LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Residents of an east Lakeland neighborhood riddled with crime hope developers can breath new life into the area.
“All the drugs, all the prostitution that goes around here. We’ve all had it with it. We’re done. It’s about time somebody did something,” said Angela Mitchell, who has lived on Colorado Avenue for 13 years.
Mitchell does not know what the demolition means for her mobile home. She said her landlord is working with developers.
“I’m glad they’re tearing it down because there’s been drugs up in there,” said neighbor Cynthia Speakman.
Trouble was brewing in the neighborhood known as “The States” back when Sheriff Grady Judd was just a deputy.
“I’ve worked shootings, stabbings, murders, drug cases,” Judd said.
On Friday, Sheriff Judd sat behind the wheel of an excavator, demolishing a log cabin known to have once housed squatters.
“You know that’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Sheriff Judd hopes to help bring the neighborhood a fresh start.
“These are good people and poor people and we want to help them have a better quality of life,” he said.
The project is being undertaken by Jim Myers, and his son, Chad, who own Arizona Holdings LLC and Elite Site Solutions.
“We call this place the war zone because it’s been the biggest problem child we’ve ever had,” said Chad Myers.
They bought lots throughout the neighborhood three years ago.
Over time, they determined it was better to demolish the structures than to renovate.
“We had a huge squatter problem,” said Myers.
With the help of Sheriff Judd, Myers began tearing down dilapidated homes on Colorado Avenue on Friday.
They will knock down 39 total.
In their place, the developers will bring in dozens of manufactured and mobile homes.
Families have the option to rent and eventually buy the homes.
“Whenever you give the incentive for someone to own something, they take a lot more care of it and cherish what they have,” said Myers.
The Myers have done this in other areas of Polk and Hillsborough counties.
“We bring in a completely different demographic of working-class citizens. Once they move in, we see the neighborhood clean up very rapidly,” said Myers.
Myers hopes to have families moving into the homes in 10 months.