City Manager Bill McDaniel revealed the new vision for the long anticipated Midtown district.
The Midtown redevelopment project has been a migraine-inducing undertaking for the city for years as partnerships dissolved and city leaders repeatedly found themselves back at square one.
Adjacent to Historic Downtown, the 15-acre concrete wasteland now has a chance at a second life thanks to the new dream for the district. City Manager Bill McDaniel said after prior negotiations broke down he stepped in and changed the direction for the long-anticipated project.
“The vision is for there to be 506 residential units,” McDaniel said. “That’s 1,000 people living within walking distance of downtown. Imagine what that impact is going to be. For downtown to thrive you need people to be pouring into it.”
Residential, according to McDaniel, is the key to a successful undertaking. Several of the proposed
buildings will be strictly residential while many others will have ground floor commercial use and residential above.
There are also a few live and work spaces as well as some planned strictly commercial areas, though those are miniscule in comparison to the amount of mixed commercial and residential spaces.
He presented his vision to more than 50 members of the community during a Plant City Main Street Topics on Tap event Tuesday evening. Several of those in attendance own small businesses downtown and questioned the reality of seeing this developed.
McDaniel is confident the project will soon be underway as he explained one key difference between the current vision and all prior attempts.
“The plan now is that one developer won’t have to come in and agree to do the entire district,” McDaniel said. “Someone can say, ‘Hey, I want to do this block,’ or ‘I’m interested in doing this section, but not that one,” and that’s OK. We’re flexible and that will help get this thing going.”
Midtown has the potential of revitalizing the entire area. The demand for more residential in Plant City is continuing to rise and the push for more unique commercial outlets will further strengthen the city’s desire to have a flourishing walking downtown.
For more than 10 years Plant City has attempted to redevelop the land, but early issues like the dwindling economy and environmental concerns placed daunting hurdles in the city’s path. Those obstacles eventually were cleared, but the light that appeared at the end of the tunnel was quickly extinguished as partnerships began to unravel.
Now it seems the flickering flame may be here to stay. McDaniel said he is currently having “multiple conversations with developers” who are interested in the project. The residential developers inquiring are both for apartments and condos, according to McDaniel. The city will soon be seeking bids.
McDaniel said that under the right circumstances and agreements, the city would consider giving the developers the land or helping them in whatever they needed to get Midtown thriving.
There are also 11 planned parking lots for the district, all of which lie behind the buildings to help keep the pristine storefronts facing the roads. Parking has always been an issue downtown and the addition of up to 1,000 more residents will only be possible if the city plans to tackle that influx of cars. South Collins Street is also going to transition into a boulevard, which essentially will widen the street, install larger sidewalks, add trees and new light fixtures to the border. This should also help with any increase in traffic to the area.
It may be years in the making, but if successful the new vision for Midtown will inevitably reshape the identity of Plant City.
“This is perfect, this is a home run,” McDaniel said. “It’s flexible, but it gives us a guiding light. We’re going to be seeking bids and this gives us a starting point to work off of.”