Lakeland Travel Guide

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Recognized nationally by Money Magazine as the 10th "Best Place to Live in America" for 1998, for medium-sized cities in the south, Lakeland offers its residents an exceptional quality of life. Among the factors for which Lakeland received high marks include its affordable housing, outstanding educational opportunities, modern healthcare facilities and abundant recreational activities.

Living and working in Lakeland also offers a number of possibilities. Among the many options are exceptional schools, modern and affordable housing, entertaining recreation and enriching cultural activities. The city's environment is appealing because of its ideal climate, low crime rate and strong economy.

Downtown

In the last decade, Lakeland's downtown has seen a resurgence from what was once a sleepy city center to an energized core for the Lakeland area. Government, financial institutions, businesses, retail, entertainment, associations and non-profits exist together within the confines of the downtown community. New and renovated Class "A" office buildings such as SunTrust Bank at Lakeland Plaza, Colonial Square, Heritage Plaza and Century Plaza offer attractive locations for businesses in the downtown area.
Smaller buildings have also been built or renovated and are available for lease. Many opportunities exist in the downtown area for those that want to be part of the downtown community. The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, a public agency, in cooperation with the City of Lakeland, has been implementing a redevelopment strategy based upon attracting the private sector to invest in the historic downtown. Public infrastructure and civic amenities, development incentives, land assembly and other techniques are being used to create an environment that is friendly to both the investor and the user. With the public/private revitalization effort, the downtown will continue to be desirable. The addition of residential in downtown is happening with the Lake Mirror Tower project. The complex overlooking Lake Mirror will have 76 apartments when completed. Developers undertaking redevelopment projects within the downtown area are exempt from City and County development impact fees. They may also be eligible for tax increment financing, historic tax credits and other incentives. The City’s commitment to growth and progress while maintaining a sense of history and hometown feel is further exemplified by a number of recent redevelopment efforts including those undertaken at the Lake Mirror Park with the Barnett Family Park and the Peggy Brown Center, the renovation and expansion of the Magnolia Building, renovation of the Main Street and Iowa garages and streetscape.

Lakeland's restored downtown area consists of a quaint Antiques District and Munn Park, which are the cornerstones of the historic district. Surrounding the town square are a host of vibrant businesses-shops and galleries, restaurants and cafes and professional centers. Part of this lively community is its rich religious heritage represented by 175 churches of varying faiths and denominations. An effort is underway to give rebirth to Lake Mirror Park in the heart of downtown, by adding an amphitheater, pedestrian walkways and additional parking along the south shore of the lake. The 1928 aesthetic promenade was fashioned after the classical Roman style of old and in 1987 it was restored. It is named on the National Register of Historical Places.

The county's second largest city of 25,000 people lies just east of Lakeland. Winter Haven is often referred to as "The City of 100 Lakes." Nearby Haines City, known for both its red clay earth and the world-famous Grenelefe Golf and Tennis Resort, has a population of 14,000 people and is located to the northeast of Lakeland. Traveling southeast from Lakeland puts travelers in the county seat of Bartow, consisting of 18,000 citizens. Bartow offers a wide variety of services and agricultural industries. Lake Wales is to the southeast as well, with a population of 12,000. Founded in 1911, it is the site of the serene Historic Bok Sanctuary and mysterious Spook Hill.

South Side

In recent months, construction has finished on a brand new shopping area on the South side of town. It features an enormous Cobb Theatre, along with many outdoor stores including a Kohls, Bealls, and many other Florida centered shopping stores. At night, the life picks up with the dining, movies, and coffee. Choices include an authentic Italian Style Pizzeria for dinner, and Picasso's Cup for dessert. Picasso's Cup is an interesting place, you have the ability to get an excellent french pressed coffee and paint some pottery at the same time. To wrap up, there are still some empty windows floating around the center, but soon enough it'll be jam packed with the latest and most desirable things.

Contributors

May 16, 2006 change by giorgio

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