How does Lakeland’s Garden District grow? If you said with a mix of historic and modern design, you’d be correct. The small Garden District has big potential — it’s becoming a hotspot for new residential and commercial additions among century-old buildings and homes.
First things first: What is the Garden District? It’s a small sub-district designated as a redevelopment area. It wraps around the northwest side of Lake Morton, extending north from East Walnut Street to East Main Street, and bordered by Bartow Road on the east.
While it falls within the bounds of the East Lake Morton historic district — which typically means a slew of design rules — the Garden District’s status as a redevelopment area offers developers more freedom. It was loosely designed after Tampa’s Hyde Park neighborhood, which began taking shape when several multi-family developments cropped up in the past few years.
The Gardens apartment complex opened in 2021 with 90 units, followed by the 22-unit Royal Oak Apartments. Florida Southern College also built student housing in the area.
Residential development isn’t the only new thing in the Garden District. Several businesses have set up shop there in recent years, including Unfiltered Lakeland, Qgiv, and, most recently, Kitty Cat Lounge. Another could be headed there soon, as Inklings Book Shoppe has sought permission from the City to relocate to a historic home on East Lemon Street.
When we previously asked if our readers wanted it to become a Hyde Park lookalike, the results were fairly split between those who loved the idea, didn’t like it all, and just wanted it to stay as is. Break the tie and let us know what you think the district needs, or if you think it’s already perfect. We’ll go first: We’d add a public garden to match the name.