By Tom Paulson
City Editor 

Lake Wales Investors Purchase Friedlander Building With Plans for Apartments, Restaurant

Prime Downtown Corner Location Expected to Contribute to Redevelopment Efforts


Last updated 1/29/2022 at 2:34pm

Robert Connors

The Friedlander Building at the corner of Park Avenue and First Street will be renovated by new owners Tammy and Stephen James to include residential space upstairs, and retail or restaurant space downstairs.

The historic Friedlander Department Store building has been purchased by Lake Wales investor Tammy James and her husband Stephen James. The building at 101 East Park stands at the corner of Park Avenue and First Street. It was the location of True Value Hardware until 2019, but has been vacant since that time.

"We're excited about the changes happening downtown," Tammy James said. "With (new restaurants) Wales Point, Melanie's, and now an ice cream parlor, and The Ranch, it's coming to life. We want to be supportive of that effort. This could be a 'foodie' corner."

"We believe in downtown," added her husband James. "We believe that in cooperation with the city and other investors we can make Lake Wales a vibrant place."

The couple have purchased the building with the intent of "creating more living space downtown," according to Stephen. The two-and-a-half story building once had several units upstairs, but that portion of the building has been vacant for many years.

The building was constructed during the 1930's as a department store as the Great Depression was ending. "It's one of the only Art Deco buildings downtown. We aren't sure what the original colors were, and there are no color photographs from that era," Stephen said. "We're investors, but we're not rich, so we'll be putting some "sweat equity" into this project. It's a major step for us. We'd like to make that corner pop," he said..

"We think the building and downtown have lots of potential," Stephen James said, indicating that they intend to "re-purpose" the building interior while they bring the exterior back to its original beauty. They have retained local architect Scott Crews of Parlier + Crews Architects to lead the rehabilitation.

"We plan to hire local people to the greatest extent possible," Stephen said.

Robert Connors

The ground floor of the Friedlander Building once featured a mezzanine, which will be unmasked as part of the renovation of the building.

The structure stands at the corner of two streets that will be completely redesigned as part of the $18-million Lake Wales Connected plan, which is being funded by the Community Redevelopment Agency using tax increment financing. The design provides for wide sidewalks that could accommodate outdoor dining, and a lushly-landscaped and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.

The CRA has been a success story for Lake Wales, and is poised to make major investments in downtown infrastructure. That investment is expected to continue the trend of rising downtown property values. The need for more downtown residential space was cited in the Connected plan, created by Dover Kohl and Partners, as one of the keys to reinvigorating the downtown area.


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