Todd Baylis signed a paper Wednesday that he sees as a $580,000 investment in his technology businesses. Others see it as an investment in redeveloping the eastern edge of downtown Lakeland.
Baylis is president of Qgiv Inc., which provides online donation tools for nonprofits, religious organizations and political campaigns throughout the U.S., and Cipher Inc., which provides network services for small businesses in Florida.
Together, the companies employ about 30 people — almost all of them under age 30 — and a growth rate of about 55 percent a year means Baylis needs more space to accommodate new employees.
He anticipates hiring 10 to 15 next year in sales, user experience and technical positions; the new 11,900-square-foot quarters will easily accommodate 80 comfortably and allow everyone to work under one roof.
Most of the employees are now spread between three portions of a building near Lake Morton shared with Baylis & Co., an accounting and business consulting firm overseen by Baylis’ mother, City Commissioner Edie Yates. Others are in a building across the street.
The building they’ll be moving into at 933 E. Lemon St. was the location of the original Lifestyle Fitness Center but was vacated after the chain was sold to L.A. Fitness in 2012. Baylis is shooting to move in by May 1.
Baylis plans to gut the building and fill in its indoor swimming pool. He estimated the renovation costs at just under $800,000 in an application he submitted for tax increment financing from the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency. (See the application below.)
Tax increment financing helps subsidize projects that improve redevelopment districts through future tax revenues, and Baylis said it will help with facade improvements.
The CRA Advisory Board approved Baylis’ application when it met today. Baylis is a member of that board and abstained from voting on the measure, which passed unanimously.
Redevelopment of the Lifestyle Fitness building is a “big win for the redevelopment district,” CRA Manager Nicole Travis said prior to the meeting, because it’s an area outside the core of downtown that needs attention.
“As always, we are hopeful that investments like this spur other private investment in the Downtown CRA district,” she said.
The eastern edge of downtown has been getting more attention lately with this week’s announcement that the KRaP Art studio/performance venue will be moving to a warehouse a block away from the new Qgiv quarters and the recent opening of 801 E. Main/The Poor Porker.
The CRA is working with consultants Tindale Oliver on a plan to promote the East Main Street area as an artisans district. At today’s meeting, CRA members discussed getting local artisans to design and create a marker for the East Main Street gateway to downtown.
Baylis said he spent about a year looking for a suitable downtown property for the expansion and was assisted in the effort by the Lakeland Economic Development Council and Cory Petcoff, president of Baron Realty. The need for employee parking was a stumbling block, but there’s more than enough at the Lifestyle property, he said.
The project architect is Brad Lunz of Lunz Prebor Fowler, and the contractor is Brian Waller of Waller Construction. Financing is being handled by Bank of Central Florida.
The corporation Baylis formed to purchase the property is HTTP 307 LLC. The name, he said, is a pun on an Internet code for “temporary redirect.”
“It’s an ethos,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”