It’s amazing when you think that only 45 years or so ago, Orlando was mostly orange groves. Since then, Oviedo and Dr. Phillips have grown from housing oranges to housing full communities with hospitals, theme parks, shopping centers, businesses and community centers. What brought about so many changes so quickly, and how have these changes impacted the communities?
Oviedo’s Early Years
Mayor Dominic Persampiere, who has been the city’s mayor for the past five years, offers insight as to what brought about these rapid and welcome additions to Oviedo. “It originally was founded in a farming community,” he says. “In the 1800s there was a small trading post off Lake Jesup, and that is where the settlers would come in. We were known as the Lake Jesup community. It was all agriculture. It was a one-traffic-light town up until 1970.”
With the expansion of the University of Central Florida (UCF), new subdivisions quickly grew. “The boom was in the 1980s,” Persampiere says. “Then the Greenway came into town which made it easier for people to come in.”
Growth and Development
Now, the city is in close proximity to numerous facilities for the residents to enjoy including great schools. “Because of our proximity to UCF, we are one of the few cities where you can go from nursery school to graduate school,” Persampiere boasts.
Indeed, the city of Oviedo has some of the best schools in Central Florida. Oviedo represented Florida on Businessweek’s list of America’s Best Places to Raise Kids in 2013 and has a highly respected focus on kids and schools. “We have a real quality of life here,” Persampiere says. “We were selected by Family Circle magazine in 2011 as a top 10 family friendly city in America. It is something we are very proud of. We are a community of kids and cul-de-sacs with top-rated schools – an absolutely family friendly atmosphere.”
The development of the Oviedo Medical Center, which is scheduled to open in 2017, along with Oviedo on the Park, provides another added bonus to residing here. Home to residential units, retail space, an amphitheater and event lawn, a dog park, a veteran’s tribute and much more, all surrounding a lake, Oviedo on the Park introduced a city center of sorts to the community. Families can walk to the many offerings, which also include paddleboat rentals and a playground.
“In 2000, the city council decided we needed to update our downtown master plan,” City Manager Bryan Cobb says. “So, Oviedo on the Park was the new development. It is a downtown neighborhood. Everything is built around the park. A place where people can live, work, and play.”
The Beginnings of Dr. Phillips
The community of Dr. Phillips, once the epicenter of citrus production, is now booming with businesses and families have planted their roots into its vast neighborhoods.
It all began with the Phillips family, for whom the community was named, owners of a citrus empire that spanned several counties and included 5,000 acres of citrus groves. Not only was patriarch Dr. Philip Phillips recognized for innovations like canning orange juice sans the metallic taste typical of earlier methods but he was also known for being a caring and generous employer. “As the largest citrus producer in the world, the Phillips family has left a legacy that will carry their name for decades to come,” Dr. Phillips Charities President Ken Robinson says.
The family established The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation in 1953 to support those in need in Central Florida, and they sold the citrus business in 1954. Howard Phillips, the couple’s son and the sole stockholder of the Phillips’ companies after his parents’ deaths, left all of the Phillips family assets to be used for charitable endeavors upon his death in 1979, leading to the creation of Dr. Phillips Charities. This not-for-profit organization continues to see to the community’s needs by offering grant support to numerous programs and organizations.
After the freezes, citrus production moved out of the area and the community began to grow into one of the region’s affluent communities. “Over the years, this area between the Butler Chain of Lakes and Interstate 4 began to urbanize into one of the most unique communities in Orange County,” Commissioner S. Scott Boyd says.
Family, Charities, Healthcare
“The Dr. Phillips name has been a major economic and philanthropic presence in the Central Florida community since the turn of the 20th century,” Boyd says. “Dr. Phillips Charities honors the legacy of the Phillips family and its support of organizations that live up to the motto, ‘To help others help themselves.’”
Dr. Phillips is home to Universal Studios on the eastern border, shopping and Restaurant Row along Sand Lake Road, the Butler Chain of Lakes on the western boundary, Lake Buena Vista to the south, and golf courses sprinkled throughout.
These attractions, along with the community’s continued growth, have enhanced residents’ quality of life but safety is the top priority. “One way is a county ordinance amendment to allow HOA-operated cameras within county right of way at neighborhood entrances,” Boyd says. “This resulted in improved safety throughout Orange County.”
Another milestone in the area is the Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, which was built on property that was one of the first orange groves in the county, celebrating its 30th anniversary last year. It opened as the 150-bed Sand Lake Hospital in 1985 and has grown to a 237-bed hospital with an emergency department that treats more than 80,000 patients each year.
From citrus groves to booming communities with lots of amenities, Dr. Phillips (and Oviedo) has proven to be one of the best areas to live in Central Florida.