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Lake Nona’s Neo Urban Lifestyle Redefines Orlando

 A Wellness “City Within a City”

In this Neo Urban Community, Keeping Up with the Joneses Means Staying Fit, Healthy & Happy

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Lake Nona residents practicing community yoga during the launch of the JIYO wellness app created by Dr. Deepak Chopra

Once upon a time, housing developments in Orlando morphed into suburban sprawl spawned by affordable land far outside of the city core developed into master planned communities. Lured by amenities such as golf courses, swimming pools, parks and backyards, people ventured towards all points of the compass, miles away from major transportation arteries. Orlando euphemistically became “metro-Orlando” code for suburbia that co-opted its namesake. As a resident of Central Florida, I jokingly say that daily life requires no less than a 30-minute drive to anywhere for anything.

With massive I-4 construction underway and no discernible end in sight, you can up that drive time  45 minutes to an hour as confused commuters try to navigate the ever-changing on and off ramps and reconfigured lanes.  As someone who regularly commutes to Tampa/St. Pete, I’m a jaded, battle-hardened road warrior who welcomes a new mindset in building communities known as Neo-Urbanism.

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Karen LeBlanc, aka The Design Tourist, a metro Orlando resident, visiting Lake Nona on a press tour to learn about the latest innovations in this progressive healthy community.

I recently spent a day in Lake Nona as part of a press tour to see how it’s done.  This hyper-local community with its blend of urban and suburban amenities is the best of all worlds: located within the city limits of Orlando, and close to the airport yet far enough away to enjoy parks, trails, green spaces, front porches and backyards. I witnessed how a homeowner can have it all including a healthy lifestyle fostered by wellness and urban amenities, cutting-edge healthcare delivered by its neighboring Medical City, even autonomous shuttles to drive you around the community.

Bird's eye view of Lake Nona overlooking the Beacon Tower and Code Wall Parking garage taken from the rooftop of one of the newest multi-family housing developments, Pixon located in Lake Nona Town Center.
Bird’s eye view of Lake Nona overlooking the Beacon Tower and Code Wall Parking garage taken from the rooftop of one of the newest multi-family housing developments, Pixon located in Lake Nona Town Center.

So, let me outline what a typical Saturday would look like as a resident of Lake Nona. I’d start my day by checking my JIYO app designed by Dr. Deepak Chopra that connects me with community wellness events and information.

In 2018, Dr. Deepak Chopra visited Lake Nona to launch his customized JIYO wellness app designed for residents.

I decide on a free yoga class, one of more than a thousand community events held throughout the year.

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Launched by the company Beep, headquartered in Lake Nona, and manufactured by Navya, a French company, these autonomous shuttles are marked with decals that read “” and “MOVE NONA.”

I use another app to call up a free ride on the self-driving shuttle over to the Farmer’s Market to shop for locally sourced, organic, fresh produce and baked goods. I lunch across the street at Boxi Park, an outdoor district made of 14 repurposed shipping containers containing a mix of restaurants, bars, shops.

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Boxi Park is a 30,000 square-foot, family-friendly and dog-friendly outdoor district with a mix of restaurants, bars, shops, beach volleyball courts, dog park, and playground.

These colorful repurposed shipping containers hold a variety of fast-casual restaurants.

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Boxi park’s brightly painted, repurposed shipping containers host a variety of restaurants.

While eating lunch, I take in one of the many free performances on Boxi Park’s outdoor stage.  

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Boxi Park regularly hosts free public performances on its outdoor stage.

After lunch, I spend the afternoon shopping at Lake Nona Town Center ending with dinner at the new Park Pizza & Brewing Co., a funky garage inspired venue with large windows to view the brewing and urban-style murals on the walls.

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Park Pizza & Brewing Company

If I’m was in the mood for something more upscale, I’d head over to Canvas Restaurant & Market, or Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen, all three created by Tavistock Restaurant Collection.

IMG 3636 I cap off the evening taking in the light show on the surface of the Beacon and Code Wall overlooking the town center. 

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The Beacon Tower by artist Jefre Manuel in Lake Nona Town Center

This regular light show dances on the six-story The Beacon tower anchoring the garage while The Code Wall’s dramatic patterns of 1’s and 0’s is binary code spell out Tavistock’s corporate values.

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The Code Wall on the parking garage of Lake Nona Town Center by artist Jefre Manuel.

Meanwhile, a mirrored Labrador sculpture glows underneath, all works by Lake Nona artist Jefre Manuel.

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Large dog sculpture by artist Jefre Manuel that overlooks Lake Nona Town Center.

I invite you to check out my interview with Jefre when he debuted his Beacon and Code Wall in Lake Nona Town Center.


Now that I’ve captured your imagination, let’s take a deep dive into what makes this community a harbinger of wellness living.

As an early adopter of the wellness real estate movement, The Tavistock Group, an international private investment organization, designed and built Lake Nona. Envisioned as a neo-urban community devoted to human performance, business innovation, sustainability, education, wellbeing and health, Lake Nona spans 17 square miles— all of it prioritizing and promoting longevity, quality of life and human connection.

IMG 3637 1The community took root in 1996 when Tavistock purchased Lake Nona Golf and Country Club and began building out its master plan, along the way curating an impressive collection of public art. Today, Lake Nona is home to approximately 15 thousand residents and growing. In 2018, Lake Nona sold 750  homes with 550 families moving in. Most of the community’s 12 neighborhoods are sold out except for The Crossings and Laureate Park, the only two neighborhoods with new homes for sale.  A Medical Center began evolving with its seed planted in 1991 when the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Center opened near the golf and country club.

