Winter Haven wants input on Chain of Lakes Complex - WFLA News Channel 8

Winter Haven wants input on Chain of Lakes Complex

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The city of Winter Haven wants to hear from residents about their hopes for the future of the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes Complex.

The prime real estate at the corner of U.S. Highway 17 and Cypress Gardens Boulevard has been at the center of a brewing legal fight for months, but the city says it's ready to at least conceptualize the future.

"We have the opportunity to create a destination for Winter Haven," city manager Deric Feacher told a crowd of residents today at the first of two public meetings on the Chain of Lakes Complex. "We want your comments," he said.

The Chain of Lakes Complex is currently home to a major baseball facility, a community theater building, and a popular city pool.
A handful of new businesses is the most obvious clue of where the property was headed under the direction of developer Taylor Pursell, who hoped to build a complex called The Landings.  Under a contract the city terminated in December, Pursell had planned to construct a $150 million shopping, dining and entertainment destination.  

With that plan essentially in ruins, Pursell has now filed a lawsuit against the city, but that's not stopping Winter Haven officials from eyeing the future.

"We still own the property and as the administrator of Winter Haven and our commission we want to make sure that regardless of what takes place in the legal process that we have a long term planning, strategic plan beyond that," Feacher said.

Among the people at today's meeting was lifelong Winter Haven resident Chrissy Bennett who says any talk of re-locating the recreational facilities away from the Chain of Lakes Complex is a bad idea. She believes the property needs a blend of offerings.

"When you go out for recreation you want to shop. It all fits in together. It's all one purpose," Bennett said.

Winter Haven native Robbie Loftus agrees.
"Shops won't do it alone, and recreation won't do it alone," he said. "I think that the combination of the two will work well and market well together with Legoland. That will keep people here in town for more than just the day and leaving."

Winter Haven city leaders plan to hold a second public meeting on the Chain of Lakes Complex Thursday evening at 6:30pm at the Winter Haven Library's Community Room.
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