» Subscribe Today!
More of what you want to know.
The Daily News

Forgot your password?
TDN Services
Research millions of people and properties [+]
Monitor any person, property or company [+]

Skip Navigation LinksHome >
VOL. 118 | NO. 206 | Friday, November 12, 2004

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Comments ()
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.

Duany Plater-Zyberk 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 town.

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 Lakeland.

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 for benefit.


PROPERTY SALES 61 262 16,169
MORTGAGES 28 132 10,054
BUILDING PERMITS 88 424 38,360
BANKRUPTCIES 36 92 7,564