A massive business park in southwest Lakeland that’s been on hold for 12 years is making its way through the approval process and construction could start within a year.

Lakeland Central Park will turn 724 acres of vacant land into a logistics center that includes office buildings and five warehouses, the largest of which is envisioned at 1.5 million square feet.

The planned unit development (here’s a brochure) covers much of the undeveloped land south of Old Tampa Highway, north and east of the the curving Polk Parkway, and west of Airport Road.

The area was zoned as a large industrial development in 2008 at the request of a previous developer, Flagler Development Group. Recently, Parkway Property Investments LLC, an Orlando-based regional developer, bought the property and revived the Lakeland Central Park plan.

The location, from a promotional brochure.
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In February, city commissioners approved an updated land-use plan.

Charles Barmby, the city’s transportation and development review manager, said he would expect construction to start within a year on warehouses in the first phase of the development.

That phase would involve building up to 2 million square feet of warehouse space at the northern end of the parcel, near Old Tampa Highway and the Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits distribution center.

The development plan is similar to the one approved in 2008 and includes:

  • 5 million square feet of industrial/warehouse, with no more than 2 million of it developed in phase one
  • 300 units of multi-family residential
  • 225,000 square feet of commercial/retail space
  • 600,000 square feet of office space
  • A 125-room hotel

The intensity of the development would drop as it moves further south with retail space and multi-family housing located closer to residential neighborhoods that are being developed east of Airport Road, Barmby said.

Current developments

The City Commission on Monday held the first of two public hearings on transportation aspects of the plan – a 15-year development agreement under which the developer will pay $1 million by Oct. 9 to help make up for funding shortfalls involving two traffic projects on U.S. 92.

The city and Florida Department of Transportation already have designed and are starting construction on intersection improvements on U.S. 92, including traffic signals at County Line Road and at Wabash Road.

In exchange, the city agrees that LCP Owner LLC, the Parkway Property affiliate handling the development, does not need to pay for other offsite transportation improvements to satisfy transportation impact requirements, Barmby said. Other types of impact fees, such as utilities, schools and county fees, still will be due as the project progresses.

A development agreement with the previous developer signed in 2008 expired in 2013.

The earlier agreement said the developer would pay for several expensive projects, including four-laning Airport Road and making substantial improvements to Old Tampa Highway, Barmby said.

In the years since that agreement expired, state law changed. Cities can no longer require off-site transportation improvements that would cost the developer more than the impact of the planned project’s additional traffic, he said.

“This has lowered the initial cost for the developer,” Barmby said, adding he thinks the site likely sat vacant for so long because of the high costs associated with the earlier transportation agreement.

Timothy Campbell, a Lakeland attorney representing LCP, told commissioners that little has changed from the original plan filed in 2008 and “the new owner is looking to move forward.”

Residential concerns

In 2008, before the recession, the city had approved plans for Lakeland Central Park and for the Lakes at Laurel Highlands, a single-family-homes subdivision, flanking Airport Road.

Barmby told commissioners he would expect Laurel Highlands residents and others in neighboring subdivisions to want explanations about the history, impacts and mitigation for the pending mixed-use development.

When the Central Park project was initially approved, Laurel Highlands did not exist, Barmby said.

“When we started coming out of recession, the developer of the Lakes at Laurel Highlands (D.R. Horton, a national firm) was able to move forward more quickly through development approval and the construction process. At this point, 200 to 300 homes are under construction on the east side of Airport Road. At buildout, Laurel Highlands will have somewhere around 630 single-family homes,” Barmby said.

The subdivison’s spine road, Winston Park Boulevard, will not have driveways but neighborhood roads leading back to platted lots, he said. Eventually, Winston Park Boulevard will connect with the spine road running through the Central Park PUD, Barmby said.

That will allow residents on the east side of Airport Road easy access to the planned retail, office space and employment opportunities in the PUD, he said.

And even longer range, a series of roads will connect, allowing traffic to flow from the Lakeside Village shopping center to Old Tampa Highway and never have to get on the Polk Parkway or Drane Field Road, he said.

“This would be a new corridor,” a collector road has that has no fronting driveways,” he said.

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