A contemplated expansion of The Joinery food hall and a planned city dog park a block away are the newest projects to enliven a once-dormant strip northeast of Lake Mirror.

Lakeland city commissioners will be asked on Monday to sell a vacant lot east of The Joinery to a company controlled by developer Wesley Beck to allow them to expand The Joinery and add more parking.

A drawing shown to city commissioners this morning shows a new building east of The Joinery and new parking further east on land that may be bought from the city. Beck said the drawing represents a preliminary idea, not a firm proposal.

Jon Bucklew, who founded The Joinery with his wife, Sarah, said they would like to add a smaller building to fill some frequent customer requests: a full-service restaurant, a space for private events and a coffee shop that would open earlier than the large food hall.

He and Beck, whose 640 Main Partners LLC owns the property housing The Joinery, saw an opportunity to expand when the city of Lakeland decided to hold off on previous plans to place an urban dog park on the city land just east of The Joinery parking lot.

The city instead is now planning to build a less-costly dog park on land at the southeast corner of Main Street and Rose Street that was donated by the Florida Department of Transportation.

So Beck approached the city about buying the vacant parcel next to the Joinery parking lot along with some adjoining right of way. The city posted a notice of disposition seeking buyers in The Ledger, and the only response came from Beck’s company.

Beck’s company offered the city $125,000 for the property, according to a memorandum from the City Attorney’s Office. That figure is less than the $169,227.50 appraisal from a private company, according to city of Lakeland Business Development Manager Jason Willey. But he said it’s greater than a $105,734.42 estimate based on a formula used by the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency that looks at 120% of the Polk Property Appraiser’s assessment.

The appraisal listed the highest and best use of the property as a park or a parking lot because of its size and shape, Willey said. In addition, much of the land sits atop a large number of underground utilities from the days when that portion of Main Street was a main thoroughfare, making it unsuitable for vertical construction, Willey said.

The parking lot just east of The Joinery currently has 32 spaces, Bucklew said. The expansion would net 25 to 28 new spaces, even with contemplated new construction taking some of the current parking, Willey said.

The vacant land proposed for sale. The Joinery is in the background at left.

The city’s three-member Real Estate and Transportation Committee voted 2-1 this morning to recommend that the full commission approve the sale. Commissioners Chad McLeod and Mike Musick supported the sale. Bill Read opposed it, saying the city should preserve more green space near Lake Mirror.

Beck told commissioners that the plans for the expansion are still being worked out and subject to negotiation with city staff:

“We know what we want there. Jon (Bucklew) is pretty clear on what he needs … I can assure you that if Jon is involved in it and I’m involved in it, it’s going to be something cool. What he’s done with The Joinery is too fabulous for our community to just put a little metal building there.”

Dog park

The city received the deed to the dog park site at Main and Rose earlier this week, Parks and Recreation Director Bob Donahay told commissioners. “We’re ready to go.”

While the 1.2-acre site, which is across Main Street east of the Lakeland Fire Department, had been intended to be a retention pond, only a small corner retains moisture, he said.

Construction can begin soon, he said. Funding would include $100,000 from the pending land sale to Beck’s company, if approved, and $50,000 from impact fees, he said.

The $150,000 to build the park is far less than the $400,000 estimated for an earlier dog park proposed for the land east of The Joinery. The utilities under the earlier site drove costs up, Donahay said.

“With the hills on the side and the mature cypress trees, you can take $150,00 — which is a third of what we were going to spend — and you can make a really nice dog park right there. Add some decorative fencing, a nice entry feature, a dog wash station and a few benches, and all of a sudden with The Joinery and everything else going on down there, we just added a nice amenity on a piece of property that’s not being used that we already maintain.”

The dog park site lies between the downtown fire station and the U.S. 98 overpass and is bounded by Main Street and Rose Street.
Looking west toward the Fire Department headquarters.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com 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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