Lakeland Real Estate

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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With a centennial already under its belt, Lakeland--which lies 35 miles east of Tampa off Interstate 4 into Polk County--is one of Florida's older cities. Founded in 1883 by a Kentucky businessman with an eye to railroad centers, Lakeland was named (reasonably enough) for the many lakes in the area and the railroad was critical to its growth. In the city's early years, strawberries were its economic mainstay, but today the citrus industry, tourism, and phosphate mining are dominant.

Lakeland's Second Century

A distribution center and corporate headquarters for a number of companies, the city is also home to Lakeland Center. This facility hosts a variety of sporting events, business conventions, trade shows, concerts, and a host of other events. Lakeland's Polk Museum of Art is home to collections of American, Asian, and European Art. Two well-established colleges--Southeastern (1935) and Florida Southern (1885)--are also within city limits. Florida Southern is noteworthy in particular for its campus being the largest single concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

Interestingly, during the 1980s, when so much of the country was enjoying a strong economy and growth was prevalent, Lakeland fell on hard times. Atypical weather took a toll on the citrus crop, phosphate declined, and Piper Aircraft shut down. Unemployment in Lakeland hit a terrifying high of 19 percent. Fortunately, the city mustered its reserves and during the 1990s was able to reverse its fortunes.

Today, funding has poured more than $255 million into Lakeland's downtown in recent years, which has included the new and beautiful Hollis Garden as part of the city's public park system. Lakeland is now home is a young (median age 39) population that is well educated, culturally diverse, and moderately affluent. As a place to raise a family and enjoy all that the Gulf coast and Polk County have to offer, Lakeland is a wonderful choice!

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