is natural light, he added.
“This idea of biophilia, and how nature and daylight play an important role in the health aspects of people inside the building,” Dunkelberger said. “We did a lot to open up the building with glass and high volume spaces to give that healthy feeling to the building when you’re inside all day.”
Dunkelberger said the idea to build a multifamily complex next door will make this feel less like an educational campus and more like a thriving community. While it will be market-rate housing, he expects many students to move in there.
“They asked us to do the apartment because that will feed into the student population,” he said. “They expect it to have a lot of international students, and so it’s good to give them a place to live.”
“What it does,” he added, “is it offers a choice of living in that Horizon West area. This school will bring a diversity of folks who may not want to purchase a house right away but want to take advantage of the trails and the natural beauty around it and the (Hamlin) town center across the way. When you have the school on one side and the residential units on the other, it really gives it a sense of place.”
Dunkelberger said he expects construction on the medical school to start in early 2023.