A Wonderful Place to Live, Work and Play

A Wonderful Place to Live, Work and Play

BY TAMMY SEREBRIN

Driving east on Hwy. 92 from Lakeland toward Auburndale, one can almost miss the small sign with the arrow pointing left that says Downtown. The sign refers to downtown Auburndale, Florida, which (according to its website at www.auburndalefl.com) is “a firmly established, steadily growing community with a population of 13,792.” A sign just outside of Auburndale lets you know that it is located 10 miles from Lakeland, 40 miles from Tampa and 53 miles from Orlando.

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Coming down Main Street toward the center of town, it is obvious that the people of Auburndale care about their city. The pristine street boasts well-kept store fronts ranging from professional offices belonging to several lawyers, an accountant and a podiatrist; along with churches, and retail establishments such as restaurants, hair salons, spas, a gym, and a bakery. At quick glance, there are few empty spaces. Two blocks down in the center of town is a plaza with a clock tower flanked by a colorful playground where many children were playing on the ample equipment during this spring break day. There’s a skateboard park and racquetball court; and just down the street is City Hall and other city facilities that service the citizens of Auburndale, along with The Auburndale Community Center which hosts sports activities, classes and community events.

The many parks in Auburndale have their own distinctive features – Lake Myrtle Sports Complex has ample baseball and soccer fields as wells as a championship soccer stadium. Lake Stella Gazebo and Park are perfect for small intimate weddings. Other parks consist of playgrounds, picnic facilities and trails and the several lakes boast a public beach and lovely homes around them.

Auburndale’s Community Development Director, Amy Palmer, met me in her office in the beautiful, well maintained 100 year old two-story brick City Hall building on Bobby Green Plaza. (The street is named after the current City Manager who is also a Director of the Florida City and County Management Association.) Amy began working for the City of Auburndale eleven years ago as a staff planner right after receiving a Master of Science Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from FSU. She then became the Community Development Director for the City for four years and then moved over to the Polk County Central Florida Development Council as Senior Business Development Manager where she gained economic development experience. Back with the City of Auburndale for a year, again as Community Development Director, her job has the added responsibility of implementing an economic development strategy in addition to overseeing planning and buildi ng. Amy lauds the fact that Auburndale has a “friendly business climate and a tremendous industry base.” It is the home of headquarters for major national and international companies including Coca Cola’s juice products ,Colorado Boxed Beef, Commercial Carrier, Buckhead Beef, Cantex Extrusion (a pipe manufacturer), All Temp Storage (a cold and dry storage company), Catrali-Brazilian Citrus Processing (which provides juice for Coca Cola) and Cal Pine (a power generating facility.) The newest enterprise to recently have a ribbon cutting in Auburndale is Five Star Family Growers’ joint venture with Alpine Fresh, Inc. Beginning in March, 2013, Five Star and Alpine Fresh began packing Florida grown blueberries in Five Star’s new state-of-the art packing and cold storage facility located at their farm in Auburndale.

Palmer, Amy headshot

One of the things of which Amy and the city officials are most proud is the city’s relationship between the county and Auburndale as a Polk Commerce Center Community Redevelopment area. The idea for developing the CRA began when the 1985 freeze in Florida damaged the citrus industry. Property owners came together to develop the Polk Commerce Center. It is a good partnership with the county and with city property owners. Property owners have donated right of way to the county so roads and infrastructure can be built to have access to otherwise inaccessible land. The Community Redevelopment Area is a 3000- acre area with close access to I-4 and two interchanges on the Polk Parkway. It has great development potential with the catalyst of two economic engines driving its growth – the planned Florida Polytechnic University, Florida’s first polytechnic university, and the Lake Myrtle Sports Park.

Lake Myrtle Sports Park is home to the Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing Headquarters, the governing body for the Central Florida VCB, and Central Florida Sports Marketing. Lake Myrtle also hosts the Florida Sports Hall of Fame and will be the home of the Florida Youth and State Soccer Associations Headquarters. The 300 acre development will attract sports enthusiasts from throughout the world. Lake Myrtle Sports Park is owned by the City of Auburndale and managed by Auburndale Parks and Recreation department. Events held at Lake Myrtle are coordinated and scheduled with the City of Auburndale and Central Florida Sports Marketing. It boasts five collegiate baseball fields and eleven soccer fields that can host a variety of other sports, such as lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee, rugby, and flag football. Additionally there are two lakes for water sports and an 8-mile TECO trail and dog park. The planned investment is a 70,000 square foot Multi Sports Indoor Arena and major commercial development to include hotels and restaurants.

With its great industry base, the Lake Myrtle Sports Park, and Florida Polytechnic all in Auburndale’s backyard, Amy maintains that “the ground work is laid for prime economic activity” which will continue to keep the City of Auburndale a vital and thriving Central Florida Community.

 

 

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