An urban-style settlement with 630 apartments with restaurants and shops will be built on the abandoned Florida Tile property west of Lake Wire. The plans were unveiled today at a meeting of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority. The conceptual design by Atlanta developers Carter & Associates and architects The Preston Partnership received enthusiastic approval from the LDDA board of directors.
The project, located between Lake Wire and the upcoming Bonnet Springs Park, is seen as a key element in the development of “Downtown West”, an extension of the urban core from the RP Funding Center to the north.
Developers hope to get all city and state permits by early next year and begin construction next spring, Carter vice president Jack Murphy told LDDA board members.
Phase 1A of the project includes two 7,500 square foot store and restaurant buildings overlooking Kathleen Road south of George Jenkins Boulevard. The stores are meant to be a destination for the entire Lakeland area, not just the Lake Wire community, Murphy said. In addition, the developers are meeting with Jon Bucklew, founder of The Joinery, to determine local residents’ culinary preferences, Murphy said.
Phase 1B comprises 300 apartments in four four-story buildings on 10.33 acres in the eastern portion of the property closest to George Jenkins Boulevard. According to the concept plan, the average apartment size is projected at 915 square meters.
The second phase would include two buildings, one five-story and one four-story, with 330 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor on 8.18 acres along Sikes Boulevard.
According to David Bunch, a builder for owner Lake Mirror Development Co. LLC, the property has undergone extensive redevelopment over the past four years.
You can find the full concept map here or at the end of this article.
That company is a corporate relative of the nonprofit that owns Bonnet Springs Park, and the proceeds from the sale of the property will go toward upkeep of the park, an attorney representing the property owner told city commissioners in February.
The sale of the land to Carter will not take place until all permits have been obtained, Bunch said today. He did not want to announce the selling price.
Bunch told the LDDA board that he and the others who led Bonnet Springs Park are “very pleased with the look and feel” of the Lake Wire project.
The developers and architects have met with the Lakeland City design review team multiple times and updated the plans multiple times in response to concerns from city reviewers.
The result is, “You have an A-plus for the things that LDDA put in the design guidelines,” said Julie Townsend, the organization’s executive director. “Addressing the street was difficult because they are on their own little island and it is Sikes Boulevard. But they did an excellent job of targeting sikes and making it a little more pedestrian-friendly with wide sidewalks and landscaping.
The main entrance to the complex is on Sikes Boulevard on Prospect Street, directly across from the south end of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
City planners are “excited” about the way development is connected to Lake Wire and are working with the State Department of Transportation to “improve connectivity across Lake Wire,” said Chuck Barmby. the city’s economic development and transport manager.
The current owners have laid a 12-foot path on a berm along the western edge of the estate. Carter plans to extend the walk to George Jenkins Boulevard, where pedestrians can cross and continue to Bonnet Springs Park. Eventually, nearly a mile of path will surround the park, Murphy said.
Ultimately, the planners at Bonnet Springs Park are hoping an elevated walkway can be placed over the train tracks along George Jenkins Boulevard, an issue they discussed with the Florida DOT, Bunch said.
The “ultimate goal,” he said, was “a direct shot from downtown into the park” via sidewalks, tunnels and overpasses.
Another potential pedestrian railroad overpass will connect the south side of the project to a proposed transportation hub along Main Street north of the RP Funding Center, Barmby said. Murphy added that land will be reserved for the flyover along Sikes Boulevard on the southern edge of the project.
In response to a question from City Commissioner Mike Musick, architect Bob Preston said the buildings will be wooden frames with hardie board cladding in a variety of styles.
The project already has the necessary zoning, said Barmby. “The next big steps include submitting technical site plans for the internal infrastructure and building plans for vertical structures within Phase I,” he said. “Approval from state and regional agencies such as the Florida Department of Transportation and the Southwest Florida Water Management District must also come in during this process. The coordination with the various municipal departments, including Lakeland Water Utilities and Lakeland Electric, is of course in progress. “
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