- Hometown stories that count from people who care

By Robert Connors
Associate Editor 

Citizens Invited to Help Plan City's Future


Last updated 4/7/2019 at 9:59pm

Chevon Baccus

Small groups share ideas for growing a vibrant downtown and northwest business district

Do YOU have an interest in the future of Lake Wales? In how our city grows, and the services and lifestyle we will enjoy? Then this is your moment to speak up. (See the outcome of a week of planning by clicking here)

More than 100 of your fellow citizens have already shared their ideas and energies by participating in a Monday evening "charrette" at the Austin Community Center, organized by Lake Wales MainStreet and the planning firm of Dover Kohl and Partners. MainStreet chair Rusty Ingley and Executive Director Karen Thompson headed the local team that selected the firm.

Ingley was especially pleased with the evening: "Loved it. I thought it was a huge success. I'm ready to hear more and see what this awesome group comes up with – Dover Kohl. We obviously chose the right people."

Under the heading of "Connecting," attendees participated in an electronic audience poll, voting from small personal devices at their tables. They then shared their ideas for future revitalization of the city's downtown core and northwest business districts in a dozen individual table brainstorming sessions. Ideas were spelled out and maps were filled with colorful marker lines before being shared with the room and the professional planners.

The opening visual presentation showed the impressive results of re-imagining and investing that had been achieved in communities of various sizes, some smaller than Lake Wales.

Topics discussed included business development, bike and pedestrian connectivity, attracting tourism, and even potential restoration of the city's original Olmstead landscape plan. Many more topics were covered at the tables and groups were asked to share one to three "big ideas."

The energetic process continues this week as the planning team hosts an "Open Design Studio" at 218 East Park Avenue through this week. There citizens may drop in between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday to offer their ideas and look at preliminary maps and resources.

"I'm happy," offered attendee Ellis Hunt Jr. "I was worried it was going to be a small turnout."

MainStreet President Rusty Ingley welcomes attendees

Headed by Victor Dover and Meredith Bergstrom of Dover Kohl, the planning team includes the local architectural firm of Parlier+Crews, economist Anita Morrison, and transportation engineer Rick Hall, each of whom was introduced at the beginning of the charrette. Also introduced was Amy Gross of Dover Kohl, who will oversee the final plan documents.

The week was also highlighted by a Wednesday morning walking exploration of the northwest business district. A Friday evening presentation at 6 p.m. at the Lake Wales Woman's Club will offer

a report to the public on what is intended to be a work still very much in progress at that point. Dover Kohl also will give a presentation to city commissioners, in their role as the Community Redevelopment Agency, Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the city administration building.

Author Bio

Robert Connors,

Robert Connors has extensive experience as a news journalist and editorialist. He has authored three books, both fiction and non-fiction, including the recently-published "Encounter at Cloud Ranch," and anticipates the publication of "Booker's Box: The Story of Florida" in the near future.
His public service includes terms as Polk County Commissioner, president of the Lake Wales Association of Realtors, president of the Lakes Education/Action Drive, chairman of the Lake Wales Museum Association, inc., and president of Lake Wales Heritage, inc.


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