By Jim Atkinson, city manager
My Perspective on the Interchange Area
In my 12 years working for the City of Lakeland, there seems to be two major diverse themes that stand out when talking to residents and non-residents alike: (1) How wonderful our neighborhoods are – well designed and beautifully maintained; and (2) How unpleasant the overall condition of the I-40/Canada Road interchange area is – the interchange area is the City’s front door, and the door is broken.
The good news – we are entering the exciting early stages of a complete transformation of the interchange area, one that will produce results that match the high quality standards of Lakeland neighborhoods and the source of so much pride.
There are construction projects in process, others that will be starting soon and new tools at the City’s disposal to attract future projects. Many of the interchange area projects are described below, divided into infrastructure projects, land use projects and planning tools.
- The end of interchange construction is in sight! Interchange construction is projected to be complete in May 2017. This is a $30 million TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) project that is somewhat unique in this region with its single-point design and will be the centerpiece of a transformed interchange area.
- The Beverle Rivera Road extension is an extremely important road project that will relieve congestion and vastly improve safety for motorists traveling between Canada Road and the east side of Garner Lake. Instead of using Huff N Puff Road, Beverle Rivera will be the main thoroughfare from Canada Road with a traffic light and connect with Huff N Puff east of the ATV parts store.
- The New Canada Road project will construct a north-south arterial road from I-40 north to U.S. Highway 70. It follows a new alignment west of existing Canada Road and will move traffic more efficiently through Lakeland. Existing Canada Road would become a local street serving the existing neighborhoods near Garner Lake. Right-of-way acquisition is almost complete. The next project phase will be utility relocation, followed by construction projected to begin in 2020.
Land Use Projects
- The Lake District mixed used project has been the biggest local news story over the past year. This is a $400 million project that will include various types of retail, hotels, restaurants, a performing arts center, a town square shopping and entertainment experience and various residential products, including an assisted living facility. Demolition of the existing outlet mall buildings is expected in the summer of 2017, with construction to begin in the fall of 2017. The Lake District is expected to open in 2019.
- A major mixed-use development is imminent on the 100-acre property located on the northwest corner of Canada Road and Davies Plantation Road. Plans are expected to be submitted for City review in the coming months.
- A smaller project, but interestingly significant, is the relocation of the McDonald’s restaurant from its existing location in the convenience store on the southwest corner of Canada Road and Davies Plantation Road moving to a new location on U.S. Highway 64. The highlight of this move is the removal of the 90-foot tall pole sign that can be seen from many parts of the City and beyond. The sign will be removed in September of 2017. In the meantime, Marathon will be rebranding the site and making many site improvements.
- Currently, it is easy to communicate what we don’t like about the area, but there is not an agreed-upon vision for the future. That will change with the anticipated adoption of a small area plan focused on the interchange area. The small-area plan is nearing completion and will cement a vision for the interchange area. This is an extremely important plan that will be used to attract development and redevelopment projects surrounding the interchange.
- Over the past two years, the City established our own industrial development corporation with the ability to grant certain development-attracting incentives. A TIF district (Tax Increment Financing) was established for The Lake District and was a major factor in moving the project to reality. The same tools can be used for other areas as well to incentivize good development projects, including redevelopment of deteriorating commercial properties in the interchange area.