The coronavirus put life on hold for many in the second quarter of 2020, but the City of Lakeland continues to see residential growth in a key part of its city: downtown.

Two residential projects are in the works:

Broadway Real Estate Services is building a 90-unit apartment complex at Lake Avenue and Lime Street in the Garden District.

The Framework Group out of Tampa, Barclay Group and Flournoy Construction Group is constructing Mirrorton, a 305-unit market-rate apartment project along East Bay Street, north of Lake Mirror. The $60 million project is expected to be completed in October 2021.

In addition, Springhill Suites recently opened near the RP Funding Center. The five-story, 126 room full-service hotel will attract business people and others who want to spend time downtown or at the civic center.

What’s keeping growth alive in Polk County’s largest city?

“In a word, vitality,” said Brian Rewis, assistant director of Community & Economic Development. “A diverse mix of uses and users, residential, office, restaurant, retail and recreation, is critical to the success of any downtown, including Lakeland’s. That mix is achieved only by creating conditions for those use markets to flourish. The growth Lakeland is seeing now is the result of decades of thoughtful planning and investment, and there’s more to come.”

Investing in Downtown 

Broadway Real Estate Services is continuing to build downtown, helping entice people to live as well as work there. The company first built NoBay Village on Bay Street, an apartment complex that has been highly successful.

Now, it’s constructing Lake Lime on just over an acre at Lime Street and Lake Avenue. The $10 million complex will consist of two three-story apartment buildings. The one-bedroom apartments will vary in size from 550 to 600 square feet, said Matt Clark, president of Broadway. “They all will have a full kitchen, living room and bedroom. We are making full use of the space.”

The selling point: it’s walkable to all of downtown’s amenities, Clark said. And those are growing. Hollis Garden and Lake Mirror remain attractions, as do the likes of Mitchell’s Coffee House and Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille, among others. Newer options include The Joinery, a hip new spot that houses a variety of restaurant offerings, as well as wine and beer.

Those could attract young professionals.

“When we built NoBay, we built a lot of larger two-bedroom units, thinking we would have younger folks with roommates. But the demographics are all over the place downtown. At Lake Mirror Tower (another Broadway holding), you might find retirees on fixed incomes, a Florida Southern College student here and there, a young professional.”

At Lake Lime, he mostly expects “singles, married couples without children or a midlifer who has always been single or had a change in their relationship and want a downtown experience, someone who will try it for a couple of years.”

Construction started in Spring 2020 and should last about a year, meaning Broadway is looking at a Spring 2021 completion, Clark said. “NoBay was a success for us, and we just feel the downtown Lakeland market will support more apartments. We enjoy somewhat of a premium rental rate downtown that we don’t think you get outside of downtown. Demand is strong. Financially, it will be a good project for us. It will fill a need and create more demand for further growth in the downtown marketplace. You need everything, but you need heads in beds for a full, thriving downtown experience.”

The Future

The Lakeland City Commission approved a zoning change in mid-June 2020 to allow a three-story, 24-unit apartment complex off Lake Hunter Drive. The site plan still needs to be approved, and the builder would have to obtain the necessary permits but given the amount of money already invested in the project, Teresa Maio, the city’s Planning and Housing manager, said she expects it to move forward.

Rewis said no new hotels are on the horizon downtown, but that could change. “Staff has been making regular contact with owner/developers of smaller boutique hotels like The Epicurean in Tampa, and it’s only a matter of time before the downtown Lakeland market attracts such an investment.”

For now, the coronavirus pandemic continues to play a role, and how it impacts investors remains to be seen. “The ambitious Downtown Catalyst Plan has generated significant interest over the past couple of years, so provided the market withstands the challenges associated with the pandemic, that groundwork will lead to continued quality, sustainable downtown growth,” he said.

Rewis and others would like to see the city return to pre-pandemic days in the short term.

“Longer term, we’d like to see continued investment and growth across all market sectors, ever-improving multimodal connectivity and walkability that meets the needs of and delivers the quality of life both Lakelanders and visitors should expect,” he said. “Downtown Lakeland is vibrant and unique; it’s stable but never stands still; it lives and breathes and is literally the heart of our great city, where the very best of Lakeland shines through.”

For additional information about Lakeland growing downtown or how to become a partner with the Central Florida Development Council, please contact Lindsay Zimmerman at lindsay@cfdc.org.