According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018 the Lakeland-Winter Haven metropolitan area’s population increased by 3.2%, making it Florida’s fastest growing metropolitan area by annual percentage growth. That growth is also beginning to have a positive impact on the continued development of the city’s central business district.

Construction will soon start on a unique public/private funded project that will replace an existing privately owned surface parking lot with an 824 space parking garage with office and retail space. What makes the Heritage Parking Garage a unique project is that four entities are working together to fund its construction. Each entity will retain ownership of the parking spaces, paying a pro-rated share of the construction and development costs, depending on the number of spaces they own. The City of Lakeland is purchasing 399 spaces, Lakeland Regional Health Systems is purchasing 125 spaces, MidFlorida Credit Union is purchasing 175 spaces and Heritage Plaza owner BKP Five LLC is purchasing 125 spaces. The cost for the garage is approximately $11 million, or $15,736.77 per space. The City of Lakeland’s responsibility is $6.3 million.

In addition, BKP Five intends to construct a three-story, 40,000 square foot office/retail building as a part of the project. Farm Credit of Central Florida recently announced plans for its headquarters to occupy half of the project’s office space.

“We are so excited for this new office space,” Reggie Holt, President and CEO of Farm Credit said. “We know this will elevate our current employee experience and relationship with the community. We look forward to the positive change it will bring the organization and how we work.”

This project is one of several downtown improvements included as a part of the Lakeland Economic Development Council’s vision for downtown. Anticipated to be completed by the end of 2019, it is also one of several mixed-use infill and adaptive reuse developments underway or proposed in and around Downtown Lakeland.

Catapult 3.0 (Lakeland Economic Development Council)

Others include a 38,000 square foot maker space workshop and temporary retail space for makers to test their concepts called Catapult 3.0, the conversion of a former craft brewery into a 12,000 square foot food hall called the Joinery and a 305-unit multifamily residential apartment community adjacent to the downtown passenger rail station. However, the most ambitious project may be Bonnet Springs Park. Expected to open as early as 2020, massive privately funded project involves to transformation of an abandoned downtown railyard into a 160-acre urban green oasis.

Bonnet Springs Park (Modern Cities)

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at