As Haines City continues to grow, the city is drafting a master plan for park space while working with developers and entrepreneurs to build more housing units and revitalize downtown.

Haines City’s population has grown from 20,000 in the 2010 Census to more than 25,000 today. With the increasing growth in the northeast quadrant of Polk County that number will likely jump significantly when the results of the 2020 Census are released.

Living and playing is an important part of our daily lives. This is the fourth installment in a five-part series about quality of life in Polk County — beyond work.

Playing in Haines City

Deric Feacher, city manager for Haines City, said they are focusing on developing a master plan for parks, even though he thinks the parks and recreation facilities in Haines City are already the benchmark for other communities.

“Lake Eva Park, which includes the event center, aquatics facility, bandshell, tennis complex and the great lawn, are unmatched,” he said. Lake Eva is home to the annual Ironman triathlon, Fourth of July fireworks and many other events.

The city also offers two other parks, Ben Graham in the Oakland community and Veterans in downtown, that are what Feacher calls “signature parks for relaxation and recreation.”

Recreation is also important, he said, and Haines City offers a variety of programs for all ages, everything from summer and holiday camps to band programs and dance academies. It also offers educational opportunities in the form of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, and computer and reading labs.

“Our organization continues to evaluate our offerings in an effort to make sure every generation has something they can participate in at one of our facilities,” Feacher said.

The city is also working to develop programs for its diverse community, he said, and, it needs more multipurpose fields for softball, baseball, soccer and football — all of which will be included in the master plan, he said.

“We have secured additional lands to make sure that becomes a reality in the near future.”

Haines City benefits from its partnership with the Feltrim Group, which Feacher calls one of the city’s best partners. The group opened the Feltrim Sports Village within Balmoral Resort in December 2019 to provide more opportunities for children locally and in the state and nation to participate in sports.

“Feltrim Sports has created a sports complex that will be a hub for sports in the eastside of the county,” Feacher said. “Because of its location within a vacation rental community, they have been able to secure events and tournaments and also provide the accommodations.  The economic impact is not only felt within the city limits of Haines City, but throughout Polk County.”

Downtown Growth

Haines City is also experiencing residential growth and a resurgence in its downtown core. The city could have four new food establishments downtown. Nightlife may also be picking up as the city starts its Finally Friday events and a business owner has approached the city about opening a cigar and wine bar.

The city has also put out a request for proposals to redevelop a large portion of downtown. The RFP focuses on housing, office space, retail, restaurants and a parking garage, all of which will be “the catalyst for continued momentum to making the downtown an area for day and evening activities,” Feacher said.

Housing Boom

With everything else going on, people need a place to live. And Haines City is open to providing that.

“The housing market in Haines City is very active,” Feacher said. “We are tracking 49 residential projects in various stages of approval, from conceptual to obtaining building permits.”

If all 49 projects are built to completion, the city would have over 10,000 more single-family units, including 182 townhome units that are part of the Magnolia Village project, he said.

“This shows that there is a desire in the marketplace for other types of housing besides just single-family.”

The city is also tracking 709 multifamily units that are in various stages. The most recent multifamily project, the Tarpon Bay Apartments on 30th Street, includes 198 units and, according to Feacher, up to 20,000 square feet of commercial is proposed, thereby providing mixed-use projects in the middle of a rapidly developing area.

“This is the place to be,” he said.