Lakeland Palmetto Street historic building to renovate, new tenants

LAKELAND – When Scott Kontny invested in 719 E. Palmetto Street, he spoke with a retired Lakeland police officer who was walking by the old building and told him that years earlier a car had walked through a wall of the structure while on duty.

Sure enough, as Kontny peeled through years of previous renovations into the commercial interior, there was a telling piece of brick and mortar that had been patched up with concrete, providing further proof of the truth of the story.

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Emily Foster of the Lakeland Historic Preservation Department loves stories like this.

“It’s interesting to look through the buildings and see the scars,” she said of the history of the buildings. Commenting on the renovations to the buildings of Kontny’s and his team, Foster said: “We want to see these buildings restored and contribute to the character of the community. ”

The building, which was constructed in 1925, was known for years as the headquarters of the Lakeland Rubber Stamp Co. It was operated from 1968 to 2015 by James C. Bronson and Douglas Bronson, according to state records.

Kontny also found recordings showing a dance studio and an addition to the building’s two original units for a barber shop, which was added in the 1950s and bore the damaged wall. His research also revealed that the place was once home to a neighborhood grocery store.

Historic 1924 building at 719 Palmetto St for a makeover and new tenants in Lakeland Fl. Tuesday November 30, 2021. ERNST PETERS / THE LEGER

The addition gave the left side of the building an asymmetrical appearance along its original brick parapet facade. The property is nestled in an area dominated by Mediterranean Revival architecture and bungalows, Foster explained.

Since the purchase in August 2020, Kontny, 47, and his partner Ryan Smith, who works for the roofing company, KL Smith Inc., have secured a permanent tenant: a yoga studio, but it is not. planned pizzeria.

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Although Google Maps still shows it hanging, the Marcos Pizza “coming soon” banner is no longer draped behind store windows as interior renovations progress. A building of the restaurant chain was eventually scrapped by previous owners, Kontny said.

The current project, listed as 3CP, LLC in county records, will be a shell for retail buildings, allowing the property to connect to existing water and sewer services – unlike restaurants, which require more expensive connections.

Foster noted that 3CP’s building permit application authorized approvals at the staff level. It did not contain a plan for a commercial kitchen, which would have been the subject of further scrutiny by city building inspectors.

On city records, the new owners’ permit includes plans for the gooseneck-style exterior lights and snow-white and black paint colors for the exterior walls and trim, respectively. The new windows will feature transoms.

Kontny met Smith in 2006 during previous real estate transactions. Kontny and his wife are both in the real estate business, he said, explaining how the project came to fruition.

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Kontny wanted to move his securities firm, Trustloan Mortgage Inc., to a space that he owned. He started his business in the early 2000s and currently rents space downtown. As he searched the urban core to buy, that search never came to fruition and now he thinks it was a blessing due to the parking situation.

“It all started with the title company, but I think there is a lot more interest in other things that would help the community than just another office,” Kontny said.

He also spoke with an ice cream company as a potential tenant and a few other interested business owners who would meet the desire of neighborhood residents to have retail locations within walking distance.

The 5,000 square foot building is located in the East Palmetto Street shopping area of ​​the historic South Lake Morton district and is across the street from the Lakeland Public Library and Polk Art Museum.

In 1987, the district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A neighborhood association within the district updated its strategic plan in April 2019 with a survey of residents, which showed they wanted improvements to the pedestrian experience. These include filling voids where sidewalks are lacking or widening existing concrete walkways, moving electrical wires and overhead poles into alleys, and planting trees.

The historic brick-built retail space at 719 E. Palmetto Street included 18 parking spaces in two contiguous L-shaped lots, surrounding the Mister Fish business on the corner, which Kontny said was once a gas station. .

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He was grateful for the city’s contribution, including 3CP’s interactions with the Historic Preservation Department. Another restoration of the property by 3CP involved removing the 1970s mansard-style shingled canopy and displaying the rectangular-encrusted commercial sign from the facade.

Electrical wiring was also replaced and a new, low-pitched flat roof was installed behind the brick parapets.

This week, the building received its cool glass storefront as efforts to tighten up the rain interior are nearing completion, following the Covid-19 delay in installing the new windows.

“It will go a lot faster now that we have the glass,” Kontny said, adding that he expects new tenants to move in by May.

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