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The agency trying to make Lakeland cool for young entrepreneurs has unveiled its vision for turning the Lakeland Cash Feed building into a three-story business incubator. We look at the plans, public reaction, new staff and next steps.
Who: Catapult Lakeland, an initiative of the Lakeland Economic Development Council dedicating to “launching Lakeland’s entrepreneurs,” in partnership with the GiveWell Community Foundation and anonymous donors who together contributed $13 million.
Where: The building at 502 E. Main St. that was built in 1924 as the Lakeland Citrus Exchange and later became Lakeland Cash Feed. The structure on the north side of Lake Mirror has been vacant since 2014.
What: Refurbish the 40,000-square-foot building, more than tripling the 3-year-old organization’s current space. It will combine desk space, a large kitchen for food entrepreneurs and a maker space for craftspeople. “We don’t know anywhere in the country that has” all three components, LEDC President Steve Scruggs said Tuesday.
When: With design underway, the project is going through regulatory review (the Lakeland Design Review Committee reviews plans Thursday), with groundbreaking expected by the first of next year and completion by the end of 2017.
Why: Catapult is a key component of LEDC’s efforts to make Lakeland attractive to young, creative people whose presence tends to make a city more amenable to attracting high-skill, high-wage companies.
For the most part, the building retains its historic Mediterranean Revival and Mission style. The front projection that was added in the 1950s would be replaced with a dramatic three-story glass-and-steel entry.
“The architects give us a window out on lake and passersby a window in to what we’re doing,” Scruggs told about 30 Catapult members Tuesday morning.
(Disclosure: I am a Catapult co-worker, which means I pay $50 a month to work at available table space there and participate in workshops for a discount. For the record, I don’t think anybody at LEDC would accuse me of slanting coverage in their favor.)
The shape of the exterior windows will remain, but stronger glass meeting hurricane standards will be used, Scruggs said. “We’re trying to save the steel frames to put the glass in.”
Tiered landscaping would replace the asphalt that now fronts the building. A sculpture garden welcoming visitors arriving from the west will feature works by Tom Monaco, who will join Catapult’s staff in July as manager of the maker space, Scruggs said. A loading dock at left will allow deliveries to the maker space.
The southeast corner of the building will feature an outdoor event space near the kitchen facility and a conference room. “It could be used for a pop-up restaurant on a Friday night,” Scruggs said. “It’s almost like another park on Lake Mirror.”
A crosswalk near the front entrance leads across Main Street to the lake and the Frances Langford Promenade.
Most of the building has been used for storage. It has high ceilings and an open feel. “The plaster’s falling off; the floor is rough; we want to keep that look,” Scruggs said.
First floor: The ground floor will be dominated by the commercial kitchen and a maker space that will total 9,700 square feet, including an outdoor area on the west side of the building, Scruggs said.
First-floor plans also include several small retail shops where members can test their concepts. Though it’s not in the current architect’s drawing, Scruggs said a photo studio is likely.
Second floor: The high-ceilinged space includes desks for 50 to 60 co-workers (triple the current amount), glass-front offices for Catapult staff, a classroom, offices for members with businesses employing several people, two conference rooms, three two-person offices for temporary use, a break room and a meeting room that will seat 200 people — Scruggs says it will be one of the largest meeting rooms in Lakeland.
Mezzanine: A third level overlooking the second floor includes five more member offices, offices for the staffs of LEDC and its YLakeland offshoot, and two conference rooms.
The architect team working on the project includes representatives of three local firms that belong to LEDC: Mike Murphey of WMB is overall coordinator, with Brad Lunz of Lunz Prebor Fowler focusing on interiors and Ben Mundy of KCMH concentrating on the outdoor spaces, Scruggs said.
In the unofficial court of public opinion that is Facebook, the design was mostly praised but found a few detractors, most of whom like the overall look but have reservations about the glass entryway.
The comments were attached to a post on the lkldnow Facebook page linked to the Ledger story about the Catapult plans and included the artists’s rendering that views the building from the east.
The post has reached nearly 11,000 people as of Wednesday morning and generated 114 likes and more than two dozen comments and replies. Here are some of the comments that received likes:
David Collins, artist: “I love the idea of adding new elements to the historical structure, I love the idea of using glass, but I don’t care for the design. I don’t think it improves the design structure, the new lines don’t enhance the existing lines…”
Marco Franca, entrepreneur: “Awesome! Similar to Berlin where the city has successfully made a fusion of historical and modern into a very cool city…”
Rick Viscogliosi: “Cool they are saving the old building. Not sure the added glass part keeps that vintage look.”
Cindy Tailer Goldsmith: “My idea would be to make the glass area a more historic shape to blend in and still look updated.”
Independent Damsel Pro – Wendi: “I like it. Lakeland downtown needs some updating. The glass area reminds me a little of the newer FL. Southern building.”
As an aside, the very short approving comments such as “Love love love it!” or “Looks great!” were not the ones that received likes.
The staff that manages Catapult will ultimately grow from two full-timers and an intern to 10 full-timers, Executive Director Meg Bellamy said.
Anna Marie Smith, a 2012 Southeastern University graduate, started as membership director on Monday. Two new employees starting in the next five to six weeks are local artist/craftsman Tom Monaco, who will run the maker space as mentioned above, and John Kazaklis, a 2010 Southeastern graduate who is moving from Kansas to become program director.
Other positions will include managers overseeing the kitchen, facilities, information technology and communications, as well as assistant manager for the maker space and an assistant program director.
The plans for Catapult 2.0 have been reviewed by Emily Foster, the city of Lakeland historic preservation planner, and will be presented Thursday to the Design Review Committee for their action. (Architect Lunz is a member of that board and will presumably recuse himself since he’s working on the project.)
Foster’s report finds the proposed changes compatible with the Munn Park Historic District and asks only that city staff get to review and approve the window materials once they’ve been chosen.
Regarding the new glass entry structure, the report says: “The scale and massing of the proposed new façade projection does not overwhelm the historic building’s façade, and is appropriately subordinate to the existing building’s massing. The use of both modern design and materials on the new projection clearly demonstrates differentiation between old and new.”
Here is the full report:
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THIS LOOKS DARN GOOD! WILL BE A HUGE PLUS TO DOWNTOWN LAKELAND. SHOULD LOOK GREAT!
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