A realistic 3D online rendering that illustrates what’s in downtown Lakeland — and what new construction might be added there — made its debut today and is ready to be used by anybody with an Internet connection.
What: “Catalyst Lakeland: a vision for Lakeland.” Using interactive graphics, photos and text, the web presentation details current downtown projects, planned projects and development opportunities.
Where: It is available at catalystlakeland.com. For reasons we’ll explain later, it’s best viewed on a desktop computer during weekday business hours.
Who: Catalyst Lakeland is a collaboration between The Apiary, a high-tech graphics collective associated with The Lunz Group architectural firm, the Lakeland Economic Development Council and the City of Lakeland and its Community Redevelopment Agency.
Why: Catalyst Lakeland is partially a planning tool but its main purpose is marketing central Lakeland. It had its beginning with discussions about driving private investment to “infill opportunities” in the downtown area, CRA manager Valerie Ferrell told city commissioners today before they got a demonstration of Catalyst.
“We’ll be taking this tool all over the country as we meet with developers as we go on city visits,” the LEDC’s Katie Worthington Decker told commissioners. It’s a way to give developers an initial, realistic tour of Lakeland, she added.
You said it’s best viewed on a desktop during work hours? Catalyst is built on a gaming platform called Unreal Engine that consumes a lot of computer processing power, making it expensive to maintain. To conserve resources, it is being optimized for use on desktops Monday through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according Maggie Briggs, director of The Apiary.
What happens when I log on? The opening screen prompts you to “Enter Catalyst Lakeland.” From that point, it takes an average of 45 to 60 seconds for the presentation to load, Briggs said. (Editor’s note: It took 25 seconds over my home wifi.)
What do I see next? The first screen gives instructions on how to use the tool. After that, you see a satellite view of downtown with color-coded dots showing:
- Recently completed projects
- Projects under construction
- Projects being designed
- Vision plans – concepts envisioned by economic development specialists
- Available sites
Clicking on a dot opens information to the left of the screen about the property and includes images. Users can also click to view 3D images of a project and “fly around” to inspect them from any angle, similar to Google Earth.
In addition, filters on the left navigation allow viewers to narrow their search by use or industry.
This video from The Apiary illustrates how Catalyst works.
Are digital models like this available for other cities? Yes, they are often called “digital twins,” but Lakeland’s is unique, according to Briggs, because it is available online for anybody who wants to see it. It “has evolved to what we now know today as the first-of-its-kind-ever digital twin that is accessible to not just stakeholders but also to our community,” she said.
Will other parts of Lakeland be added to Catalyst? Yes. The next additions are all close to the downtown core. Next up are: Downtown West, which includes Bonnet Springs Park and the RP Funding Center; East Main Street; and Dixieland.
Why are some projects that are on the drawing boards not showing up? Commissioner Mike Musick asked that. A few projects were removed because developers were not ready to go public with their renderings, Briggs said.
What has Catalyst cost so far? The first phase was funded at $100,000 by LEDC, a private, nonprofit organization, according to a memo from the City Attorney’s Office. The just-completed second phase, which expanded the Catalyst footprint, was funded with $280,000 from the CRA.
What about the expansion into new areas near downtown? The City Commission, acting in its role as the Community Redevelopment Agency board, today unanimously approved a “task authorization” that will provide The Apiary with up to $100,00 to add six new vision plans, place nine new plans on the model, update data and pay a share of hosting.
What did city commissioners say about Catalyst? Commissioners Chad McLeod and Mike Musick said Catalyst will help them visualize how new projects the commissioners consider will fit into the overall structure of downtown.
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