By Alan Johnson, EDC member
The Economic Development Committee (EDC) met Jan. 25 at City Hall for their regular monthly meeting.
Prior to the meeting, Adam Henry was sworn in by Vice-Mayor Josh Roman. Mr. Henry is replacing Maurice Denbow who was selected for the Lakeland Municipal Planning Commission/Design Review Commission.
The meeting began with the election of officers for 2018. The results were as follows: Steve Laster – chairman, Angie Grooms – vice chairman and Ron Purifoy – secretary.
Jim Atkinson, city manager, introduced Cory Brady who replaced Tom Skehan as planning director for the City of Lakeland. Mr. Brady also replaces Mr. Skehan as president of the Industrial Development Board (IDB). Mr. Brady explained that he has many years of experience in community planning and development within the private sector, including projects in Lakeland. In his new role, he hopes to leverage those years of experience to make the Lakeland planning processes even more efficient, more effective and more inviting.
Updates were provided regarding commercial and residential development in Lakeland and other nearby cities. Highlights included three new home sales in December, 2017 with an average price of $554,266 and an upward trend in existing home sales from an average price of $274,940 in 2016 to a current average price of $332.131 (based on current MAAR — Memphis Association of Realtors — reports).
Dexter Muller (development consultant for the City), Yehuda Netanel and Maggie Gallagher (both with the Gilad Development Corp.) followed with a quick update on The Lake District (TLD). Demolition is ahead of schedule and 90% complete. Mr. Netanel explained that if all goes well, he expects to start clearing the property in late March or early April. He has applied for a land disturbance permit from the State to start the work. He also expects to close on the adjacent Belz property before July.
Ms. Gallagher spoke of increasing interest in the residential elements of the development and stated that many of the inquiries had come from parties outside of the City.
Given the current trend in increasing residential growth and decreasing retail growth, minor changes have been made in the master plan to accommodate those realities. Mr. Muller presented a financial update on the changes and how they would impact tax projections for the project. The recent shifts will likely result in a 4.5% decrease in total taxes to the City of Lakeland (from $3.778M to 3.610M) and a 4.6% increase in total taxes to Shelby County (from $6.116M to 6.397M). He explained that these numbers do not include hotel/motel taxes, which would contribute an additional $400-580K per year to the City of Lakeland.
Next, the Committee discussed upcoming priorities for 2018. Review of the current Strategic Marketing Plan and establishment of action items and timelines were considered as priorities and will be addressed in the next meeting. Lakeland has funds left over from a previous grant and will be applying for future grants to promote the City. The Strategic Plan for business development will also be a focus of upcoming meetings with action items and timelines being established. With strong residential growth in Lakeland, there is an opportunity and need for proactively securing commercial development.
Mr. Johnson announced a decision to move the Tour de Lakeland (T de L) bike event and festival from the busy month of May into the fall in efforts to increase attendance and support. This change in timing will coincide with efforts for Lakeland to become a nationally certified Bicycle Friendly Community. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Atkinson are currently working with Tulio Bertorini, president of the Memphis Hightailers, to meet an application deadline of August 9th.