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Mayor Gives State Of The City Address

Mayor Reviews City Progress at Chamber Meeting, Announces Town Square

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During his State of the City address today (3.22.17), Mayor Wyatt Bunker announced a Town Square and new City Hall location are among plans for the Lakeland Commons development on the northwest corner of Seed Tick Road and Memphis-Arlington Road.

He said he and Board of Commissioners (BOC) members are in negotiations with developers of that property to move all City offices to that site and create a Town Square.

“The citizens have asked for a town square concept. So we are in negotiations to create that within the project,” he said. “It will be a nice residential and commercial mix. It is exciting to see this come to fruition.” He said the housing will likely be a mix including approved lofts over businesses. “It will be similar to a development in Franklin (TN). Very upscale with nice restaurants and shopping areas.”

The development will encompass land from Seed Tick on the west to U.S. Highway 70 on the north and Memphis–Arlington Road on the south.

Mayor Bunker and Chamber President Wil Ashworth

Jim Atkinson, Lakeland city manager, said developers have financing in place and will likely come to the City for TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funding in May. He expects construction could start in early 2018.

The Mayor was queried about the time frame on The Lake District (TLD), a 160+ acre mixed-use development on the southeast quadrant of I-40 and Canada Road announced in April 2016 to a standing room-only crowd at Stonebridge Golf Club.

“I had a frank conversation with the developer (Yehuda Netanel of Gilad Corp.) yesterday,” said the Mayor. He said the commissioners had separate conversations with Mr. Netanel, all requesting progress on the project. “Our citizens are excited. What are you going to do?” the Mayor asked Mr. Netanel.

The developer indicated he could have the sign down (the damaged Factory Outlet Mall pole sign) by the end of April, said the Mayor. Mr. Netanel also talked about taking down the buildings. But said removal of the buildings is part of his financial approval. Thus he wants a 12-month extension.

Mayor Bunker said Mr. Netanel is talking to big box retailers and hotels but wants the BOC to consider an extension. “We’re going to see progress now or we will move on,” said the Mayor. “We have to be frank and open to our constituents,” he added.

This is to be one of the largest private development investments in Shelby County history and by far the largest in Lakeland’s history. The City approved $39 million in TIF funds for TLD in October and funds later were approved by the Shelby County Commission. The money is to be used for infrastructure, allowing retailers and hotels to commit to the project valued at $375 million.

During his slide presentation to attendees, the Mayor said he is privileged, “to serve as your Mayor. Over three years ago, the voters chose a different direction for Lakeland by voting a slate of pro-growth candidates,” he said. “We are committed to a cause to move Lakeland forward.”

He reported the State of the City is strong and getting stronger.

His slide presentation included fiscal management, infrastructure, recreation, economic development, development and home sales. The entire PowerPoint report is available with this story.

He said the unassigned fund balance shows $8.1 million, up from $3.6 million in 2009. “We have saved millions in three short years (since the 2013 elections),” he said.

Among infrastructure items, he noted the new school under construction (Lakeland Middle Preparatory School) and road work including Beverle River Drive, the I-40 interchange and New Canada Road. The Mayor said the City has 118 miles of roadway and this year the roads repair and maintenance budget is over $1 million. It was under $200,000 in 2007. But the sad news, he noted, is that only represents 5.32 miles of road work. “We will have to dedicate more money in the future.” He said.

He remarked the Parks and Recreation Department has been very successful and profitable in the first year of football. “There was feedback from some in the community that the City was buying football uniforms,” he said. “But this turned out to have a positive fiscal impact for the City,” he added.

A new athletic facility to accommodate adult and children sports leagues is still on the drawing board. “These are exciting times for our recreation department,” he said.

Economic development is a means to keep the City competitive, he stated. And branding was the first step with new gateway signs and logos. He introduced Alan Johnson, who sketched designs for the signs which are now the stone and mortar entrances to the City on Canada Road and Fletcher Trace Parkway.

Alan Johnson discussing Tour de Lakeland

There is an increase in existing home sales but the Mayor noted a drop-off in new home sales because of a lack of inventory. He mentioned new housing developments approved or in the pipeline, like Oakwood Grove and Kensington Manor. “There is a demand for our houses but nothing in our inventory,” he said.

The monthly meeting was sponsored by Lakeland resident Jimmy Wilkins who owns Pop-A-Lock.

Chamber President Wil Ashworth announced the Lakeland Elementary School PTA fundraiser is March 31, Tour de Lakeland is May 13, Business Expo is Aug. 26 and the Chamber golf tournament is Oct. 23.

The next Chamber luncheon is April 26 and will feature Chief Deputy Floyd Bonner of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

… photos by Jim Willis, Lakeland Currents.

Download The Mayor’s Presentation