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Lake District (July 2016 update)

The Lake District Talks Apartments and Rentals

It’s official. Only 30 rentals in the entire Lake District project and they won’t be cheap.

During the first meeting with Lake District committee volunteers tonight (7/27/16), Yehuda Netanel, developer, announced residential plans at the project have changed. There will be 30 rental units over retail but will be expensive and provide a unique life style. He said living in these apartments will put the residents right into the street scenes of the Urban Center. He estimated rent could be $1,500 a month.

Mr. Netanel invited Lakeland residents to meet with him and his colleague Maggie Gallagher to share input about the project and get regular progress reports. He said the committee members are the sounding board for the project.

Since the topic of rentals at the Center have been abuzz in the Lakeland community, Mr. Netanel said, “We virtually have no apartments in the complex. Everything will be for sale except 30 units over retail.” He explained there will 200 townhouses, 197 manor houses (flat condos about 2,400 square feet), and 27 work/live spaces, along with the 30 apartments.

“We received so much input from people about the living spaces,” said Mr. Netanel, “so we now just have the 30 rentals.”

Mr. Netanel, Ms. Gallagher,photo_by_Wes_Wright.jpg and Ginny Dunn, (then) economic development coordinator for the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, met with 11 Lakeland residents at an area restaurant for questions and comments about the upcoming project. Mr. Netanel said the next meeting for the volunteers will likely be in September.

Mr. Netanel is president of Gilad Development Corp in California and he first presented The Lake District to a standing-room only crowd April 6 at Stonebridge Golf Club in Lakeland.

Another nugget of information shared was the tax value the Center will provide to Lakeland and Shelby County. “We will generate $700,000 a year for Lakeland schools and $4 million a year for the City and County. That’s almost $5 million a year and these are conservative figures, using retail and bed tax,” he said. “None of that money will be coming from your homes.”

The Urban Center is to be on 160 acres at Canada Road and I-40 in Lakeland. Mr. Netanel expects to close on property belonging to Belz Enterprises by the end of the year which will increase the 35 acres he currently owns to the 160 acres. It will be Southern Belle with a contemporary spunk, he said.

There are plans for a demolition party at the first of the year eliminating the former Factory Outlet Mall that has been vacant and derelict for so long. Mr. Netanel suggested folks could bring sledge hammers as part of the celebration.

In the spring of 2017, dirt will start moving, one million cubic yards of dirt, said Mr. Gallagher. The site work will take 10 months: streets, utilities, drainage and finding 1,000 mature trees.

The next steps are to work with engineering and the City of Lakeland. Except for the architect, all who will work on the project will be local, starting with Lakeland engineers A2H.

Main Street will be special and unique, said Mr. Netanel. “It becomes an attraction. It will be eclectic, one of a kind, creative. We are open-minded and accepting great new ideas,” he said.

In describing the Urban Center, Mr. Netanel and Ms Gallagher noted the Center will offer:
• A wellness district providing health, wellness, fitness and beautification.
• A Civic Center Performing Arts Center, maybe even City Hall.
• On-water dining
• Pretty places, beautiful vignettes, a place for family and friends
• Big box retailers visible from the interstate but regional and local retailers and restaurants inside.
• A six-acre lake with residential on one side and Main Street on the other side.
• Two hotels, ideally two concepts under one flag.
• An open-air farmers market that will tie into the restaurants on site.
• Maybe a small dinner theater and children’s entertainment

Questions were addressed about traffic (three entrances off Canada Road, one off Monroe Road) and the trailer park (it will not be visible from the Center). “You will feel like you’re in a residential neighborhood with greenspace and the lake. Retail is only a portion of it,” said Mr. Netanel.

Attendees also mentioned that crime is a component of many malls. Mr. Netanel said this will not be a mall, it will be an urban village. “They’re (meaning gangs) are not coming to our streets. There will be families living there. It’s a lifestyle people want, a walkable community.”

Asked if TIF money (Tax Increment Financing) would be used. “How will we pay for all that splendor?” asked Mr. Netanel. “This is some pretty nifty stuff but we will need the financing from the City and County.” He said when financing comes via TIF, the money is paid back by future increases in property taxes. “The entire site generates $100,000 a year in taxes now, he said. When built, the figure rises to almost $5 million.” Ms. Gallagher said everything is a public/private partnership. “Everyone is working with us beautifully.”

Lakeland citizens are encouraged to find great businesses that will be a good fit. “Maybe you have friends who live somewhere else. Send them our way.” If citizens have input they can contact Ms. Gallagher or Mrs. Dunn.

The former Lakeland raceway was mentioned and Mr. Netanel said maybe a historical marker could be placed on part of the wall that surrounded the raceway.

“I am really open to your creative ideas,” said Mr. Netanel in closing. “This is becoming my legacy project.”

Photo by Wesley Wright, Lakeland Currents

(posted 7/28/16)