Contemporary Office Building Planned Near Lake Mirror

Aspyre buildingLakeland investor Wesley Beck is planning a modern, three-story office building with a glass facade and balconies overlooking Lake Mirror on vacant land between the Amtrak station and Lakeland Brewing Co.

The project made its public debut Thursday at a meeting of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, which must approve its design.

Project architect Steve Boyington of Lakeland’s WMB-ROI firm, told LDDA board members that Beck wanted a sense of whether they’re amenable to a contemporary structure across from the north shore of Lake Mirror before proceeding. “He’s not interested in Georgian or a Mediterranean,” Boyington said of Beck, a principal in Aspyre Properties and the owner of the land at 632 E. Main St.

The board’s response, in essence: We approve the glass second and third stories as shown in project renderings. We reject the solid wall of ivy shown on the first floor; please come back with a different look for for that part.

Click photos for a larger view. 

Beck envisions a “premiere” office building housing mostly executives for his firm and one or two others, Boyington said.

To take advantage of the lakefront view and to overcome some technical issues, the building is placed at the front of the property with parking in the rear and under the building. Clear Low-E glass windows with a slight gold tint and balconies face the street and part of the downtown-facing west wall under a cantilevered “umbrella” overhang.

“A view of downtown is paramount in this owner’s mind,” Boyington said.

One challenge in designing the building was squeezing 17,000 square feet of office space and parking in a relatively small area, he said. The building occupies nearly the full width of the lot, so plans are in the works to access parking via property owned by the city at the neighboring Amtrak station.

Underground remnants of a former power plant on the site present more challenges, some of which may not become apparent until digging starts, he said.

Boyington has developed a familiarity with the neighborhood. He designed the Amtrak station, and next door to that his firm is one of three local architecture groups collaborating on the conversion of the former Lakeland Cash Feed into Catapult 2.0.

Much of the discussion at Thursday’s meeting centered around city planners’ contention that the bottom floor needs to “address the street,” preferably through a front entrance and other ways to avoid the look of a solid slab.

The board agreed, reflecting in their nearly unanimous vote on a motion calling on the developers to revise the ground floor facade. The only nay vote came from Eric “Bro” Belvin, who said he likes the solid ivy wall, which reminds him of Wrigley Field.

City Community Development Director Jim Studiale based part of his argument on the view for pedestrians on the Frances Langford Promenade across the street. “My concern is when I walk on the street, it looks like a fortress and nothing else . . .” he said. “I want this lakefront to be great. We spent $38 million on it.”

Members of Studiale’s staff explained that both the city’s land development code and downtown design guidelines call for an entranceway facing the street.

Boyington offered several solutions, including placing a pergola stoop entrance near the southeast corner and adding landscaping to vary the color and dimensions of the front wall.

One caveat: In order to add the pergola entryway, the city would need to turn over a small bit of right of way it owns between the building and the sidewalk, Boyington said.

The pergola idea got thumbs up from Celeste Deardorff, the city’s assistant community development director, who said she had a similar idea.

LDDA board members complimented the variations on the upper floors created by angling the glass walls around balconies, although one expressed fears that it might look like a solid mass of glass from across the lake.

Before construction can commence, the project needs approval for a zoning variance and final design approval from the LDDA board.

LDDA Staff Design Review: