Plans were announced last year to build a hotel on a little-used parking lot across Lime Street from the RP Funding Center. The developers discovered soil problems, so now they’re asking city commissioners to sell them property that holds a different parking lot — the one closest to the Youkey Theatre.

The city has long wanted a second hotel at the facility formerly known as The Lakeland Center in order to attract more convention and trade-show business. So city leaders were happy in August when a partnership formed by local investors Wesley Barnett and Robert Lee declared their intention to  build a five- to six-story, full-service hotel on part of a vast parking lot west of the Hall Communications building.

But the developers discovered the soil there wasn’t suitable, and they negotiated with the city for land north of Lime Street and between the Youkey Theatre and Sikes Boulevard, according to a memo from City Attorney Tim McCausland that was released today.

“The subsurface conditions on the new proposed site are preferred by both the developer and the city staff,” McCausland said in the memo.

City commissioners are scheduled to discuss the proposed $400,000 land sale at an agenda study session Friday morning and vote on the agreement Monday morning.

Asked about plans to accommodate for the displaced parking, City Manager Tony Delgado said Monday evening that some handicapped parking will remain at the hotel site. In addition, an area near RP Funding’s circular entrance off Lime Street that is currently reserved for staff will be converted to public parking, he said.

And finally, he said, the hotel developers have agreed to “enhance the crosswalks (across Lime Street) and maybe add signals to increase pedestrian safety.”

The parking lot just east of the Youkey Theatre

Other than the location, the city’s proposed agreement with Lakeland Hospitality Group LLC is virtually the same as the one commissioners approved 5-0 in August.

Under the agreement, the developers will pay $400,000 for the 3.82-acre site, a shade larger than the 3.58-acre site across Lime Street that also held a $400,000 purchase price.

The hotel, tentatively to be part of Marriott’s Springhill Suites group, will include 120 to 130 rooms, a lounge with food service and 4,000 square feet of meeting space, under the agreement.

No full-service restaurant is planned for now.

The agreement gives the developers a three-month due-diligence period and they have three years to begin construction.

The location is just south of the RP Funding Center’s other hotel, a 127-room Hyatt Place.

Delgado, a former assistant director of the facility when it was called The Lakeland Center, said last year he was excited about a second hotel.

“Having a local group who understands what we’re trying to do as we expand the RP Funding Center as an exhibit and meeting space is important,” he said. “A second hotel property on site puts us in a better position.”

The agreement calls for joint marketing between the new hotel and the RP Funding Center, although no specifics are outlined.

The 2,226-seat Youkey Theatre, the portion of the RP Funding Center closest to the proposed hotel, is home to the Imperial Symphony Orchestra, an annual Broadway series and other cultural arts performances.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com 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 Comment

  1. Don’t clutter Downtown with commercialism for developers benefit, it will ruin our quaint downtown persona.

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