Could Lakeland get an innovation district?

With a new renewable energy field under negotiation, plans for the Central Florida Innovation District could be coming to life in Lakeland. Check out these new and proposed technology developments.

An aerial rendering of the Applied Research Center at Florida Polytechnic University in what could be the new Central Florida Innovation District

The Applied Research Center at Florida Polytechnic University

Rendering by HOK

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Renewable energy, self-driving cars, rocket fuel — the future could start right here in Lakeland. With new projects proposed and underway, plans for a Central Florida Innovation District are top of mind for local officials.

The Innovation District was first dreamed up back in 2019, when Lakeland, Auburndale, and Polk County officials were hoping to build a research park around Florida Polytechnic University. Now, these five developments in that area could put Lakeland on the technology map.

Intersect Development project

The Auburndale City Commission will vote next week (Oct. 16, 2023) on a proposed development along Pace Road, near Florida Polytechnic University. Plans from Intersect Development include three research buildings, four industrial mixed-use buildings, and 360 units of multi-family/potentially off-campus Florida Poly student housing.

The company has already built a 464,000-sqft logistics building, and it was approved to add two research buildings and space for 10 outparcel buildings in 2021. If the new plans are approved, Intersect Development would add 270,000 sqft of space for research and development, manufacturing, health technology, and more to the land it has recently acquired. Representatives from Florida Poly and the Planning Commission have recommended approval.

Renewable energy farm

Williams Acquisition Holding Co., an Oklahoma natural gas company, recently reached out to the City about a renewable energy project. The company owns 4,500 acres of land west off of State Road 33. By adding a solar farm, Lakeland Electric could increase clean energy generation after shutting down one of its coal-powered units.

Outdoor SunTrax automated car testing site in the Lakeland, FL innovation district

Would you hitch a ride in an autonomous car?

Photo provided by Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise

Suntrax autonomous vehicle test facility

The Florida Department of Transportation and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise recently completed Phase Two of a self-driving car test facility near Florida Polytechnic University. A 2.25-mile oval test track was already in use, and a 200-acre infield with even more testing environments just opened in June of this year.

Renderings of what the Citrus Innovation Center at Florida Polytechnic University will look like

A first look at the plans for the Citrus Innovation Center

Rendering provided by Ryan Companies US, Inc.

Florida Polytechnic University

Developments aren’t just happening near Florida Poly. The school has been busy adding to its STEM research and development department. The Applied Research Center opened its doors in August 2022 with 90,000+ sqft of research labs, study and design space, and offices.

The Citrus Innovation Center is currently under construction. When complete, it will be a citrus research and development facility for International Flavors and Fragrances Inc.

Hydrogen plant

South Korean company LowCarbon Hydrogen Corporation plans to build a hydrogen plant in Mulberry. Although this might be far from the possible Innovation District, the plant would boost our local tech rep by creating clean fuel for cars and rockets.

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