food park bar

A six-day-a-week food truck park combined with a small dog park and a comfortable bar is a Lakeland agency’s latest idea to continue redeveloping the Parker Street neighborhood just north of downtown.

That idea came a bit closer to reality Thursday when a city board made a formal recommendation that Lakeland’s Community Redevelopment Agency spend up to $440,000 to convert the lot at the northwest corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Parker Street into a public gathering space centered around food trucks.

  • The facility would be managed by the same company that organizes the monthly food truck rallies at Munn Park.
  • Food trucks would rotate regularly. Expect one truck at light times (Tuesday lunch in July, for example) and four to six at heavy times (i.e., Friday night in March).
  • Hours would be noon to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.
  • A lease being negotiated with Tampa Bay Food Trucks will need to be approved by the City Commission, possibly in July.
  • If all goes as planned, the food truck park could open next April.

The $440,000 would come from taxes collected from property owners in the Midtown district by the CRA to pay for projects in that area, which encompasses much of the city north of downtown and south of I-4.

The food truck park would be built on a lot that once housed a used-car business. It’s next to Mass Market, the centerpiece of the CRA’s effort to invest in the once-blighted neighborhood in hopes of spurring private development and increasing the tax base.

site of future food truck park

The CRA purchased the .56-acre lot for $375,000 in July 2017. By December, the CRA Advisory Board approved the concept of a food truck/dog park based on a proposal submitted by Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally, the organization that operates the popular food truck event in Munn Park the second Thursday of each month.

In the meantime, the CRA staff put together estimates for developing the property and also received a proposal from another company interested in placing a food truck on the property.

That company, Meatballs and More, proposed serving lunch and dinner five days a week, operating a general store and hosting community events there.

At Thursday’s meeting, the CRA Advisory Board chose Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally over Meatballs and More as the company to negotiate with. Members said they like the wider variety that would be available by rotating food trucks and the marketing ideas offered by Michael Blasco, Tampa Bay Food Trucks’ “chief eating officer.”

Those ideas included delivering orders every 30 minutes to nursing stations at Lakeand Regional Medical Center and using proximity marketing to target messages to people waiting in line at the nearby Polk Tax Collectors Office.

The CRA staff worked with KCMH Architects of Lakeland to produce several potential designs for the property and from those they developed the $440,000 cost estimate:

  • $250,000 to build a 1,250-square-foot bar at the corner of Massachusetts and Parker at $200 a square foot.
  • $150,000 to prepare and build out the site, including 20 grass parking spaces.
  • $40,000 as a 10 percent contingency.

The estimate to renovate the former used car office on the site into a bar rather than build a new structure would have put the project cost at $405,625, but the staff said the building would need substantial repairs and board members were wary of unforeseen costs common in renovation projects.

The architects’ bar design shows a building that mimics elements of the building next door, a former A&P supermarket that was renovated and opened last year as the Haus 820 event space and ARTifact gallery.

While the overall look would stay the same, the shape of the building may change as plans are firmed up, CRA Project Manager Valerie Ferrell said.

KCMH submitted three potential layouts for the project; here’s the one included in the CRA staff presentation:

food truck park concept

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In this version, the back of the bar would face both Massachusetts Avenue and Parker Street.

The areas marked lounge, dog park and entertainment would most likely be open-air, unpaved areas, while a canopy and several hammocks are envisioned for the area next to it, Ferrell said. The parking lot to the west would serve both the food truck park and Haus 820/ARTifact.

Once a lease has been negotiated with Tampa Bay Food Trucks, the project will go to the Lakeland City Commission for approval. Ferrell projects that will take place in July.

After that, the CRA anticipates it will take three months for design and permitting, two months to receive proposals and select a contractor, and six months for construction. Under that timetable, the site could be ready for its soft launch next April.

In their proposal to the CRA, Tampa Bay Food Trucks requested a lease that escalates based on sales. They would pay $500 a month for the first six months and $1,000 a month for the next six months. Extra rent based on sales would start in the sixth month. (Details are in the proposal.)

Advisory board member Ben Mundy asked Tampa Bay Food Truck’s Blasco what kind of rent increase he would anticipate for the second year of the two-year initial contract if he doesn’t hit his sales targets.

“I’m anticipating paying you a lot more than a thousand dollars a month,” Blasco said.

The food truck organization says it plans to invest $40,000 in equipment and furnishings to make the bar comfortable and attractive. “Trendy furniture is the thing to make the interior nice,” Blasco told the CRA advisory board. “We want to make sure we have the proper budget in place to finish the space to make sure that it is that third space that’s welcoming. Frankly, we want to be cooler than Starbucks.”

Blasco told the CRA advisory board he anticipates serving 150 to 200 customers on busier days, translating into $1,000 in revenue at the bar and $1,500 to $2,000 for food.

The CRA’s Alis Drumgo sees the proposal as a big win for the community. “People want public spaces. This is an opportunity to create one,” he said, noting there are no parks or green spaces nearby.

Advisory board member Cliff Wiley said he sees a food truck park as one of the best and least expensive ways to generate foot traffic and revitalize the Parker Street area.

CRA Staff Update on the Food Truck Park

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Food Truck Memo and Vendor Proposals

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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1 Comment

  1. What do you do about Talbot House and the 24 Hour Store…these places breed panhandling for cigarette and beer money…and selling food stamps!

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