Industrial growth is booming and residential growth is picking up, all of which means city officials in Auburndale, Florida are busy — and pleased.
And they forecast even more development in the next five to 10 years in the city of almost 16,000 people in the north central portion of Polk County.
“Expect to see continued growth in the community, especially in residential development,” said Auburndale City Manager Bobby Green, the city manager with the longest tenure — nearly 28 years — in Polk County. “With our city sharing common boundaries with Lakeland, Lake Alfred, Polk City and Winter Haven, it is so very important for Auburndale to grow in an orderly and complementary fashion. Our city has worked very hard in the area of planning and growth management.”
Green said the Lake Mariana Reserve on Dairy Road is the first new subdivision built in Auburndale in the last 10 years. Southern Homes is building homes in the gated community from roughly $215,000 to $335,000.
“No question the housing market is very positive at the moment,” Green said.
Amy Palmer, the city’s community development director, said more than 1,000 single-family residential lots “are in some stage of development, from zoning approval to under construction.”
But the city needs more multi-unit housing, too, Palmer said.
“The city has seen so much residential growth from new single family homes, but has not seen any other type of residential growth in decades, such as apartments, condos, or townhomes,” she said. “Diversity in housing choices would be another need the city has.”
Growth along the Polk Parkway and Interstate 4, as well as in the area of Florida Polytechnic University, Florida’s 12th state university, is exploding.
“We’re very excited about the opportunities related to the new SunTrax – Florida’s New Center for Transportation Innovation and USA Water Ski and Wake Foundation Facilities being built in Auburndale,” Green said.
SunTrax is a $42 million research facility being built on 475 acres along the Polk Parkway. Its centerpiece is a 2.25-mile oval track that will be used for high-speed technology testing. Its 200-acre infield will be used to test emerging transportation technologies, including autonomous vehicles and unmanned systems, Green said. The first phase of SunTrax is expected to open in April 2019.
Officials from Auburndale and several partner organizations broke ground on the USA Water Ski Foundation Water Sports Complex and Training Center at Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Auburndale, potentially making it the “international hub for water skiing, wakeboarding, and all wake sports,” Green said.
USA Water Ski and Wake Sports is the national governing body of organized water skiing and wakeboarding in the United States, and building its headquarters in Auburndale is a coup for the city. The “cable park is expected to draw wakeboarding enthusiasts, professional competitors and world-renowned competitions to our city,” Green said.
Other projects have also kept Green and Palmer busy. A few of those projects:
- Saddle Creek expanded its distribution center.
- Medline constructed a new distribution center near Saddle Creek along the Polk Parkway.
- Duke Power bought Calpine’s Osprey Energy Plant.
- The Coca-Cola North American Main Street plant has expanded its manufacturing facility, which has added new jobs.
“Historically, Auburndale has had a good balance of industrial, small business and service industry within our city,” Green said. “This mix of good business opportunities continues today. Our quality industries allow the city to have one of the lowest property tax rates within the county (second only to Bartow), and provide good employment opportunities for our citizens.”
Future growth will lead to new opportunities.
“As the city continues to grow with new residents and expand from key economic drivers such as SunTrax, commercial growth will follow,” Palmer said. “Auburndale’s residents and visitors have a need for more of those service-related businesses, such as restaurants and hotels, that follow economic growth.”
Palmer, who was once employed in economic development for the Central Florida Development Council, says she likes working on new business projects.
“It’s exciting to be on the front line working with property owners and businesses as they make plans for their investments in the city,” Palmer said, “That’s the best part of the job as community development director – staying busy helping people and businesses.”
Green is also excited about the growth, always working with one goal in mind.
“As our city continues to grow, I would hope that it always maintain the small-town atmosphere that makes it a great place to live, work and play,” Green said.