By Matt Wright
The possibility of a new grocery store coming to Lakeland was brought up at the Lakeland Board of Commissioners (BOC) on Thursday evening leaving many wondering which grocer it could possibly be.
Ashmont Development, located on 99 acres at the corner of Canada Road and Davies Plantation Road, was on the BOC agenda for discussion. Both the developer, Vince Smith, and his project planner, Cory Brady, were in attendance to discuss items for approval. The development has changed since early inceptions, and a clearer picture is starting to take place according to officials. “It’s been an evolution from the very beginning, and we’ve enjoyed that,” Mr. Brady told the BOC. Commissioner Jim Atkinson said “the uptick in quality and design of the plans has improved over time” citing larger home lot sizes and overall residential density decreasing as positives for the development.
While the residential plans of the project were discussed, Commissioner Connie McCarter asked if there were any updates on the commercial aspect of the project. “Do we have hotels confirmed? Do we have any restaurants? I have heard there is a chain grocery store possibly,” she asked Mr. Brady. “They do have contracts but it’s not people or names they can release right now,” Mr. Brady answered. Asked to provide a little more information, Vince Smith said he does have a contract with a “grocer preferred developer” but that grocer has asked for six more months to continue their research. While cautioning you never know how these plans will work out, Mr. Smith said he was optimistic because the chain grocer has done significant work researching Ashmont and Lakeland. He also told the commissioners the grocer has already invested “real money” in coming to the mixed-use development.
Mr. Smith also explained he’s continuing to work with other commercial businesses including a hotel, medical offices, early childhood centers, fast sit-down restaurants, and a bank among others. “Maybe mid-summer we will have an announcement (about the grocer), but some smaller announcements will be made before then,” he said.
Currently the development is finishing the dirt work phase of the project and Mr. Brady said they hope to complete phase one, two and three of the development concurrently to take advantage of keeping contractors and sub-contractors on site without leaving and coming back to finish.
An agenda item for a multi-family project in the development aimed at senior adults was deferred. Developers said they need more time to research age restricted assisted living and senior housing. More about that can be read here. That item will go back before the municipal planning commission at a future meeting.