VOL. 111 | NO. 3 | Monday, January 6, 1997
lj 10/5 cates
New mall, rural feel contribute to Lakeland growth
By LAURIE JOHNSON
The Daily News
Housing starts in Lakeland reached a near-record level in 1996, and commercial development is expected to get a jump-start during the coming year with the completion of the new Wolfchase Galleria mall.
In 1996, 152 single-family residential permits were filed in the city, located east of Memphis on I-40.
This tally is just one permit shy of last years all-time high of 153, according to city code enforcement records.
Only one commercial building permit for a 66,000-square-foot addition to the Belz factory outlet mall was filed last year, a slight decrease from 1995s total of two.
However, Lakeland officials already are seeing evidence that development of the new Wolfchase Galleria located in neighboring Cordova and scheduled to open in February is adding some cache to the area with commercial developers.
"People will be traveling by I-40 to the new mall, so its definitely affecting us. If youve got traffic, youve got all sorts of opportunities to hope that theyll stop here and shop or stop and eat on the way to shop," said Lakeland Mayor Gene Fletcher.
"We have had a numerous amount of inquiries from businesses who would like to build in the city, particularly around the I-40/Canada Road exit."
About 20 commercial enterprises, mainly restaurant and retail, have purchased property in Lakeland for development, Fletcher said. "Weve seen a lot of site plans," he said.
The biggest retail development in Lakeland during 1996 was the construction of the Belz factory outlet malls new annex. The addition is almost 80 percent leased only three retail bays are still available, said Andy Groveman, spokesman for Belz Enterprises, which owns and operates the shopping center.
Tenants in the new annex include Foot Locker, Foot Quarters, Danskin and Saks Fifth Avenues "Off Fifth" outlet store, which opened in November.
"The stores out there, particularly the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet, have just done phenomenally well," Groveman said. "Theyre doing just huge numbers its been described to me as a feeding frenzy."
The Belz Factory Outlet Mall also has been given a new name: Belz Factory Outlet World. "With the addition of the annex, it became more than just a mall," Groveman said.
Fletcher said the restaurants opening in Lakeland are mainly fast food franchises the type most frequently found along interstates.
Plans for a Waffle House and McDonalds, under development by partnership groups headed by Clair Vanderschaaf, were approved by city officials Thursday. Plans for a Sonic were approved in December.
Several combination gas/convenience/fast food enterprises, including an Exxon/Subway/TCBY, also are in the works. The McDonalds will be part of an Amoco gas station/convenience store operation.
To accommodate Lakelands growing population of working parents, a Playtime Learning Center also has opened in the area.
Lakeland is the only municipality in Shelby County that charges no city property tax. Instead, revenues are generated by local sales taxes.
Although some residents have expressed concern about tall advertising signs cropping up along the interstate, city officials say that for the city to remain tax-free, they may be necessary.
"When youre a city divided by an interstate, if you want to draw business, you have to draw people off of the interstate. To do this, you have to have sufficient signage," Fletcher said.
"Theres got to be enough commercial to pay the bills. You cant have it both ways."
Residential development is divided fairly evenly between the north and south sides of I-40, Fletcher said. Most new homes being built in the area are in the move-up market price range, from about $105,000 to about $300,000.
In addition to commercial development ventures, Vanderschaaf is involved in several residential development partnerships and currently has four subdivisions underway.
Jamie Callahan, Vanderschaafs project developer, said lot sales have been brisk. "Its a great untapped market," he said. "Years ago, people thought this was just too far out. But now were seeing it really start to open up."
Groundwork for the first section of Plantation Hills, which will feature homes priced in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, is now complete and 90 of the 123 half-acre lots have been sold, Callahan said.
Builders in the subdivision include McWaters-Williams, Riverbirch Builders and FaxonGillis Homes.
Lots in the second section will be available for sale to both builders and individuals in the summer, and a third section also is planned.
All 150 lots contained in sections A, B and D of the Fairway Meadows subdivision have been purchased by Summit Homes. Homes in the development will range in price from $105,000 to $200,000. About 20 lots have been sold in section C. This section, which is still under development, will contain 74 lots when complete.
Fletcher said one of the reasons people were moving to Lakeland was because it was less crowded than other Shelby County municipalities such as Collierville and Bartlett, which have experienced explosive growth throughout the past several years.
"Lakeland is sort of a rural community, and were trying to maintain this rural look with low-density home building," Fletcher said. "Were not just trying to get housetops in. Well have the subdivisions, but well also maintain some open space."
Vanderschaafs Woodland Park Planned Development will have 25 acres of common area, Callahan said. Bowden Building has purchased the lots in the subdivision, and the homes will range in price from $100,000 to $135,000.
Vanderschaaf also is developing Paradise Lake, a 15-lot, private subdivision situated around a 34-acre lake.
Lakelands growth spurt is expected to continue into the next century, city officials said.
Infrastructure improvements have included a new $2 million sewer system to serve the north side of the city. It will begin operating within 60 days.
"This will handle our needs for probably the next five or six years," Fletcher said. "But we do need to look at what can be done for the south side of the city. We were hoping to go into the Grays Creek interceptor for that part of the county, but were not sure if that can happen."
In the future, the city may add another water treatment plant or enlarge the existing one, he said.
To further prepare for the future, Lakeland city officials have commissioned Memphis-based ETI Corp., to prepare a 10-year future land-use plan.
The plan, which will contain a review of and suggested recommendations for subdivision regulations and city ordinances, including signage, is nearly complete and will be presented to city officials for approval within the next 45 days. A public hearing also will be held.