Osceola picks architect Perkins + Will for Judge Farms master plan

An unparalleled knowledge of the high-tech sensor industry helped Perkins+Will secure the top ranking of the three architecture firms bidding for the master planning and design contract of Osceola County's Judge Farms research park.

Procurement Director Rebecca Jones said she would present the recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners during their regular meeting Monday, and ask for approval to start contract negotiations. 

The selection committee spent all morning Friday meeting with the top three firms, but the decision came down to a close vote between Texas-based Perkins+Will and Alexandria, Virginia-based LandDesign. Perkins+Will earned three of the five first place votes, while runner-up LandDesign had the other two.

Kissimmee City Manager Mike Steigerwald said he was impressed with Perkins+Will. "They have a strong understanding of the sensor industry itself," he said. "I also really liked their experience with regard to how they placed an emphasis on activity between the campus and research park and the university area. The examples they gave in South Dakota, Albuquerque and Gainesville really seem to speak to what we're trying to do here." 

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. 

P+W Project managers Stephen Coulston and Kevin Bacon discussed how they would balance the industrial and research uses with the public spaces - bringing the "park" back to the research park. They said the park doesn't "die" at 5 p.m. - that it could attract food trucks and have amenities catering to joggers and cyclists.  

Deputy County Manager Beth Knight noted that they understood the importance of a trail network and connecting the campus to downtown Kissimmee. "They know the history of this project," she wrote in her notes.

The teams' portfolio includes master planning for established research parks, such as Huntsville, Alabama's Cummings Research Park and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, as well as new research parks affiliated with Texas A&M University, University of Texas and the University of Florida. 

In 2011, Coulston was the lead planner for the National Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative park in McAllen, Texas. The 500-acre mixed-use research park shares many of the goals for the Judge Farm project.

The team feels that getting input from researchers and scientists in the beginning of the project is critical, and to attract and retain world-class projects and talent, the research parks of the future must offer an attractive setting to work, linger and collaborate.

Planning Director Kerry Godwin gave the P+W team high marks for their understanding of the economics and tech industry, but he ranked LandDesign slightly higher because of the teams's community planning and public engagement experience. 

"I thought Perkins+Will graphics were somewhat sedate," he said. "As a planner I leaned toward the others. I was concerned about presenting to the public and gaining public support." 

Despite the 3-2 vote, all members of the committee supported the majority decision. 

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