South Lakeland: Starbucks Moving; TooJays Closes
What’s going up at Southgate? The guessing game started as soon as construction fences went up in the parking lot in front of the iconic arch. It turned out that Starbucks is moving there from its cramped spot a few blocks away at Beacon and Florida. No word yet on when it will open. Elsewhere in south Lakeland restaurant chains: The TooJays Deli at Oakbridge Square has closed.
Downtown Expands In Restaurants and Brewing Capacity
Downtown dining choices keep expanding. Six restaurants opened in Lakeland’s core last year, and another one is expected soon in a long-empty storefront next to Black & Brew. Downtown booster Julie Townsend wouldn’t name the prospective foodery, but said it brings a type of cuisine not currently available downtown. Also, downtown’s Swan Brewing is about to expand its beer-making capacity, courtesy of a grant from the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency.
Solar Group Shines Light On Pricing
Is Lakeland a solar innovator or behind the times? It depends on who you ask. The organizers of Polk’s solar cooperative say Lakeland Electric penalizes solar users by forcing them into a peak-use pricing structure. But the utility’s boss says solar users’ consumption when the sun isn’t shining costs everybody else and that other utilities will mimic Lakeland’s price structure as solar becomes more popular.
City Commission Race: Lopsided Spending, Lopsided Vote Count
It wasn’t even close. Sara Roberts McCarley, a political newcomer backed by business leaders, scooped up nearly 75 percent of the vote and defeated two rivals in a special election for a three-year seat on the Lakeland City Commission. McCarley, formerly executive director of Polk Vision, stressed financial conservatism in her campaign. She raised $43k in contributions compared with a combined $1.2k by her two opponents.
Chief Giddens Leaves LPD For FSC Post
Larry Giddens has removed his badge after 34 years at the Lakeland Police Department and five years as chief. At 55, he says he’s ready to spend more time with family, so he accepted when he was offered a chance to take over as head of security for Florida Southern College. FSC hasn’t disclosed his salary; he was paid just over $169k per year at LPD.
Shooting Incident Focuses Attention On Lakeland Police
A fatal shooting by police officers has focused attention on the Lakeland Police Department’s handling of the Dec. 26 incident at the corner of Florida and Memorial. LPD’s chief says officers were following procedure when they shot at a teen who they say tried to hit an officer while driving a stolen car. Some departments, include St. Petersburg’s, prohibit shooting into a moving vehicle unless the occupants pose a threat with a gun, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
RP Funding Center Completes $14.2 Million Renovation
The RP Funding Center, formerly the Lakeland Center, unveiled $14.2 million worth of renovations in January as it positions itself for more conference and convention business while increasing its appeal for sports teams and entertainers. Improvements include new LED video boards in the arena, seating in the auditorium, paint and carpeting throughout and improved locker rooms. Under construction: a 130-room Springhill Suites hotel next door.
Dreamers Envision A More Connected Downtown
Some dreamers in local business and government started imagining what downtown Lakeland could look like in the future. You can see their blueprint via an interactive online presentation, “Envisioning a Better Downtown,” at https://bit.ly/2DoO9qe. The series of sketches and designs trade surface parking for multi-use buildings and garages, show a potential soccer stadium near Jenkins Arena and envision a high-line style walkway connecting development north of Lake Mirror to the city’s core.
Garden District Can Get Higher Buildings With Restrictions
Plans for high-rise apartments northeast of Lake Morton energized neighbors to turn out to a City Commission meeting about building heights in the Garden District, an area north of Walnut Street and east of downtown. A major concern: Would new buildings look like they fit the neighborhood? Commissioners decided to place downtown guidelines on buildings higher than 40 feet in the district and return historic preservation review. Heights are raised from 40 to 60 feet, except south of Lime Street.
New Signs Attempt To Clarify Downtown Parking Rules
If you want to start a Facebook debate, mention parking rules in downtown Lakeland. Everybody has an opinion. The latest rounds involved revamped parking signs downtown. Among other things, the new signs attempt to clarify that your free on-street parking session lasts two hours starting from the first time you park and doesn’t carry over if you re-park. In addition, enforcement now starts at 9 a.m. weekdays instead of 8 a.m.