An urban-style community of 630 apartments with restaurants and shops will be built on the abandoned Florida Tile site west of Lake Wire, under plans 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 an enthusiastic approval from the LDDA board.
The project, located between Lake Wire and the upcoming Bonnet Springs Park, is viewed as a key element in plans to develop “downtown west,” an extension of the urban core from the RP Funding Center north.
Phase 1A of the project includes two 7,500-square-foot buildings for shops and restaurants facing Kathleen Road just south of George Jenkins Boulevard. The shops are intended 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 gauge dining preferences of local residents, Murphy said.
Phase 1B includes 300 apartments in four four-story buildings on 10.33 acres on the eastern portion of the property closest to George Jenkins Boulevard. Average apartment size is projected at 915 square feet, according to the conceptual plan.
The second phase of construction would include two buildings, one five stories and one four stories, with 330 apartments and 15,000 square feet of first-floor retail on 8.18 acres along Sikes Boulevard.
The property has undergone extensive environmental remediation over the last four years, according to David Bunch, a principal with its owner, Lake Mirror Development Co. LLC.
See the full conceptual plan here or at the end of this article.
That company is a corporate relative of the non-profit that owns Bonnet Springs Park, and proceeds from the sale of the property will go into maintenance of the park, a lawyer representing the property owner told city commissioners in February.
The sale of the land to Carter won’t occur until all permits have been secured, Bunch said today. He declined to disclose the sale price.
Bunch told the LDDA board that he and the others who spearheaded Bonnet Springs Park are “very happy with the look and the urban feel” of the Lake Wire development.
The developers and architects have met with several times with the city of Lakeland’s design review team and updated the plans several times in response to concerns from city reviewers.
The result is “they got an A-plus in terms of the things that LDDA put in the design guidelines,” said Julie Townsend, the organization’s executive director. “Addressing the street was a difficult thing to do because they’re off in their own little island and it is Sikes Boulevard. But they did an excellent job of addressing Sikes and making it a little more pedestrian friendly” through wide sidewalks and landscaping.
The main entrance to the complex will be on Sikes Boulevard at Prospect Street, which is directly across from the southern end of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
City planners are “excited” about the way the development connects with Lake Wire and are working with the state Department of Transportation to “enhance the connection across Lake Wire,” said Chuck Barmby, the city’s business development and transportation manager.
The current owners have placed a 12-foot trail on a berm along the western edge of the development. Carter plans to extend the trail to George Jenkins Boulevard, where pedestrians will be able cross and continue to Bonnet Springs Park. Eventually, a path of nearly one mile will surround the park, Murphy said.
Ultimately, the planners of Bonnet Springs Park hope an elevated walkway can be placed over the railroad tracks along George Jenkins Boulevard, a topic they have been discussing with the Florida DOT, Bunch said.
The “ultimate goal,” he said is “a straight shot from downtown to the park” via sidewalks, tunnels and overpasses.
Another potential pedestrian rail overpass will connect the south side of the project with a planned transportation hub along Main Street north of the RP Funding Center, Barmby said. Murphy added that land is being set aside for the overpass 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 consist of lumber frames with Hardie board siding in a variety of finishes.
The project already has the needed zoning, Barmby said. “The next major steps will include the submittal of engineered site plans for the internal infrastructure and building plans for vertical structures within Phase I,” he said. “Permitting through state and regional agencies such as the Florida Department of Transportation and Southwest Florida Water Management District must also occur during this process. Of course, coordination is on-going with the various city departments, including Lakeland Water Utilities and Lakeland Electric.”