Broadway Real Estate Services brought its top executives, a lawyer, architect and a court reporter to an advisory board’s meeting today to make a simple request: Hear from us before recommending who should have a shot at developing the Oak Street parking lot just north of Broadway’s NoBay complex.

The show of force was prompted by a recommendation that the city negotiate with Tampa-based Catalyst Asset Management Inc., the only other company that responded to a request for qualifications for developing the site comprising a full downtown block.

“How can you advise and make a fully informed decision if you haven’t heard from the parties or studied the report?” Broadway lawyer Bob Puterbaugh asked the members of the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board. “Otherwise, why are you here?”

After hearing from Puterbaugh and Broadway President Matt Clark, the board voted unanimously to hear from representatives of both companies at its June meeting, in effect delaying a decision by a month.

In the end, the final decision on who will have a shot at developing the property lies with the Lakeland City Commission, but that decision is several months away.

Some recent background:

  • Broadway sent the CRA a letter last December expressing interest in purchasing the 1.5-acre lot between Kentucky and Tennessee Avenue and Oak and Peachtree Streets.
  • When the advisory board met in March, Clark urged them to make a quick decision on selling the land. Instead, they opted in a 9-1 vote to use a Request for Qualifications process to vet potential buyers before deciding whether to sell the property.
  • City staff drafted a document listing criteria for the project, including reserving 20 percent of the units for affordable housing, ensuring adequate parking, and presenting proof of economic viability.
  • Two companies responded to the request, and their thick proposal packets were analyzed by a seven-member committee. That committee met Tuesday, and six of the seven named Catalyst as the most qualified and responsive to the city’s requirements. The committee included the assistant city manager, city finance manager, assistant community development director, interim CRA manager, CRA board chair, city public works director and downtown development director. There is no public record of which committee members favored which proposal. After the rankings were made, the recommendation for Catalyst was approved unanimously by the committee.
Oak Street lot viewed from a Kentucky Avenue entrance.

The committee offered no explanation for its recommendation of Catalyst over Broadway. But when presenting the committee’s recommendation, Interim CRA Manager Alis Drumgo noted Broadway’s proposal “had no indication of number of affordable (housing) units.”

In contrast, Catalyst said 38 of its projected 173 residential unit would be aimed at households at 50 percent of less of area median income.

Catalyst proposed a six-story residential-and-retail building with a four-story parking garage for both resident/customer and public use. The company plans 10,000 square feet of commercial space “with the hopes of integrating a downtown grocery store,” according to Drumgo’s written report to the board. (see it below.)

The advisory board was being asked today to elevate the recommendation to negotiate with Catalyst to the City Commission.

Assistant City Attorney Palmer Davis said the board is under no legal obligation to hear from both sides but can do so at its discretion.

Board member Cory Petcoff, who made the motion to hear both companies, said, “All we have to lose is 30 days. Any decisions we have regretted have been due to lack of information.”

When Catalyst and Broadway make their presentation at next month’s meeting, they will be asked to stick to information included in their responses to the Request for Proposal.

Broadway holds a significant real estate portfolio downtown including the NoBay mixed-use development that takes up three-quarters of the block just south of the Oak Street garage.

The company purchased the land for NoBay from the city for $265,345 in 2015. The CRA and other city agencies contributed $400,000 toward the NoBay project, Community and Economic Development Director Nicole Travis said.

Oak Street Parking Lot Recommendation:

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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