Lake Wales Community Comes Together To Give Feedback On Improving Their Town
by James Coulter
Providing affordable housing, small business opportunities, accessible pedestrian traffic, and better connectivity between the downtown and northwest redevelopment areas were some of the ideas provided by Lake Wales residents to help improve their city during a community workshop on Monday evening.
Lake Wales residents, business owners, and city officials were able to voice their ideas for making their hometown a better place to live during “Lake Wales Connected”, a community workshop hosted by Lake Wales Main Street, at the James P. Austin Community Center on Monday.
Prior to the event, attendees could look over maps of their town and write answers to questions posted on whiteboards set up throughout the center as to provide community feedback towards the development of a town design strategy.
Attendees were then assigned to tables and asked to coordinate with one another to look over maps and figure out suggestions and ideas on how their city could be improved through economic development, urban planning, and beautification.
At the end of the event, each of the tables had their members share their ideas with the rest of the attendees within the workshop.
Many of the common ideas shared during this workshop included:
- Creating shared use buildings that provide commercial space downstairs and residential living spaces upstairs.
- Creating shared spaces such as community gardens, green spaces, bandshells, and amphitheaters to promote community gatherings.
- Improving pedestrian traffic by adding crosswalks and sidewalks and slowing down car traffic with roundabouts and one-lane streets.
- Promoting a more active nightlife with outdoor seating, lighting, and more resturants, eateries, and cafes in the downtown area.
- Beautifying the city with more scenic streetscapes, lighting, and foliage.
- Improve the connectivity between the downtown and northwest redevelopment areas and between downtown and the lake.
More than 100 attendees appeared at the event to lend their thoughts, suggestions, and ideas on making their local community a better place for them and their neighbors to live, work, and play.
Victor Dover, principal-in-charge for Dover, Kohl & Partners, a town planning and redeveloping agency which is collaborating with Lake Wales Main Street to create the town design strategy, was most impressed by the turnout from city residents and their desire to share their input with them.
“This was a phenomenal turnout,” Dover said. “For a town this size, to turn out this many people on a weeknight is very impressive and shows that people care a lot.”
Dover and his team will take the feedback from the workshop that evening and utilize it to refine their plan for the town, which will be showcased all week at a design studio at 13 Park Avenue.
“We are overwhelmed of the things that we have heard,” he said. “It is quite a lot to process. So we will get a good night’s sleep and tomorrow morning we will start making one map of the many maps. We won’t get it right on one try, but we will take a crack at it.”
Local residents are invited to drop by the studio any day during the week between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to view the proposed plan and provide their own input. The culmination of ideas and suggestions within the final plan will be showcased during a work-in-progress presentation to be hosted at the Women’s Club on Fri., Apr. 5 at 6 p.m.
City Commissioner Curtis Gibson was one of several city officials attending the event that evening, along with Mayor Eugene Fultz and City Commissioner Tonya Stewart. He appreciated being able to see the community come together as one to lend their voice in establishing a unified vision for the city.
“Tonight was a success,” he said. “The people showed up, they gave their input, they voiced their ideas and their concerns, and we heard it. We appreciated going table to table seeing everyone working together and sharing their ideas with one another.”
For more information, visit their website at: http://lwmainstreet.com/