Design District square sign

If you name it, they will come. That’s the hope of community planners in placing colorful signs designating an area east and north of downtown as Lakeland’s Design District.

The illuminated signs signify aspirations that a largely commercial and industrial area previously designated East Main emerges as a center for businesses related to home design and construction.

A 6-foot tall version of the sign will be placed in a median on Ingraham Avenue near Memorial Boulevard, marking one of the main northern entrances to the district.

Design district map, signs

A smaller ground sign will be placed on Boring Business Systems property at Main Street and Ingraham. Owner Dean Boring is a member of the advisory board of the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Authority, which conceived of the sign project.

That entire Main-and-Ingraham intersection will be painted in a design adapted from the signs in a project a city commissioner touted as cost-effective and innovative. Costs for the project will be around $500, far less than other treatments such as brick crosswalks, Commissioner Jim Malless said at a recent meeting.

The painting will be performed by students from Harrison School for the Arts and Rochelle School of the Arts on May 21. The paint, which meets transportation standards, is expected to last about two years, according the the CRA’s Alis Drumgo.

[box]The intersection of Main Street and Ingraham Avenue will be closed to traffic from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. May 21 while students paint the pavement.[/box]

An artist’s conception of the painted intersection.

The multi-color signs resulted from a competition held by the CRA last fall. The creator of the winning design was Jemileh Chemaissem, a 20-year-old Florida Southern junior from Miami majoring in graphic design and advertising/public relations. Her prize? Bragging rights.

“I’d like it to become an area where people can go ahead and create a concentration of art, galleries, art festivals — things that promote artists in the area and draw artists from other cities,” she told The Ledger.

Chemaissem’s design calls for making the signs with stainless steel, but CRA officials said the final materials and costs will not be available until the project is put out to bid.

The design contest was coordinated by local artist Elizabeth Hults, director of the non-profit ART/ifact studio at the CRA’s Mass Market complex. Hults translated Chemaissem’s sign into the design for the intersection painting.

The push to create a design district can be traced to a strategic plan for the East Main District published by the CRA in February 2016. (See the plan below.)

The plan calls for creating a “Lakeland Home Design District” by building on existing home-oriented businesses such as The Lighting Hut and offering incentives for new businesses.

Incentives include matching grants for facade improvements, tax reductions and benefits for food-related businesses.

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