Downtown Building: Economic Boost or Lake Intrusion?
Reactions varied widely when Lakeland residents learned that Summit Consulting is hoping to build an eight-story office building on Lake Mirror. To some, it’s an economic boost for downtown. To others, it’s a tall intrusion on a beloved lake and its landmark promenade. If Summit comes to the vacant lot at Massachusetts and Cedar, it will bring 500 employees downtown, and part of the garage occupying the first four stories would be available to the public on nights and weekends. The City Commission will decide whether to sell the land to Summit after holding a public hearing; there’s not a date for that yet.
Dixieland Dragon: Will It Breathe Life Into an Alley?
Dixieland residents woke up on a recent Monday to discover that a dragon had invaded the alley just west of Florida Avenue. The 30-foot-long and 12-foot-high dragon sculpture was created by artist Keith Maximillion Williams and placed on Park Street property owned by developer Gregory Fancelli. It’s part of Fancelli’s efforts to enliven the alley and encourage more pedestrians to stroll between between the Cob & Pen (on property he owns) and Dixieland Village. Fancelli had hoped to place apartments along the alley, but those plans fizzled in the face of neighborhood opposition.
Something Cool: Ice Arena Fostering Hockey in Lakeland
Ice hockey doesn’t readily come to mind when people think about Lakeland’s amenities. But that could change. Lakeland Ice Arena has opened in a converted bowling alley on Memorial Boulevard near I-4. It’s home to hockey teams from Florida Southern College, George Jenkins High School, and a development team sponsored by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The arena also sponsors the Lakeland Royals travel hockey club “from mite to midget, high school and beyond.” Public skating at the arena starts Oct. 5 and costs $14 per person for a two-hour session, including skate rental.
Broadband: City Wants Public Input
With city commissioners divided on whether to launch a municipal broadband utility, they’re turning to the public for input. First, the city set up an online survey to gauge interest. It’s available through Oct. 18 at www.lakelandgov.net/broadband. Then they scheduled a forum (Oct. 1, 6 p.m. at the RP Funding Center) to summarize the latest business plan and hear from community members. The city’s consultants estimate that if the city launches the service in 2021, it could break even by 2031, assuming it can sign up 38% of homes and 41% of businesses.
Florida Poly: Research Center Being Built
Advancing plans for a research park off I-4, Florida Polytechnic University broke ground in September on an 85,000-square-foot Applied Research Center. The $40.6 million building is expected to take two years to construct. It will house research and teaching laboratories, conference rooms, faculty offices, graduate student study spaces and student design spaces. The focus: commercializing innovation and applied research, university President Randy Avent said. The building was designed by HOK architects and is being built by Skanska USA.
Unconventional: Unwholly Bikes Brings New Approach
Several people have walked into Unwholly Bikes’ new location at 925 E. Rose St. expecting a conventional bike shop. But what they get is something else. The nonprofit shop provides used bikes to people who can donate 10 hours of work at the shop or pay $50. “It is particularly the lower income or homeless community that Unwholly is trying to reach,” Tyler Fox, one of the founders, told Bicycling magazine. “A bike can be a life changer for them, and often is their sole mode of transportation.” The shop provides training and use of tools to encourage riders to maintain their own bikes.
City Elections: Ballot Includes 2 Races, 3 Questions
Lakeland will get at least one new city commissioner when voters go to the polls Nov. 5 (or vote in advance in person or by mail.) A four-way race will determine who replaces Justin Troller for the at-large seat he’ll vacate due to term limits. Candidates are Chad McLeod, Carole Philipson, Ricky Shirah, and Shandale Terrell. In another race, first-term incumbent Bill Read is opposed by Jiwa Farrell. The ballot also contains three proposals to change the city charter; they aim to reduce the barrier to sell Lakeland Electric, tighten term limits and update language.
Lakeland Electric: Celebrating Its 115th Birthday
During the next few months, Lakeland Electric will be celebrating its 115th birthday and touting the benefits of a municipally owned utility. Chief among them, according to utility execs: profits go to support city services. Look for events, contests and speakers at events. The focus on Lakeland Electric’s benefits comes as voters are preparing for a Nov. 5 referendum on whether to change the city charter to reduce the currently-impossibly-high barrier to selling the power utility.
Engaged Citizens: City Ponders Best Meeting Time
In an experiment to see if more citizens would participate, city commissioners changed their twice-a-month meetings from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. last fall. A year later, they haven’t seen a difference in the number of people attending, so now they’re going to decide whether to change back, stay at 3 or maybe try evening meetings. No date has been set for a decision, but it will be after a new commissioner is elected Nov. 5. Watch the city’s social media for a survey in advance of a vote.
New Roads: Impact Fees Might Go Up
As Lakeland grows and construction prices increase, the need for new roads is outstripping the city’s ability to pay for them. So a consultant is recommending an increase in impact fees next year on new construction to the tune of 53 percent for single-family homes and 60 percent for multi-family. That’s a $3,711 more for a new single-family house. City commissioners say they’ll consult local businesses before holding a public hearing Nov. 4.