Summit Project Gets Good Reviews as Commission Looks to Future

The proposed design for Summit Consulting’s upcoming nine-story headquarters downtown drew positive comments from city commissioners Friday before the conversation diverted to a discussion about a future “highline” pedestrian walkway.

As part of the city’s agreement with Summit when it sold the property at 117 N. Massachusetts Ave. on the northwest corner of Lake Mirror, the city retained the right to approve the design. Absent any dissent at Friday’s agenda study session, it appears the commission will approve the design Monday in an official vote. 

The renderings, created by Lakeland-based The Lunz Group, feature patios and varying masses along the Lake Mirror-facing east side of the building and on the south, and a diagonally situated glass tower on the southwest corner. Varying window heights and widths differentiate the lower parking levels from the upper office levels.

There is also a band of material along the top of the parking levels that suggest a connection to the Frances Langford Promenade and loggia.

“We’re playing homage to the loggia, especially in regard to materials,” architect Brad Lunz said.

Maintaining aesthetic cooperation with the promenade, built in the City Beautiful era where civic pride was represented in grand architectural gestures, was a primary concern, Lunz said. 

With the promenade, “the intent was to create a grand entry to our city,” Lunz said, “and we wanted to preserve that.”

Commissioner Stephanie Madden, who said she heard concerns from residents, requested additional renderings showing additional views of the building and how it interacts with the Terrace Hotel and Lake Mirror Tower in the skyline.

“They’ve mentioned other cities, where history’s beautiful gems are just lost, completely (as they are engulfed by new construction.) I don’t think this does that but i think it will be important for the community going forward … that we have talking points, that we have pictures,” she said. 

Lunz said his firm will provide additional renderings from other points of view, but assured Madden that the Terrace would remain visible in the Lakeland skyline.

The view along Massachusetts Avenue
The view from Cedar Street and Massachusetts Avenue

Under the authorization expected Monday, the commission will grant the city’s professional building staff to approve minor changes to the look of the building, but there was some concern that the ongoing design process could significantly alter the appearance.

“We just don’t want a dramatically different product,” Mayor Bill Mutz said. 

Previous LkldNow coverage of the Summit proposal

Lakeland attorney Tim Campbell, who represents Summit in the deal, said the company and its contractors have designed a realistic outcome for the project — that what the commission sees is essentially what they’ll get.

“I made up a term, called it the ‘NoBay example,’” Campbell said, “they (Summit) have known since day one what we show is what we build.”

Campbell was referencing NoBay Village, a Broadway Real Estate project that opened in 2016. After winning the land and right to build in a competitive process, Broadway significantly reduced the number of planned apartment units, got approval for the change from the commission, and then raised the number of units, splitting the difference. The exterior design was also significantly different than what had been proposed in the bidding process. 

The outcome of NoBay, while celebrated at the time as the first major new development in downtown Lakeland in decades, led to changes in the project bidding process. 

Engineering and design work, which needs to “catch up” to the architectural renderings, could force some minor changes to the Summit building, Campbell said, but “we don’t expect any change to the architectural elevations as a result of those.”

“There are no rugs being yanked,” he added.

The Summit Building will be constructed at the southeast corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Cedar Street. This photo was taken last September.

The commission’s approval is the second required under the land sale agreement. The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority last fall gave preliminary approval to the design with one caveat about landscaping. That board will review the new landscaping plans later this month.

Summit is expected to start construction this year. During the process, there may be limited road closures to accommodate heavy equipment and the delivery of pre-casted materials.

At completion, the building is expected to have 135,000 square feet of space and 450 parking spots. The city is leasing 150 of the parking spaces for use by the public on nights and weekends.

Concurrent construction

Commissioners are eager to start the groundwork needed to build an elevated pedestrian walkway, a “highline,” that would run from Allen Kryger Park, past the Summit building, and north over the CSX railroad tracks.

Though the project relies on a number of variables if it is to be completed, commissioners are confident enough that they are looking to start work soon to run concurrent with the Summit construction rather than pay more to do it later.

An early concept for the highline shows what it might look like where it crosses Cedar Street just northeast of the Summit building.

The early work would likely include the setting of the foundation and work on the ground to accommodate the highline when all the other contingencies are settled.

To pay for the required designs and assessments, the city is looking for state and federal grant money, Community and Economic Development Director Nicole Travis said.

Mutz asked what it would take to get moving sooner. 

“If you want to accelerate the highline design, you have to find a way to fund that,” Travis said. 

Commissioners broadly supported making funding a priority, even ahead of a planned 2020-2021 budget strategy session in April. 

“We do not want to reverse engineer this” after Summit is built, Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley said. “We need to unearth this, no pun intended, ahead of the curve.”

City Manager Tony Delgado said the staff could put together a workshop sometime in March depending on the commissioners’ personal schedules. 

Two other major concerns involve CSX, the freight rail company that will have to approve a bridge over its right of way, and where the bridge will end up. 

As for CSX, Travis said she believes CSX will be amenable to the project as it will reduce the number of pedestrians crossing at the Massachusetts Avenue railroad-road intersection.

As for where the bridge goes? There has long been discussion about building a parking garage north of the train tracks adjacent to the Lakeland Police Department headquarters, but as of now there are no real plans to do so. 

Today’s report to the commission:

VIDEO – Commission discusses the Summit building and the highline:

Agenda Study & Committees 2020.02.14 from City of Lakeland on Vimeo.

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