Lake Wire Development concept

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.

Lake Wire development conceptual plan
The view from Kathleen Road and George Jenkins Boulevard. Shops and restaurants front Kathleen Road in the north end, while four-story apartments and one five-story building dominate the southern portion. (View a larger version)
Location: looking east-southeast from Bonnet Springs Park

The developers hope to obtain all city and state permits by early next year and begin construction next spring, Jack Murphy, a Carter vice president, told LDDA board members.

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.”

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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. Orlando used to be the “City Beautiful” but we know that ship sailed long ago when Disney arrived with much fanfare of the great opportunity it presented.

    At least Lakeland makes no pretense with respect to the aesthetic beauty. We proudly proclaim our new title as “City of Apartments, Crowded Subdivisions and Warehouses”. When the water, utility and transportation supply hits the distribution limit, we will no doubt say that we never really expected the impact but we have a plan to fix it.

    Happy I’m old and won’t see the final result. Unlimited growth continues pretty much unabated. All I’ll need is a small patch of earth far removed from the city.

  2. The 5 story building south of the existing pond shown on site plan and rendering is not labeled as phase 2. Is it a phase 3? Depending on market demand? Also, I am very much for the development. Not anti-growth at all. We need to fill in all the vacant lots that have nothing but grass and weeds with live, work , play facilities as well as offices to establish a vibrant downtown environment. I know some are disturbed by the growth in Lakeland but it is too late for that. We have been growing, we are growing and we will continue to grow because that is just the result of the location of where we are in a growing state.

  3. Congratulations!!!! I’m happy to hear that something is FINALLY happening with the old Florida Tile site. However, I have one question. What does Lakeland want to be? The city, it seems, is having an identity crisis. Do you want more density within the downtown core? If so then you need to having zoning laws that allow for more height, plain and simple. Downtown land is limited and has premium (not to mention limited) value and should be treated as such.

    I hope (wish) the city explored the option to develop over CSX tracked from George Jenkins Blvd. south from the railroad wye down to main street. Let me be clear! When I say develop over the tracks, that’s exactly was I’m saying. Concrete pylons on both sides of the tracks create grade-level tunnels from GJ Blvd. down to Main St which would open up even more useable land without being constricted by CSX. This was a golden opportunity to tie the RP funding center to Bonnet Springs Park and Lake Wire development in conjunction with the proposed multi-model station and future development just north of RP. That would have made the entire area more cohesive without the needs for people to use Sikes. This process has been implemented in cities all over the world and there’s no reason Lakeland can’t do the same.

    Again, I’m glad the site is being developed and I hope that one day in my lifetime, that area matures and comes to fruition in a responsible yet appealing way.

  4. Frank,
    Not anti-growth but am concerned about the availability of resources like water, electricity, fire and police services that are stressed by population growth. We have a finite amount of water and limited service resources. I don’t see that we are considering the resource impacts but only that the city, along with developers and realtors who run this city, seem to only want more growth and the associated tax increases it brings to the city.

    Can you give me one example where growth paid for itself and improved life for its’ citizens in the long run. Do you think that Disney actually improved Orlando? If so how? As a former resident of Orlando I would say a resounding no is in order.

    Happy that you want more density but I’ll opt for less density and resource strain. Seems the future growth will drive many of the new folks into less and less space. No thanks Frank.

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