Osceola hoping free land will bring public & private dollars to new research park

Osceola County Manager Don Fisher unveiled a key economic incentive proposal to draw jobs and investors to the Florida Tech Farm on Thursday.

Speaking to the Central Florida chapter of NAIOP, Fisher said the county has offered 50 acres of prime real estate in the new research park for free, as part of its application to land a $70 million manufacturing innovation grant.

The county and  International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR) are a finalist for the grant program administered by the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

"Hopefully, this will set us apart from the other grant applications," Fisher told GrowthSpotter.

Perkins+Will is currently master planning the 500-acre research park, which is anchored by the  Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center now under construction. The county has invested more than $70 million in the project.

Fisher has said the county would be "very aggressive" in offering land to attract private investment at the park -- even in excess of the 50 acres earmarked for the NISP grant.

"We control about 300 acres," Fisher said. "Our strategy is to give away a third of that land to get the jobs here, and then sell the rest to recoup our investment."

The county is also looking for a development partner on a four-story, 100,000-square-foot office building next to the FAMRC. Fisher said he already has commitments for 70 percent of the space from ICAMR, UCF and imec.

Kissimmee City Manager Mike Steigerwald also briefed the group on the city's downtown redevelopment project. The city approved a five-year contract last December with St. Petersburg-based Mosaic Development and broke ground this summer on the first phase: Toho Square.

Steigerwald said the $7 million parking garage and surrounding apartments were designed to mimic the storefronts along Broadway Avenue.

The overall plan calls for construction of a boutique hotel at the corner of Lakeview and Ruby avenues, along with a mix of shops, restaurants and market-rate housing. 

"That hotel is desperately needed," Mosaic Partner Marc Mariano said. "Right now there's 252 weddings a year at the Lakefront Park and no hotel within 10 miles."

Mosaic Principal Roxanne Amoroso said the company's investment on the 260-unit apartment complex would be $30 million. The entire project, which also includes condos, townhouses, retail and a community center, has been estimated at $68.7 million.

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