Metro Development Group is finalizing its team of partners for what is billed as “the city of the future.”
Florida Hospital and Tampa General will be setting up a new medical partnership in the Connected City called West Florida Health.
Meridian Autonomous Systems will be providing self-driving and electrical vehicles.
And, Saint Leo University will be creating a new education center.
Connected City is a master-planned community in eastern Pasco County that promises the fastest Internet and WiFi speeds in the nation.
Over a year and a half, Metro developers and Pasco County have fashioned a public/private partnership for a 10-year pilot project, authorized by state law.
It sweeps in about 7,800 acres bordered by Interstate 75, State Road 52, State Road 54 and Curley and Overpass roads. Metro controls about 35 percent of land targeted for development.
On Jan. 17, Metro put its partners on display at a workshop for Pasco County commissioners.
Six speakers outlined plans to embed state-of-the-art technology into every feature of Metro’s initial development within Connected City.
“It’s all about trying to encourage entrepreneurship in the field of technology, and high-wage jobs in Pasco County,” said Kris Hughes, the county’s planning and development administrator.
During the presentation, both Metro and county officials acknowledged some details on the oversight of Connected City remain a work-in-progress.
County commissioners agreed to jettison a proposed special management committee. Its seven members, including three people appointed by Metro, would have replaced the usual pre-approval route through the county’s development review committee and planning commission.
“I didn’t really like that setup,” said Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano. “I think it’s probably good for us not having the committee.”
Pasco County Chairman Mike Moore suggested a future workshop to reconsider how to make the review process work fairly for everyone.
However, land use attorney Joel Tew noted that the state, in crafting the pilot program, had mandated an expedited review process for Connected City.
“I do think we’ll get in trouble if we don’t set up a new development review board,” Tew said.
The first public hearing for Connected City was scheduled for Jan. 24, after The Laker/Lutz News press deadline.
The final public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7.
Metro currently is constructing its first community within Connected City at Epperson Ranch, at Overpass and Curley roads.
A 7-acre, manmade Crystal Lagoon will be built there, along with thousands of homes, a town center, offices and retail.
Plans for the wellness district, operated by Florida Hospital and Tampa General, include advanced research facilities, an innovation center, and a medical hospital with a med-spa and a health and performance institute, according to details included in a news release.
Details and a name for the health care campus will be released at a later date.
“Our goal is to change the way we deliver care,” said Gino Casanova, director of administrative and governmental affairs at Florida Hospital.
Other Connected City partners include The Broadband Group and the nonprofit US Ignite.
“We’re looking forward to the growth and development of this project,” said Ed Dadez, vice president of continuing education and student services at Saint Leo University.
The university already operates about 40 education centers in seven states, Dadez said.
“An education center is like a small college,” he said. “Saint Leo would be the anchor institution on site (at Connected City).”
Matthew Lesh, Meridian’s chief commercial officer, said his company focuses on high-tech solutions for the development of self-driving and electrical vehicles, as well as robotics and automation.
For instance, Meridian did programming for Olli, a self-driving shuttle from Local Motors.
Asked if Meridian would bring manufacturing jobs to Pasco, Lesh said, “I think we’re wide open to that.”
Published January 25, 2017