Lakeland will see the rise of a massive 160-plus mixed-use development at the site of the former Lakeland Factory Outlet Mall, as described by the developer at an April 6 presentation.
The Lakeland District project is still in the conceptual stages and has to pass through multiple stages of city approval, but California-based developer Gilad Development and local design firm A2H revealed their plans to a packed audience of about 100 people. They gathered at the Stonebridge Golf Club in Lakeland for the presentation and question-and-answer session.
A few audience members griped about the current state of the old mall, which has weathered multiple project delays because of factors like the downturned economy.
The developer rebuffed suggestions to tear down the old facility before construction begins but expects the project to be a “go” with approval of the city.
The city board is expected to grant a special permit at the April 14 board meeting, allowing Gilad to move forward with an outline plan that will be reviewed by the Municipal Planning/ Design Review Commis-sion, as well as the Board of Commissioners.
Gilad plans to deliver the fully completed development all in one phase rather than open it with some construction still underway.
The developed property will be designed as a central spot for the city, and city leaders are eagerly looking forward to the added tax revenues to support Lakeland School system, the city’s parks and more.
City Manager Jim Atkinson predicted the Lakeland District will have a huge impact on the city.
“It will be, by far, the largest development that Lakeland has seen with 160-plus acres of high-scale residential and commercial development,” he said.
He described the Lakeland District concept. “There will be retail stores, big-box suburban style. but there’s also going to be a town center component, which I think is the most interesting part of the plan. It’s kind of a main street with smaller stores, and pedestrian scale, with a performing arts center in that area. There will be restaurants and boardwalks out near the lake, bridges that cross over the lake, paddleboat activities, and imagine the restaurant patio looking right over the lakeside. That will be a nice amenity. That side of the lake is real interesting.”
The other side of the lake is a residential component with townhomes, assisted living, manor homes — a mix of higher density type residential, all the way back to Monroe Road.
Then there will be a large natural area preserve on the south edge to buffer neighboring properties.
Conceptual plans feature a combination of uses such as luxury retail stores, two hotels, restaurants, a farmer’s market, office spaces, residences, green space including parks and an untouched preserve area, and more.
“There’s truly nothing like it locally, not at this scale. It is more of a Harbor Town feel but way more commercial with a town center. It’s hard to get all that into one project,” Atkinson said.