By: Steve Scruggs

We read this article in The Ledger last week with regards to temporarily closing off downtown blocks to allow restaurants and nighttime establishments to offer patrons additional outdoor seating while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.  Instead of a temporary solution, we would like to ask the question, how might we create a permanent solution for these establishments to offer patrons outdoor seating year round? 

Over the past few days the LEDC and The Lunz Group partnered to create these renderings to help Lakelanders visualize what temporary and/or permanent outdoor seating might look like on Kentucky Avenue and Main Street.  This concept could also expand to other areas downtown such as Tennessee Avenue between Mojo Federal and Café Roti and beyond. 

By utilizing the new 824-space parking garage just one block from many of our favorite restaurants and nighttime establishments, we could trade in street parking for much needed outdoor seating for our community to enjoy. Plus, how many of you really got to park in front of Fresco’s or Molly’s on a normal day anyway?  How many of the 100 people eating at Palace Pizza at any given time are parking on Kentucky Avenue?  Three or four? 

COVID-19 has significantly increased restaurants’ pick-up service, if you eliminate those parking spaces, how are we going to provide with pick-up and delivery service?  Well, before COVID-19 you didn’t have delivery spaces so there’s that.  How might we create a long-term pick-up and delivery service for downtown restaurants?  What if we used an alternate entrance that all of these buildings share in common, their alley entrances for pick-up and delivery? 

At the end of the day, it’s hard for people to talk about solutions to these issues when they can’t visualize them.  The LEDC and Lunz Group are not making specific recommendations, but instead giving you renderings that might help you visualize a long-term solution.  A potential solution that could make downtown Lakeland more walkable, make our restaurants safer, and more sustainable. What are your thoughts?