Osceola County leaders named LandDesign as the top-ranked firm in the competition to design and master-plan its 500-acre Judge Farms research park.
The Alexandria, Virginia-based firm earned three of five first-place votes by the county's selection committee, and was followed closely by Texas-based Perkins+Will, which received the other two first-place votes.
Those firms, along with third-place Sasaki Associates, will be invited to Osceola in the next two weeks to make presentations and answer questions for the committee about their vision for the project and their planning process.
The research park on U.S. 192 near the Florida Turnpike interchange is home to the $70 million Florida Advanced Manufacturing and Research Center, which is under construction and expected to open in 2017. It will also have a residential component, retail uses and public space.
"I was very impressed with the caliber of the teams and the submittals," County Planning Director Kerry Godwin said.
Eight firms submitted letters of interest in response to the county's solicitation, but these three had the best combination of international experience, high-tech research park planning and urban/mixed-use planning, according to the committee.
Godwin said he liked the composition of the LandDesign team, which includes two different architecture firms one to concentrate on mixed-use design and another on placemaking. They also highlighted the relationship of Judge Farms to Osceola Heritage Park, which is directly across the street.
"They really thought it out," Economic Development Manager Christina Morris said. "I gave them high marks for the economic analysis."
Perkins+Will impressed the committee with its extensive experience in planning high-tech research parks, including Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama and North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.
"I like their past projects," Deputy County Manager Beth Knight said. "I ended up going on-line and looking up Cummings because I wanted to know what it looks like today."
Sasaki, based in Watertown, Massechusetts, assembled a team that helped develop Lake Nona's Medical City master plan. They suggested holding multiple work sessions with the county's master plan committee and will hold focus groups with key stakeholders. The team also would hold workshops for invited and targeted corporations, developers and institutions.
"I liked their project approach," Godwin said. "I thought their four steps were outlined nicely."
Each team will have 30 minutes to present to the committee, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A.