A new world is emerging midway between Orlando and Tampa along Interstate 4. Some say as soon as 10 years, others, in 20 years, strawberry fields and pastures will be paved over and Tampa to Orlando will be one big metropolitan area.
Ten years ago, surrounded by old orange groves, Kermit Weeks built an aviation themed history attraction and planted a sign along Interstate 4: Future Site of Downtown Orlampa. The notion of a metro corridor linking the two cities is now no longer a dream. University of Florida researchers say that Polk County, which sits between the two cities, could gain as many as 240,000 people in the next 25 years -- the equivalent of relocating Jersey City, N.J. into the county.
For many moving to the region, the draw is a chance to buy a bigger house -- or any house at all, as prices in Tampa and Orlando soar beyond the reach of teachers, police officers, social workers and retirees. For some, it's one of the rare places a person can still buy a rural life - acreage for a horse and barn, something unheard of in urban Orange County and Orlando, 40 miles away. And for others, the lure is jobs.
How long it will take for the I-4 corridor to build out remains a guess. The University of Pennsylvania Urban Design Studio is creating models of alternative futures within the corridor -- the PennDesign Central Florida Alternatives Future study -- and these show Polk County developing about 335 more square miles by 2050. Plan results will be released in January.
Thanks to Sheryl Stolzenberg