Mayor Bill Mutz presented an ambitious list of priorities at a city strategic planning meeting this morning. Among his goals is increasing residential density downtown to 8,500 by 2030, which he said would lead to another goal: attracting a grocery store, preferably Publix, downtown by 2030.

Asked by Commissioner Chad McLeod about a threshold to attract a Publix store downtown, Mutz said, “About 8,500 people downtown is the number that would be encouraging for that. So for me that’s a measurement of not only for them as a grocery store but what you have to have to have a thriving downtown center area that other larger businesses might be attracted to as well.”

Mutz and the other six city commissioners had 10 minutes each at the start of a two-day city strategic planning retreat to outline their goals. The focus of the retreat is to preview the city’s needs in the next one to five years to assist the city manager and his staff in budget planning.

Check the planning retreat agenda and first-day presentations. View video of the first day below.

The list, Mutz said, is “not intended to be exhaustive, but rather reflective of some key elements I hope we embrace overall.” As he concluded reading the list, he said, “Those are all elements that make a city a more desirable place and a more livable place, and I think that’s what we want to accomplish.”

Mutz’s priority list

Here is Mutz’s priority list, edited for style:

  • Seek and Support Strategic Economic Growth
    • Identify wise and targeted desired job expansion
    • Provide attractive incentives for desired industry clusters
    • Proactively seek commercial air carrier(s)
    • Realize critical opportunities in airport growth
  • Support of Strong Community Healthcare
    • Protecting our medical community, allowing wise use of its assets and uncompromising protection of frontline health care workers
    • Reduction of COVID-19 to manageable levels, providing a healthier normal by fall 2021
    • Increased support of behavioral health pressures, which are increasing and require greater growing attention
  • Education
    • Support our School Board to identify or enhance training opportunities and gaps, providing solutions, as required
    • Provide quick-response extensive training for adult industry skills that may be required to support new industries to our area
    • Find alignment with our local universities and colleges to engage them in community growth and providing future student job opportunities
  • Affordable Housing
    • Incremental growth in funding – consider $750,000 for fiscal year 2021-2022
    • Aggressively provide and then build upon an infill housing development program for city-owned lots
    • Consider additional sources of funding for:
  • Apartment Incentives
    • Increase incentives to build within city limits
    • Spread units throughout the city
    • Blend market pricing units cost effectively
  • Reclaim Public Spaces for Citizens
    • Reduce homeless loitering in public spaces
    • Provide homeless spaces elsewhere
    • Maximize opportunities for downtown businesses by minimizing irresponsible messes
  • Connect Bike Trails across our city and close the connections between other cities to make trails highly used recreational and employee corridors
  • Increase Downtown Living Density and Amenities
    • Tweak, revitalize and support the Community and Economic Development Department’s downtown vision
    • Work to move 8,500 people downtown by 2030
    • Move Lakeland Community Theatre into a new and enhanced location
    • Bring a downtown Publix (preferably) grocery to downtown by 2030
    • Utilize intermodal center effectively for additional parking and bike storage integration
    • Provide fluid connections between downtown and west downtown towards Bonnet Springs Park
    • Create a thriving downtown which has meeting spaces in several different hub spaces
  • Support the ancillary needs of Bonnet Springs Park as intentionally and affordably as possible.
  • Provide a Park to Southwest Lakeland by 2025
  • Determine optimal structure for preserving use while reducing costs for operating RP Funding Center and Cleveland Heights Golf Course
  • Support an incubation center for minority businesses and coordinate desired alignment with some Catapult programs and opportunities
  • Deploy smart city technologies as effectively and affordably as possible. This must include:
    • Enhancing the methods used to communicate with citizens
    • Eliminating any addressable digital divide
    • Provide gigabit speed or more through Summit Broadband implementation and Spectrum’s competitive provisions
    • Consider a Tech Council and make innovation within City of Lakeland departments a continuing emphasis
  • Deploy transportation strategies and improvements to minimize congestion and maximize movement, including attraction of a Brightline (high-speed rail) metro center and stop in Lakeland.
  • Maximize Quality of Life initiatives:
    • Protecting our water and supporting the Polk Regional Water Cooperative initiatives affordably and apportioned appropriately
    • Move Fire Station No. 3 north to protect citizens more centrally
    • Maintain effective Lakeland Police Department hiring and training and equipment utilization
    • Determine greatest gaps for Age Friendly Lakeland and deploy solutions to provide those needs
    • Expand art spaces and consider an appointed City of Lakeland Art Director

Video: Day 1 of the city strategic planning retreat:

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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. One of the great gems of Lakeland is the Imperial Symphony Orchestra which provides cultural and educational enrichment to Polk County. Not only does it provide regular masterworks concerts and pops concerts but also free concerts for children. Approximately 4000 children attend the special school days concerts. For many years, it has been performing in the RP funding center. However, the cost of that facility is now too expensive for the orchestra to afford. The city of Lakeland should take this organization under its wing and provide the funding to cover the cost of the concerts at the RP funding center. Dr. Danny Tindall Ed.D, MM. BME

  2. The City of Lakeland also has The Lakeland Concert Band that has performed at the Lakeland Center for over 30 of its 42 years . Approximately 2,000 people attend our free concerts each month from November through April. We also had to move our venue away from the Lakeland Center due to increased expenses. The City of Lakeland in previous years did help with the cost of using the Center but that ended. We provide the our citizens with Great Music and do not charge. We only take donations .We have been The City of Lakeland’s concert Band for 43 years.

    Cindy Bergau Brady

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