Mass Market Prepares for Its Saturday Debut

820 Mass MarketMass Market, a project aimed at transforming a neighborhood from troubled to trendy, makes its debut Saturday with two events. Read on to learn about the project and the businesses coming there. Also, view photos and videos that show how a a former grocery store has been reimagined as a large event space and artists’ studios/gallery.

WHAT: A nearly $5 million project overseen by Lakeland’s Community Redevelopment Agency to prime the pump for private investment in a neighborhood that has been home to transients in recent years.

WHERE: Much of the block west of Massachusetts Avenue and north of Parker Street

WHAT’S THERE: Several businesses and organizations, including

  • Haus820, an event space built to be one of the area’s largest. Executive Director Laura Helm said 500 people can be seated (1,000 standing) in the front part of a former A&P supermarket at 820 N. Massachusetts that has been stripped to its whitewashed bricks and exposed wooden beams above | Rates
  • ART/ifact Studios, a non-profit organization formed by Elizabeth Hults to provide collaborative studio and gallery space for artists in order to nourish contemporary art, takes the back of the former A&P. Six of the 16 spaces are spoken for; the others, 148 to 250 square feet, are available at an introductory rate of $1 per square foot for the first six months. After that, rates will rise and a juried process will determine occupants.
  • Your Pro Kitchen, a private, shared kitchen for culinary entrepreneurs who need commercial cooking facilities. It occupies part of the building at 830 N. Massachusetts that once housed a Salvation Army shelter that relocated north to the edge of town.
  • The Collective, private offices for creative professionals that occupy much of the rest of the former Salvation Army building. Scheduled to open June 1, tenants will include Ashton Events, Helms’ wedding/event-planning business.
  • The Market Lofts, 12 market-rate apartments managed by Neighbors of Lakeland, an organization founded by Brian Seeley.
  • Repurpose Art Studio, a division of Seeley’s Gospel Inc. that helps homeless women learn marketable skills. (LkldTV video)
  • A community garden created by students at Lakeland Christian School under the direction of Jennifer Canady, director of the school’s RISE Institute.

SATURDAY’S EVENTS: A maker’s market from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. will give 30 Lakeland creators a chance to show and sell their wares. An indoor/outdoor Haus Party from 6 p.m. until midnight (Tickets: $15 in advance; $20 Saturday) includes live music, drinks, food trucks and dancing. More info.

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Photos by David Dickey Jr.

See another gallery showing how the former A&P has been transformed over the past year.

WHO: Mass Market was conceived and funded by the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency and its staff, directed by Nicole Travis.

WHY: After working for 10 years with Parker Street Ministries to revitalize the neighborhood, CRA officials realized that “we can’t continue to financially support the neighborhood if we ignore the commercial corridor,” Travis said.

The CRA acquired the property from the Salvation Army, which was given incentives to relocate to Kathleen Road, and explored several options, including an indoor market similar to Orlando’s East End Market.

Private developers failed to show interest in partnering with the CRA in the property, but the current plan was set in action after Travis met Hults and Helm and “an event venue was the idea that smacked us upside the head.”

Contracts approved by the City Commission give the two entrepreneurs favorable deals on five-year leases that escalate year-by-year.

“Private dollars follow public investment,” Travis said. “We understand we won’t recoup all the money invested, but the area is worth the investment.”

Interestingly, the other project seen as a catalyst for Massachusetts Avenue redevelopment — the neighboring art deco-style Polk Tax Collector’s Office — also sprung from a former supermarket, a Publix.

THE NAME: The alliterative name Mass Market, derived from its location on Massachusetts Avenue, stuck even though retail did not end up part of the tenant mix as the complex evolved.

RENOVATION: The renovation of 820 N. Massachusetts was designed by architect Jon Kirk of KCMH Architects, and the contractor was Strickland Construction.

Transformation