A rezoning request that goes to the City Commission today would allow five- to six-story buildings in a nearly 19-acre area on the Watson Clinic main campus.
The property lies between Florida Avenue, Lakeland Hills Boulevard, Parkview Place and East Bella Vista Street.
There are other buildings in the vicinity that are six stories or taller: Just to the south sits Lakeland Regional Health’s massive hospital building and its new eight-story pavilion for women and children’s services.
But in the 18.79-acre area being considered for rezoning, 36 feet is the current height limit on buildings. The area is now zoned for light-impact office and single-family residential uses. The proposed zoning to moderate-impact office would allow buildings up to 60 feet tall, subject to site-plan reviews.
Those site-plan reviews may or may not require public hearings depending upon what is being planned, Todd Vargo, a senior planner for the city, said.
“The proposed O-3 zoning allows for a broad range of office and medical office uses, structured parking and limited commercial uses such as sit-down restaurants, hotels and office-support retail uses,” according to a city planning document.
Jenny Baker, spokeswoman for Watson Clinic, said there are no immediate plans to develop or redevelop on the property.
Watson Clinic. a physician practice group with more than 200 physicians in some 40 specialties, has numerous building on or near its main campus. Many of its physicians have staff privileges at neighboring Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center.
The rezoning request will go before a public hearing during Monday’s City Commission meeting, which starts at 3 p.m. at City Hall.
The rezoning and some concurrent land swaps that are under way will help both Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Health System as they work on their master plans, said Alis Drumgo. interim manager of Lakeland’s Community Redevelopment Agency.
In 2001, the city’s CRA Midtown District designated a 140-acre area as a medical district as part of its Midtown Redevelopment Plan.
The acreage includes the Watson Clinic campus, the Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center campus – a large portion of which sits on city-owned property – as well as other vacant parcels that were once part of the Lakeland Hills neighborhood. Much of the land is now used for surface parking.
In an effort to keep property in the medical district from being developed for non-medical purposes, the CRA bought 20 residentially zoned lots, Drumgo said
Over the years, as Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Health grew and consolidated their various properties, the CRA sold or swapped most of its lots to the two entities.
The patchwork of properties has been consolidated so that Watson Clinic now owns most of the parcels to the northern end of the medical district and Lakeland Regional and the city own most of the parcels on the southern end of the district.
The CRA currently owns six lots and is in the process of trimming that number further as it finalizes a land swap with Watson Clinic.
Watson Clinic asked the CRA to exchange a .23-acre parcel on the periphery of its campus with two nearby CRA-owned parcels that total .23-acres. No money will be exchanged and the clinic will pick up the costs for the paperwork.
The Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board has agreed to the proposed swap and the issue next goes before the City Commission.
The swap would allow Watson Clinic to square off its property on the campus north of the Morrell Drive and West Lane intersection, Drumgo said.
And it will leave the remaining CRA-owned lots located in the vicinity of Lakeland Regional Health’s property. Future swaps will be worked out with Lakeland Regional, although none are currently being discussed, Drumgo said.
“We are aware of the CRA plans and have been part of the ongoing discussions,” said Danielle Drummond, chief operating officer for Lakeland Regional Health System.
“We are supportive of the work between Watson Clinic and the CRA. At this time, Lakeland Regional Health does not have any immediate plans to do any transactions in this area but will continue to evaluate going forward.”
The resolution the City Commission takes up today:
The proposal for a Watson Clinic-CRA land swap goes to the City Commission soon: