LAKELAND LINDER LANDS AMAZON AIR CARGO FACILITY
Lakeland Linder Airport landed a huge new tenant. Amazon Services Inc. plans to build a $100 million air cargo facility on 47 acres it’s leasing from the city. Construction of the sorting center northwest of the airport terminal is expected to start in early July and last a year. Expected employment: 800 to 1,000. Lease payments start at $967,812 a year for the first five years of the 50-year contract and then escalate. With other fees, the city expects about $1.5 million a year in payments from Amazon.
PUBLIX HEADQUARTERS EXPANSION PLANS HAVE EXPANDED
Construction hasn’t started yet, but Publix Super Markets’ plans to enlarge its Lakeland headquarters have already expanded. Last fal,l the grocery giant announced plans to spend $28 million on a 190,000-square-foot addition to its main office off the Polk Parkway. In May, they said the addition of 30,000 square feet and office/computer equipment will up the price to $65 million. As a result, Publix is seeking an increase in the already approved $163,208 a year in tax breaks over the next 10 years.
FROM ELATION TO ANGUISH: BABY SWAN GOES MISSING
Birth announcements heralded the arrival of the first black-necked swan incubated in Lakeland in six years. Five weeks later in mid-May, the cygnet was ready to be introduced to Lake Morton via a swan pen at the south end of the lake. Hours later, the baby couldn’t be found. At first, human vandals were suspected, but police could find no sign of foul play. Boats and divers were dispatched to look for an escaped swanling; they returned empty-handed. Did a predator penetrate the pen? We may never know.
ONCE AGAIN, VIRAL VIDEO SHOWS A SEAMY SIDE
Unless gators are involved, viral videos out of Lakeland rarely reflect positively. Such was the case when TV stations across the U.S. ran a video clip of a Lakeland driver with his Cadillac on cruise control standing through his sunroof, arms spread wide as he motored down I-4. News anchors thought it was cute that he said he’d rather go to jail than back home to his wife. The jail comment sounded a lot less cute a day later when news broke that the 70-year-old was served a warrant for felony domestic violence after he was booked into Polk’s South County Jail.
ANOTHER VIRAL VIDEO GETS SHERIFF’S ENDORSEMENT
A Lakeland rapper who goes by just his first name, Stephon, wasn’t sure how law enforcement would receive his video “Ducking Grady.” It shows him and a pal continually evading two goofy sheriff’s deputies pursuing them. Stephon needn’t have worried. It turns out that Sheriff Judd loved the song and video — especially because it shows the deputies getting their prey in the end. “While I’m not a fan of anyone running from our deputies, I am a fan of ‘Ducking Grady,’” the sheriff said on Facebook. A share on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page made the video a local hit.
HISTORY, CULTURE CENTER WOULD CELEBRATE ETHNIC DIVERSITY
It took a village to build Lakeland, and the village included folks from a lot of ethnic backgrounds. That diversity would be celebrated in a proposed History & Culture Center. City commissioners were receptive when their parks and rec staff presented plans to place the center in the middle of the Public Library’s Lake Morton branch. They envision exhibits in a space just outside the Lakeland History Room; the area is now used for music discs, which will go away, and DVDs and Spanish-language materials, which will be moved. Startup costs are projected at $300k. Next steps involve getting it through the city budget process.
POLK SCHOOLS WILL ARM GUARDIANS & AND OFFICERS, NOT TEACHERS
A new law that had the support of local legislators and Polk Sheriff Grady Judd would allow school districts to train and arm teachers to protect their classrooms. But that won’t be happening in Polk County. School Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd says local schools will continue using armed guardians or school resource officers to comply with a 2018 school-protection law. “The sheriff has not come to me asking to arm any teachers,” Byrd said.
DEVELOPERS PLAN MORE RESIDENCES, SHOPS FOR DOWNTOWN
Two developers have big plans to place multi-family residences and shops on three downtown blocks, but both plans rely on buying land from the city. In one project, developer Gregory Fancelli already owns much of the two blocks along Massachusetts Avenue just north of the police station, and he is negotiating with the city for a half-block he still needs. In the other project, Tampa’s Catalyst Asset Management is making its case this month for why it should be allowed to buy the Oak Street parking lot and turn it into apartment, stores and a parking garage.
THE FUTURE OF DOWNTOWN GARAGES IS GETTING CLEARER
For years, people talked about the need for parking garages downtown, but the question was where to put them. That question seems settled. Construction has begun on the Heritage Plaza parking garage two blocks west of City Hall. Now, the city is planning to hire consultants to begin the process of placing another garage on top of the surface lot behind the Lakeland Police Department headquarters. The consultant would draft documents to solicit proposals from developers next year or the year after. The aim: a 1,200-space garage in a place that now parks 202 vehicles.
HOMEGOODS COMING TO SOUTH LAKELAND, BUILDING RECORDS SHOW
HomeGoods, an off-price home-furnishings store from the people behind T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s, is said to be building its first Polk County location. The 21,000-square-foot store would be next to the upcoming GreenWise Market across South Florida Avenue from the Lake Miriam Publix store. While Polk County building records identify the building as a future HomeGoods store, neither HomeGoods nor Publix Super Markets, which is developing the center, have confirmed what is going into the space.