Lakeland unveils plan to solve downtown parking problems

- Finding a parking spot in downtown Lakeland can be challenging at certain times of day, but the city said it has a plan to ease the pains of parking. 

"Lots of times, we make rings around the square to find a parking spot," said Deanna Riley, who is from Auburndale.

The city is going to need a lot more parking soon. Three new restaurants - Posto 9A Brazilian eatery, Mojo's  BBQ, and Café Rotian Indian restaurant - and cigar bar Lakeland Loft will be opening. 

The city said improvements are coming. Lakeland said it plans to hire a valet company to operate in its downtown. The city joins Tampa and St. Petersburg, which already have the service.

Valets will be available Thursday through Sunday nights during the beginning of the plan's rollout.

"We're so excited to have this burst , this new energy and entertainment in downtown," said Julie Townsend, Executive Director of Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, the organization heading up the valet project.

Kiosks with valets will be placed around downtown. Many restaurants plan to validate their customer's tickets so their parking will be free. Valets will park customer's vehicles in city-owned lots blocks away from the heart of downtown. That way, they won't be taking up parking spots for people who want to park their own cars.

The service is expected to begin this fall.

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