Architects to interview for chance to design first NeoCity office building

Three architecture firms will have a chance on July 31 to convince Osceola County officials they have the creative vision to design an office building at NeoCity that will help attract global business leaders to the emerging tech district.

Located next door to the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (FAMRC), the four-story Class B+ building will serve as headquarters for BRIDG and imec at the 500-acre research park. Those agencies are committed to leasing half of the 100,000-square-foot office building.

Deputy County Manager Beth Knight, one of three on the selection committee, said the county wants a design that makes a strong statement. Nine architectural firms responded to the county's Request for Proposals to design the building, with three short-listed on June 21.

Schenkel Shultz, which earned the highest preliminary score based on its written proposal, concurred. The project approach included this introduction:

"The first impression of the exterior of the building needs to be iconic and progressive, emulating the innovative and highly technical nature of the work inside. It is important that the first floor incorporates an
abundance of glass for transparency in the lobby / common areas to illuminate the activity taking place on the ground floor."

A few key design features include a courtyard linking the office building to the FAMRC next door, a modern and inviting lobby, and an abundance of transparent glass on the ground floor. The fourth floor would feature a "sophisticated and high-tech boardroom" with attached roof terrace, which could be used as a recruiting tool to bring international corporations and future tenants to NeoCity.

HKS Architects earned the second-highest score based on its written proposal. Since the firm would be new to the project, team members would immediately conduct a series of charrettes with county officials and tenants. 

HKS, which designed the USTA National Training Center at Lake Nona, emphasized its global experience in the office sector in its response.

"HKS has extensive knowledge of ever-changing corporate workplace trends. Our focus is to design value-driven facilities that are highly flexible, adaptable and efficient, enhancing the human experience. These buildings convey the company’s vision and values, attracting and retaining top employees while adhering to the latest sustainable design practices."

HKS has a team of specialists to help the county incorporate the NeoCity branding message into the architecture. "HKS understands the value of branding environments and has developed a specialty group dedicated to marketing its clients with the architectural expression of their communications objectives." 

The third architecture firm to interview will be Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK), which designed the FAMRC on the NeoCity campus. 

"We have been instrumental in addressing the unique issues of designing a clean room facility that enhances innovation and research objectives, and we are committed to establishing a complimentary office facility that best houses the research and industry partners," Principal Tom Thomas wrote in his introductory letter.

The HOK proposal emphasized the design of "hyper-flexible" workspaces that encourage mobility and collaboration among different generations and cultural groups. Mobility is stressed in the firm's project approach: 

"Many R&D organizations recognize that their employees are already mobile, and are providing tools to help them be more productive when they are not in the laboratory. This means not only equipping them with smartphones and laptops, but also allowing them to move around in buildings to support different projects and teams."

On Tuesday, Oscoela's selection committee interviewed three firms that made the shortlist for the Construction Manager At Risk contract.

Procurement Director Rebecca Jones told GrowthSpotter the committee would wait to evaluate the construction firms until it selected the architect on July 31. 

Skanska USA delivered the FAMRC earlier this year -- on time and on budget. The firm led all proposals with 266 out of 300 points; followed by Moss & Associates (247) and Charles Perry Partners (245). 

Moss recently won the $28 million contract to build Osceola County's new middle school near Harmony High School. 

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