LAKELAND, Fla. — A large dragon sculpture that suddenly appeared a week ago in a vacant lot in Lakeland’s Dixieland neighborhood is grabbing attention.

  • 12-foot-tall dragon sculpture suddenly appeared, neighbors say
  • They thought some apartments were going in at Dixieland vacant lot
  • Gregory Fancelli funded project, wants art to draw more people to area

“I imagine we’re about the only one around that has one, so it’s pretty special,” said Paul Goble, who lives nearby. 

The metal sculpture is located behind Hungry Howie’s Pizza on South Florida Avenue.

“It’s really cool," Jonathan Santiago said. "It’s awesome, because it looks so realistic the way it looks like it’s going into the ground."

People living nearby say it just popped up a week ago and caught them by surprise. They thought apartments were being built on the vacant lot.

Gregory Fancelli said he invested thousands on the project. He is one of the grandsons of the founder of Publix. He wanted a dragon, because that’s his nickname. His business partner, Brooke Agnini, helped to oversee the project.

“So far, we’ve had a positive reaction from all fronts," Fancelli said. "It encourages us to continue to find new creative items to work with to make things more interesting beyond business."

Fancelli hopes people use the hashtag #Dixielanddragon when they snap pictures of it and post them on social media.

Keith Williams built the sculpture. The welder said the 12-foot-tall dragon is a compilation of items from a local antique shop, Dixieland Relics, and recycled scrap metals.

"The head is all recycled materials. It's just a bunch of tools, railroad spikes, sheet metal, and stuff from cars. A lot of it is Volkswagen Beetles and Camaro parts from 1969 and 1970. I thought it was a cool piece of history to incorporate," Williams said.

The artist said the artwork isn't completed yet — he and Fancelli want to add security cameras and lighting so people can see it in the dark.

Fancelli owns several buildings in the area and also paid for an angel wall nearby. He hopes all of the art increases foot traffic in the area.

"It’s definitely a magnet that will draw more people to the area, and that’s something we’re trying to encourage," he said.