Activity is picking up along U.S. Highway 27, and I’m not referring to the ever-increasing volume of traffic on that major north-south thoroughfare through Lake Wales. (The traffic matter — the need for some form of major roadway relief for U.S. 27 — was the subject of a previous column and likely will come up again.)
The excitement this month is about a significant uptick in new commercial development along U.S. 27 and an interest on the part of several parties to do more. Here’s what we’re happy to report:
- ATR Advance Technological Radiology, P.A. (formerly AT Radiology), has replaced a limited-services medical imaging center in Lake Wales with a new full-service center, utilizing state-of-the art equipment, near Eagle Ridge Mall. The center opened in September in sizeable leased space that once included a RadioShack store in the Shoppes on the Ridge (Publix) complex on the northeast corner of U.S. 27 and Chalet Suzanne Road. That’s one of the things we at the Lake Wales Economic Development Council like to see — new businesses coming to the area to renovate and occupy some of the existing inventory of vacant commercial property. ATR now has three full-service imaging centers in Polk County; the others are in Winter Haven and Davenport. (On a related good note, the ATR location at Shoppes on the Ridge is among four medical facilities that have opened in Lake Wales recently. The newest is Central Florida Health Care, which just enjoyed a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its multi-services medical center at 305 W. Central Ave.)
- Opposite Shoppes on the Ridge, on a two-acre mall outparcel on the southeast corner of U.S. 27 and Chalet Suzanne Road, plans call for the construction of a new Wawa super convenience store and auto fueling station. The 5,537-square-foot store was approved by the Lake Wales City Commission in July 2012 and now awaits approval by the Florida Department of Transportation. The intersection there is a busy one, and it appears that FDOT officials are being very cautious in their review of the Wawa project.
- Also awaiting FDOT approval are plans for the construction of a large new Love’s Truck Stop along U.S. 27 south of State Road 60, across from Longleaf Business Park. The truck stop has the potential to create about 70 new jobs for Lake Wales. That’s the number of jobs that were filled when Love’s opened a new truck stop in April near the intersection of U.S. 27 and Deen Still Road in Davenport.
- Inside Longleaf Business Park, two buildings that are open for further development and occupancy might soon be the home for two new companies engaged in light manufacturing. The prospects that both will be fully operational in Lake Wales and putting people to work are looking very promising.
- Also promising are the chances for additional hotel construction on U.S. 27 north of S.R. 60. The Lake Wales EDC has responded to inquiries from representatives of at least five hotel or hotel-development companies that seem very interested in building here. They recognize the recent resurgence of local tourism, boosted greatly by the very popular LEGOLAND Florida Resort in nearby Winter Haven, and they see a growing demand for hospitality services in East Polk County. Hotel development almost always has the potential to create a significant number of jobs and bring in a lot of outside money.
- There’s a growing demand for car parts, too. Construction is just about complete at the site of a new AutoZone retail store. The location is near Batteries Plus, off U.S. 27 and across the highway from Publix and Shoppes on the Ridge. The new auto parts store will be the second AutoZone for Lake Wales; the other one is on U.S. 60 West.
All of this good news — and the “futurecast” for much more development all along U.S. 27 — underscores the fact that Lake Wales is a business-welcoming and business-friendly community. It’s a place where many people in government and the private sector work together well to make it easy commercial developers to come in and build. Indeed, whether it’s along U.S. 27, along U.S. 60, or at any other point on the city grid, it’s a good time to build a business in Lake Wales. It’s always a good time to do business in Lake Wales.