Screen Shot 2019 05 16 at 8.15.28 AMToday, Medical City encompasses more than 2.6 million square feet of clinical, institutional and laboratory buildings. The University of Central Florida has a strong presence in Medical City with the UCF Health Sciences Campus that includes the College of Medicine, the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, and the University of Central Florida (UCF) Lake Nona Cancer Center, which recently moved into a 175,000-square-foot facility vacated by the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. Other residents of Medical City include University of Florida (UF) Academic Research Center, which houses the UF College of Pharmacy’s doctoral program, Nemours Children’s Hospital, one of only two in the nation, Orlando Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and GuideWell Innovation Center, an incubator of wellness companies.

Screen Shot 2019 05 16 at 7.50.12 AMJohnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute recently relocated into a larger, new  35,000-square-foot facility double the size of its previous Lake Nona building. In 2020, UCF Lake Nona Medical Center is set to open as a UCF/HCA Healthcare teaching hospital.

Screen Shot 2019 05 16 at 8.12.45 AMLake Nona also is a living lab for human performance with a Sports & Performance District, anchored by the USTA National Center, the largest tennis campus in the world with 100 courts in a 270,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility on 64 acres.

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The USTA National Center in Lake Nona

Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute along with Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Drive Shack Golf Experience, two new additions in 2019, Nona Adventure Park and XL Soccer all work together synergistically to advance sports science and human performance. The Human Performance Institute is conducting a multi-million-dollar longitudinal study on wellness known as the Lake Nona Life Project.

IMG 3634 1Sprinkled throughout the community are retail venues including Lake Nona Village, Lake Nona Plaza, Vickrey Place, Laureate Park Village Center and Lake Nona Creekside which opened in 2019. Soon, residents will be able to use an app to summon a self-driving shuttle to the many nearby amenities.  

IMG 3690The 15-passenger, the battery-powered vehicle has no driver, no steering wheel, no gas pedal, and no brake pedal. Once in operation, they will be the first-ever autonomous public transit vehicles in Central Florida. Launched by the company Beep, headquartered in Lake Nona, and manufactured by Navya, a French company, these autonomous shuttles are marked with decals that read “” and “MOVE NONA.”

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Public art by Jefre Manuel on display in Lake Nona Town Center

Public art is essential to Tavistock’s  “place-making” mandate to create experiences that engage people with places and spaces in the community.  Tavistock sees a connection between art and wellness that enhances residents’ quality of life. Major art installations include Jefre Manuel’s large chrome dog sculpture and the Glass House by Tom Fruin.

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Karen LeBlanc aka The Design Tourist checks out the Glass House by Tom Fruin, one of Lake Nona’s many public art installations.

The ultimate success of this neo-urban community will be the creation of a lifestyle that allows its 15 thousand plus residents to park their cars and walk to nearby urban amenities such as restaurants, retail and entertainment venues are concentrated in Lake Nona Town Center: At buildout, Lake Nona Town Center will have 4 million square feet of shops, restaurants, hotels, office and entertainment opportunities. In 2020, the movie theater Cinépolis Lake Nona opens with nine theaters creating an immersive experience with stadium-style, fully-reclining leather seats paired with the industry’s latest sound and high-definition projection technologies.

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The lobby of Pixon apartments in Lake Nona Town Center

The future growth of Lake Nona promises more residential, retail and wellness offerings. Pixon, a modern apartment community with 200 units, opens in June in Lake Nona Town Center.

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Pixon apartment complex in Lake Nona Town Center
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Ceiling mural painted by LaDania in the lobby of Pixon

The modern apartment community is painted with geometric designs on the exterior and decorated inside with artwork by Columbian street artist, LeDania including the ceiling of the lobby. The artist spray painted the mural in free form over 10 days, inspired by the waters of Lake Nona. Pixon has co-working spaces for residents, a virtual gaming arcade and regular craft beer tastings, among its many amenities.  

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Wall mural painted by Colombian street artist LaDania in the lounge area of Pixon

Pixon also has Orlando’s first micro-units that span 350 square feet.

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KPMG Learning, Development and Innovation Campus

In 2020, the KPMG Learning, Development and Innovation Campus opens bringing 800 people a week to train in the 450-million-dollar facility located on 55 acres. The training center will also have hotel accommodations. A new hotel, Lake Nona resort will open next to the KPMG training facility anchored by a crystal lagoon. The swimming pool lagoon will span 15 acres, as one of the largest in the country and is cleaned by magnets.

Tavistock Development Company says Lake Nona is a legacy project leveraging synergies between technology, wellness, healthcare, art and community. Lake Nona not only an innovation epicenter for a destination attracting residents through Central Florida to come out and enjoy its many retail and entertainment amenities. 

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a freelance writer living in Orlando, Florida with many published bylines in magazines, newspapers, and multimedia sites. As a professional lifestyle writer, Karen specializes in art, architecture, design, home interiors and personality profiles. Karen is the writer, producer and host of the streaming series, The Design Tourist ( that brings viewers a global dose of design inspiration with episodes featuring the latest looks and trends from the world’s premiere design events and shows. She also publishes a quarterly magazine on design travel that you can read by clicking the link: Her journalism background includes seven years on-air experience as a TV news reporter and anchor covering a range of issues from education to politics. Her educational credentials include a Master of Arts in Mass Communications from Northeast Louisiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Louisiana State University. Throughout her career, Karen has written and produced dozens of documentaries and videos for educational, commercial, corporate, and governmental clients and appeared in many TV and video productions as a professional host.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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