Proximity Matters: A Sense of Place

I was speaking with a scientist who moved to Central Florida this year from Pennsylvania. She’s the founder and CEO of a company that develops pharmaceuticals for hay fever and allergies, and her team works virtually. She could choose to live anywhere in the world. I asked how she had selected Lake Nona Medical City.

It just seemed like a good place to be, she said. She’s near the airport, where she can easily catch a flight to her manufacturing plant. Her condominium is surrounded by hospitals and medical research facilities. And as she meets more people in the neighborhood, she’s discovering they are scientists and medical professionals like her.

That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. That was the thought process behind Lake Nona Medical City, and it’s a concept we’ll see more of in Central Florida. Downtown Orlando is creating this with the Creative Village and joint campus of the University of Central Florida and Valencia College opening in August. We’ll see it with UCF’s retooled incubator programs, the emerging NeoCity scientific community, and the Space Coast’s growing aerospace manufacturing sector, which are all highlighted in this issue.    

Proximity matters. That’s what Dr. Thad Seymour, long-term interim president of UCF, told me during our interview for this month’s Regional Priorities issue. “Random collisions” lead to collaboration.

We can do all kinds of things with buildings, park space, events, sports teams, artwork and culinary experiences, but there’s one thing that creates a sense of place: people. Think about how you feel when you go to a restaurant and there’s no one there. Now think about what it’s like when you’re dining among other people who are enjoying the same experience you are.

The Urban Land Institute examined this sense of place in several sessions at its 2019 Florida Summit in June at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee. I sat in on a keynote where futurist and journalist Greg Lindsay from New York was talking about “The City of Tomorrow: Getting Better as They Get Bigger.”

What can we expect to see in the future? How about downtown public space that can become waterproof with a giant raincoat protruding from a building and hexagonal walkway tiles that are flipped over by robots to become rubber? How about mobility-as-a-service, where you pay a flat monthly rate for public transportation, just
as you do for phone service, so you can leave your car at home and commune with others during your commute? How about cowork centers
that include co-live spaces available with a monthly membership?

As I listened, I realized I was thinking, “Yes, I could see all of these things in Central Florida” and so much more. We are already ahead of many other communities when it comes to creating a sense of place and to using technology to improve our quality of life. This is a community where rockets are launched, theme parks are born, science is invented, tourism is perfected and creativity is cultivated. We can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a place with no imagination.

I’ve lived in Central Florida for almost 35 years, and it still hits me every day how lucky we all are to be here.

Enjoy your month!

About the author

Diane Sears

Diane Sears

A career journalist, author and advocate for business growth, Diane Sears is the editor-in-chief of i4 Business. She is the founder and president of DiVerse Media LLC and co-founder of the Go for the Greens Foundation, which helps connect current and future women business owners with growth opportunities. She also serves in leadership roles with the Women Presidents’ Organization, Women’s Business Development Council of Florida/Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and Athena PowerLink.

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