VOL. 118 | NO. 206 | Friday, November 12, 2004
By Andy Meek
Lakeland Undertakes Giant Planning Initiative
The Daily News
Mark Hartz has plenty of ideas for
the future of Lakeland, a small town of almost 8,000 residents in northeast
Shelby County. More than anything else at the moment, though, the Lakeland
commissioner wants to correct what he sees as a lack of affordable housing
options in the town.
Hartz knows about the scarcity
firsthand. His son was married in April and wanted to find a home in Lakeland,
but settled for renting an apartment there instead, Hartz
said. And Hartzs mother, who lives alone in Southeast
Memphis 45 minutes away from the rest of her family cant afford to live in
Lakeland at all.
That story is amplified, and it goes on and on, Hartz said.
Community planning. Hes
hopeful that wont be the case much longer. The town is wrapping up a weeklong planning
process for a large tract of public and private land near Canada Road and U.S.
Highway 70. Property owners invited town officials and residents to discuss a
transformation of the largely undeveloped land into a walkable
community, a place where residents might someday walk to work or to shop.
About 900 acres of the land up for discussion has been owned
by the family of local landowner Rudolph Jones for more than 170 years; the
rest is owned by the city of Lakeland and two other area families. Details of
the project dubbed the Lakeland Green Initiative have been worked out in a
charrette, a planning process in which citizens,
designers and city leaders collaborate on the finished development.
Creating a model. Hartz said the goal of the discussion was to study the land
and find ways to create commercial and residential development that, besides offering
affordable housing options, could serve as a model for future development in
the town and in surrounding Shelby County.
He said its also an effort to prevent traditional patterns
of suburban sprawl in Lakeland, with new developments such as Lakeland Green characterized
by more housing choices and shopping outlets built within neighborhoods.
Lakeland commissioner Don Bennett described the charrette as a radical opportunity for any city.
This will be a real zinger of a happening, he said.
Development process. Once
the planning process is finished, Duany Plater-Zyberk and Co., the Florida-based planning firm
leading the sessions, will be given a preliminary concept of what the nearly
1,200 acres should look like. The firm will use that concept to produce a more
refined planning document that will be presented to Lakeland officials for
approval. It could take up to five months to complete that process, Bennett said,
and construction on the first phase of Lakeland Green would begin soon
afterward. In all, the project would be developed in 12 phases over 20 years.
Whats exciting about Lakeland Green, Bennett said, is that
it will likely shape much of the towns future growth and development.
And its got the potential for being even broader than our
comprehensive plans vision states, Bennett said. The city has a
comprehensive plan, but this provides an opportunity for a much broader
community to be part of this and to insert even more up-to-date, progressive,
broader concepts about how the city can develop. So it has potential for an
instant expansion into the world of contemporary thinking.
Instigating excitement. At
one of the first charrette sessions, Hartz said Lakeland residents appeared receptive to the
ideas being discussed.
I heard a lot of folks murmuring around me, saying they
were longing for something like this, he said. I mean, weve got a lot of the
original Lakelanders who are now reaching ages where
theyre going to have to look at the possibility of moving into senior housing.
An older couple spoke very favorably of this theyre folks in their mid to
late 70s who will have to leave Lakeland like so many other of our families
have left already if we dont do something about giving them housing they can
both afford and maintain.
Bob Wherry, Lakeland city manager,
said the projects biggest impact will come not only in the form of alternative
housing options, but also preservation of the towns sense of community.
and Co. wants the project to evoke an increased sense of walkability.
The firm has won awards for its incorporation of environmental conservation and
other innovations in the hundreds of towns it has designed. And preserving the
quiet woods, fields and pastoral setting of much of Lakeland is a priority for
town officials and residents in sketching out the development, Wherry said.
Growth under way. Its
a priority that has been receiving increased attention in the fast-growing
Besides Lakeland Green, commissioner Stephanie Anderson said
about 17 projects are in various stages of development
in Lakeland. The town has seen rapid growth since 1977, when its 260 homes,
about 8 miles of roads and more than 600 citizens were incorporated into
Compared to other developments in Lakeland, Bennett said the
new project is one of unprecedented scale.
This is approximately 1,200 acres, which is huge in terms
of previous developments that have been at most 150 or so, he said. This is a
huge tract of land that is being proposed for participatory development ideas
on the front end. It is an absolutely open-ended opportunity for the city to
get a large tract of land developed in synch with what it it meaning all the
stakeholders in the city believes is appropriate.
That, I think, is the key theres a wide open possibility