The fast-growing town of Westlake continued to lead the way in expanding its employment base with the approval on Tuesday, Jan. 18, of 227,000 square feet of “light industrial” space near Seminole Pratt Whitney Road as part of the Westlake Landings project.
The request was approved 5-0, with councilor Pilar Valle Ron voting for the first time as a council member. She was nominated by the council in December to fill seat 1, left vacant by the resignation on November 1 of former councilor Patric Paul. She was sworn in at the start of the January 18 meeting.
The 17.4-acre site had been allocated for a combination of office (35,000 square feet) and light industrial space (150,000 square feet). However, with Ed Mitchell Realty of Fort Lauderdale moving forward with a plan to use all of the allocated space for mixed occupancy light industrial activities, owner Minto asked the council for a change to the master plan of the Pod G of the 50 acre Westlake Landings Commercial Plaza.
The project could house anything from light manufacturing to tile, granite or window makers to distributors of all kinds, said Donaldson Hearing of Cotleur & Hearing, who was on hand to represent Minto.
Comprised of two buildings – one approximately 150,000 square feet and the other approximately 75,000 square feet – each would be single storey with 32 feet of interior clearance. The space can be configured for businesses that need as little as 8,000 square feet, with a single tenant occupying both buildings.
Landing a tenant to take the 227,000 square feet is like “whaling or elephant hunting,” Mitchell told the council, and not entirely desirable, due to the difficulty of replacing such a tenant. if the company were to leave.
Highlighting his 35 years of experience in similar projects, Mitchell told the council that there will most likely be several tenants involved in the homebuilding industry.
“We might also possibly see an Amazon,” he said. “We just don’t know what we’re going to see until we start building the projects.”
However, due to Westlake’s location, Mitchell said the project will provide a great opportunity to bring more well-paying jobs to the community.
“Every city should have a light industrial component,” Hearing said. “We’re really excited… Light manufacturing will increase the amount of non-residential [space] that exists in this area, providing work opportunities, jobs, industry and really diversifying the overall landscape.
The council accepted the concept.
“It’s a nice change to bring light industry here,” Councilwoman Katrina Long-Robinson said.
In other cases:
• Vice Mayor John Paul O’Connor called Westlake resident Megan Hemp to the podium and showed a video to honor her for the local organization she did to create a golf cart Christmas parade and other vehicles that spread through several neighborhoods.
“It’s this secret sauce we always talk about, it’s Westlake,” said O’Connor, who will become mayor in March.
O’Connor said Hemp’s efforts were “absolutely amazing” but the community needed a more formal way to plan events. He suggested that an events committee be created, and the other board members agreed, asking the staff to create an ordinance. A city-sponsored fireworks display is already scheduled for July 4.
• Council members also expressed their desire to move forward as quickly as possible with the selection of the five members of the new Art in Public Places Committee. City manager Kenneth Cassel said he would announce the openings and make a list of possible committee members available to council at its March meeting. A formal arts education is not required for appointment to the board. “Let’s get on with it,” O’Connor said.