City commissioners voted 4-2 to approve a change of zoning for 17.2 acres Neighborhood Activity Center to Residential High to allow for multifamily housing development.
A 252-unit apartment complex will be built on a wooded lot on the southwest corner of West Pipkin and Yates roads, opposite Geico’s corporate offices.
“We have lots of single-family homes being developed on this site, our need is going to be to look at multifamily as its also a market need,” Mayor Bill Mutz said. “I’m encouraged by the thoughtfulness of this. The more you look at it, the more there is to like.”
David Smith, director of development & zoning at Stearns Weaver Miller, presented plans for the apartment complex to commissioners on behalf of Mosaic Development on Monday. The company proposes to build luxury “Class A” apartments, according to Smith, a mix of one- and two-bedroom units. The complex would consist of seven, three-story buildings adjacent to Towne Park Estates.
At a maximum cap of 252 units, the multi-family development will have a density of 14.6 units per acre, according to Smith. This is below the maximum of 75 units per acre permitted by the city’s Residential High zoning.
The developer’s plans call for the community’s amenities including an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, heated pool, dog park and passive recreational spaces to centrally located on the interior of the property.
Smith did not give details on the apartments’ pricing, but indicated targeted renters would make about $80,000 to $100,000 a year.
“I’m hesitant not in that the design is poor. It’s wonderful – I think it’s the way we want to develop multifamily housing,” Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley said. “But it seems like it’s going to be a lot.”
McCarley and Commissioner Bill Read voted against rezoning for development of the multifamily apartment complex citing traffic concerns.
“Traffic is our biggest villain,” Read said.
Geico is expected to add hundreds of employees to its recently expanded corporate headquarters, Read said, which could lead to significantly more traffic in the future on Pipkin Road.
“This is a big concern to me,” he said. “I have serious doubts.”
The developer’s representative said the apartment complex is not predicted to create any traffic issues. The proposed residential use is considered less intense than the Neighborhood Activity Center zoning, which would allow for a large shopping center.
Richard Dempsey, a real estate agent for the property owner, said he’s aggressively marketed the location for over two years with no interest in retail or commercial use.
“Publix has four stores within a 5-minute drive of this location. You really don’t have a need for retail,” he said of the site. “If you did, you would have ten times the traffic that this proposal is putting forward.”
Smith said the current work to improve West Pipkin Road is complimentary to the apartment complex.
“There is no level of service issue with the subject location, it only gets better with Pipkin Road widening,” he said.
Construction to widen West Pipkin Road from two to four lines between Medulla Road to Old Highway 37, then extend it from two lanes to three from Old Highway 37 to South Florida Avenue is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2024.
The road project’s completion should roughly coincide with when the developer hopes to start renting units, according to Smith.
Chuck Barmby, Lakeland’s transportation and development review manager, said Polk County is also planning to substantially widen Yates road from West Pipkin Road south to Towne Park Boulevard from the existing two lanes to four lanes.
“It will help not only this projects but others in the pipeline,” he said. “The anticipated development fits in well with the capital investments from the county.”
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In addition to Pipkin Road, the apartment complex will have an entrance on Towne Park Boulevard.
Stephen Gehler, a homeowner on Towne Park Boulevard for 11 years, said he fears the addition of more than 400 vehicles that parking permits at the complex will increase congestion. Gehler said he sees vehicles speed through the 25 mph zone and fly through stop signs on Towne Park Boulevard daily.
“The apartments are nice, don’t get me wrong, but the traffic pattern is dangerous for all of us and it will be getting worse,” he said.
The developer suggested making the entrance onto Towne Park Boulevard a right-in, left-out to slow traffic, according to Smith. The suggestion was rejected by city planners.
Mosaic Development is in ongoing conversations with Polk County to add an entrance to the complex from Yates Road, according to Smith.
Barmby said a key aspect of the future multi-family development will be its access to public transportation. Barmby said the complex will be on Citrus Connection’s Red Line, which has stops along Pipkin Road.
The nearby developer of Riverstone is funding five years of enhancements to the Red Line while Hawthorne’s developer must pay $500,000 to be used for purchase of a bus for the route.
These areas under development will later be annexed into the Lakeland Area Mass Transit District to be taxed and served by public transit.
Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFl.