Plans Moving Forward for Midtown Food Truck Park

The city still has plans for a food truck park in Midtown, however after a seven-month delay another company has stepped in to help develop the project on a half-acre, city-owned site at the northwest corner of North Massachusetts Avenue and East Parker Street.

The concept is to provide food trucks, craft beer and public events – at least 12 a year – in a family-friendly, backyard-style setting that includes an indoor-outdoor performance venue and a 2,500-square-foot building with restrooms and a bar.

While there is space for four food trucks, the company expect to have one or two onsite daily, Alis Drumgo, CRA interim manager, told city commissioners when they gathered Friday morning for committee meetings and an agenda study session.

On Monday afternoon, city commissioners, acting as the board of the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency, will decide whether to sign off on a lease agreement with Project Redfish, LLC, a company operated by Jennifer and Joel Batts of Lakeland and Matt Patrick of Boulder, Colorado. Patrick was the co-founder of a similar but larger project, Rayback Collective, in Boulder.

The food truck project is a continuation of the CRA’s efforts to promote rejuvenating the Midtown area through public-private partnerships. The lot in the 800 block of North Massachusetts Avenue is just south of Mass Market, another public-private partnership project.

Commissioner Philip Walker asked about whether a city the size of Lakeland could support the project, considering Boulder is considerably larger.

“They understand Lakeland is not Boulder,” Drumgo said. “They did $1.3 million in Boulder so they have been extremely successful there and understand what to do.”

In April, the CRA Advisory Board had approved the concept of a food truck park, with a bar, a dog park and other amenities on the site and the CRA staff started negotiating a lease with the company that organizes the food truck rallies at Munn Park, Tampa Bay Food Trucks. However by October it was clear that the company would not be able to “contribute sufficient funds” toward the construction costs so the CRA Advisory Board told staff to start negotiating with another entity with different parameters, according to a memo from the city attorney’s office.

Terms of the lease agreement with Project Redfish include:

* The city’s CRA will provide $250,000 toward the project, which includes covering the cost of demolishing the small building currently on the lot, preparing the site for construction, and providing architectural and building plans.

* Project Redfish will pay for constructing the building and outdoor space and will lease the property for three years, starting when the building is ready for occupancy. After paying a $1,000 deposit, the first six months will be rent free, then the rent will will be $6 per building square foot. That works out to about $15,000 a year, plus built-in 5 percent annual rent hikes. If neither party withdraws from the lease it will automatically renew in three years.

* Project Redfish has first right of refusal if the city decides to sell the property. The lease will be renegotiated in six years.

CRA funds come from property taxes collected in the Midtown district and relegated for projects in the district. The CRA bought the lot in 2017 for $375,000.

Drumgo said Project Redfish anticipates opening in March or April. Already they are looking at expansion and have been working with the CRA to ensure the building plans allow for adding a second story, he said.

Currently, there is space for 80 vehicles on the grassy lot, however, additional parking opportunities are being looked at, Drumgo said.

“People should understand that the Colorado experience is very family friendly,” Commissioner Stephanie Madden commented.

Updated 11:30 am 12/18/2018: Clarified that Matt Patrick was a co-founder of the Rayback Collective.