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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Developer set to begin on Lake Forest plan

Belz will construct three lakes during first phase of Lakeland development

By Amos Maki

Belz Enterprises will break ground this fall on the first phase of Lake Forest, a 128-acre mixed-use development in Lakeland, a growing hub of smart growth.

The first phase will include 133 residential lots, but later phases, which could take up to seven years to develop, will include commercial space for retail stores and offices.

Belz said the look and feel of Lake Forest, located on Canada Road south of Interstate 40, is based on a traditional neighborhood concept featuring smaller lots, front porches, extensive landscaping and a system of trails and pathways throughout the development.

"Walkable, smart-growth, mixed-use communities are an evolution of a well-thought-out and comprehensive plan of how cities would like to integrate the various uses to make them more friendly to residents, tenants and consumers alike," Belz vice president Andy Groveman said. "We don't believe it's a fad; we believe it is the smart way to go to ensure a 'win-win' development for everyone concerned."

As part of the first phase, three lakes will be developed. The lakes will separate the residential neighborhood from the village center, which will eventually include retail, restaurants, offices, hotels and loft housing above the shops.

There will be 200,000 square feet of commercial space developed initially in the village center.

Since the idea is to create a walkable neighborhood, retail spaces in the village center will cater to the needs of the future residents, including a grocery store, drug store and other neighborhood retail shops.

Lake Forest also includes 23 acres of natural space, with parks, lakes, streams and a preserved forest area all connected by pathways and trails.

The pathway system will eventually connect to other locations in Lakeland and northeast Memphis.

Lake Forest is in one of the fastest-growing areas of West Tennessee, with 60,000 people living within five miles of the development.

Developers are eager to work in that area -- where the average household income within five miles is $75,000 -- and have been working with Lakeland officials on smart, eco-friendly developments.

Construction on The Grove at Lakeland development, near the Oakwood subdivision off Seed Tick Road, has begun. The 96-acre project, which will eventually feature 124 upscale, French country-designed homes, features a 42-acre conservation easement.

Over the past several years, Lakeland officials have taken inventory of the city's 5,560 acres of connected forest land -- called the Natural Resources Inventory -- and developed a strategy for maintaining forests while accommodating growth.

Lakeland has also instituted a conservation overlay that is part of the city's comprehensive land-use plan.

As subdivisions are planned in the overlay area, they will be designed so that natural or preserved areas are linked, eventually creating a system of interconnected natural areas. The city will also try to link natural spaces in subdivisions on the overlay's periphery.

"We think it creates value for everybody -- the developer, the city and the home owner," said Eric Bridges, natural resources director for Lakeland.

"We have worked hand-in-hand with Lakeland city officials in the planning stage to ensure that each use is compatible with one another and with the goal and vision that the city has developed for its future growth," Groveman said.



The preceding article is Copyright The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN.  

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