June Local News

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Construction Cranes Along Lake Mirror Signal Growth

Cranes abound on the north side of Lake Mirror — and they’re not the kinds with wings. They’re the kind used in construction, and their abundance is a clear sign that builders carried on while others sheltered for the pandemic. Work is nearly complete on the three-story Aspyre Office Building next to The Joinery. Final touches are being put on the Catapult small-biz incubator on the Lakeland Cash Feed site. Site prep is underway for the eight-story Summit Consulting office building at Massachusetts and Cedar. And just north of the lake, the 305-unit Mirrorton rental community is on target for pre-leasing late this year.



Amazon Ready to Open Its Massive Air Cargo Facility

Another large construction project is finishing up. Amazon’s $100 million air cargo sorting facility at Lakeland Linder International Airport will be ready to begin operating in July, the airport’s director says. The 223,000-square-foot facility south of Drane Field Road is expected to create 800 to 1,000 jobs and generate eight to 10 flights a day. As part of the deal, the airport’s instrument landing system has been upgraded to category 2. A further upgrade to cat 3, expected to be complete around November 2021, will put it on par with systems at major airports like Tampa’s and Orlando’s.


As Business Reopens, Local Websites Offer Guides

In April, walk-in businesses and public facilities adjusted for pandemic sheltering. In May, things started opening back up; by mid-month, restaurants and shops could operate at 50% capacity. June brings more openings, including city pools, libraries and the skatepark. To see what is opening, check LakelandMom.com. They also have a comprehensive guide to local summer camps. In addition, check the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce website for business resources, including Lakeland Regional Health’s new guide for creating a coronavirus-safe environment.


Parade Honors ‘American Idol’ Contestant

It wasn’t all sadness when Kimmy Gabriela broke the news to her fans that she didn’t make the Top 11 on “American Idol.” The George Jenkins High School senior talked on Instagram about the confidence and determination the experience gave her as she traveled to Savannah, Hawaii and Hollywood and shared a national spotlight. A few weeks later, she was surprised by a parade in her honor along the Lake Mirror waterfront while she and her family dined on the patio of The Joinery. She waved, blew kisses and wiped tears as fire trucks, police cars and friends passed by holding signs and tossing her bouquets and gifts.


Polk Graduations Will Be Held at Joker Marchant  Stadium

After wondering whether the coronavirus would rob them of a chance to walk in graduation ceremonies, Polk high school seniors got happy news: Graduations will take place in June at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. The graduates and their guests — each senior gets four tickets — will have to wear face masks and stay six feet apart. Seniors will cross the field as their names are called and have their photos taken — and they’ll each be shown on the stadium jumbotron.  Ceremonies will be broadcast live on the Polk County Public Schools YouTube page. Check dates, times and updates at polkschoolsfl.com/graduation.


Florida Avenue Slims Down Even Before Road Diet Test Starts

A lot of people in Lakeland knew that a one-year test of the South Florida Avenue “road diet” would start in October. What they might not have realized is that for all practical purposes, the three lanes on Florida Avenue through Dixieland began at the end of April. That’s when orange barrels appeared overnight, closing the outer lanes to allow crews to install temporary medians. Once everything is in place, the state DOT will monitor traffic volume, speeds, trip times and effects on neighboring roadways. They’ll compare the data with readings taken during the last year and then the City Commission will decide whether to make the changes permanent.


No Fireworks: Red, White & Kaboom Is Suspended This Year

If you live in a neighborhood like mine, you’re going to hear fireworks around the Fourth of July. People can’t resist the urge to make things go boom. What you won’t see or hear this year is the traditional July 3 fireworks spectacular on Lake Mirror known as Red White & Kaboom. The city called off the celebration because of “the unknowns associated with COVID-19.”  Among the city’s concerns: The large crowds who attend the event would be squeezed into a smaller area because a popular viewing spot has become the construction site for the Summit Consulting office tower. In the past, VISTE has distributed food donations brought by fireworks watchers, so longtime event sponsor T. Mims Corp asked people to remember nonprofits, particularly those that provide food to people in need.


Pending Land Deal Boosts Hopes for a Research Park

A developer has a pending deal to buy several thousand acres surrounding Florida Polytechnic University, and that’s good news for those envisioning a research park in the area. That was the message that university President Randy Avent gave city commissioners last month. The developer, who he would not name, is in due diligence after coming to an agreement to buy the 4,470-acre tract from The Williams Companies, he said. “We have three companies that if we had space right now they would move into campus immediately, so we’re hoping we can leverage that.”  Plans for the Central Florida Innovation District include separate sections dedicated to information sciences and engineering, health technology, advanced manufacturing and mobility/innovation.


Elaine Thompson Will Lead the YMCA After Exiting Hospital Job

Elaine C. Thompson isn’t ready for retirement. As soon she steps down from her 10-year post as president and CEO of Lakeland Regional Health at the end of the year, Thompson will step into the role of CEO of the YMCA of West Central Florida. Thompson, 64, will succeed Kirk Eich, who resigned in February to lead a YMCA in South Carolina. In the interim, the local YMCA is being run by Alice Collins, who worked with the local organization for 37 years and preceded Eich as its head. Thompson was trained as a physical therapist before going into health administration.


This ‘Florida Man’ Story Took Place Here in Lakeland

We’ve said it before. If a Lakeland story makes it into the New York Post, it never looks good for Lakeland. This time it was the Florida Man who got upset after he opened a door for another guy at a Publix liquor store and felt he wasn’t thanked sufficiently. Door opener guy got even angrier when he thought he’s-not-thanking-me guy was back talking him. A fight breaks out. It’s caught on made-for-TV surveillance video. Fortunately, injuries were minor. Deputies are looking for the guy who started the fight, and of course Grady Judd directed a comment to our local Florida Man: “Here’s our promise. We’ll open the door for you at the county jail.”

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