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By Robert Connors
Associate Editor 

CRA Grant Program Aims to Boost Food-Related Businesses

Areas of Downtown, Northwest Area Eligible for $50,000 Grants


Last updated 5/8/2019 at 11:19am

Lake Wales Main Street

Aerial view of historic downtown Lake Wales

New restaurants, coffee shops, micro-breweries and grocery stores planned for the heart of Lake Wales are eligible to take advantage of up to $50,000 from a new CRA grant program to help get them off the ground.

The grants are designed to stimulate the development of new food-related businesses in Lake Wales' two Community Redevelopment Districts. They are administered through the City's Community Redevelopment Agency.

Targeting a variety of food and beverage businesses, the list of eligible businesses includes bakeries, distilleries, health-food stores, produce markets, and other specialty food stores. The grants could be used toward required plumbing, electrical, and sprinkler systems, as well as utility connections, venting systems, and similar mechanical work.

Items such as furniture, interior design fees, and portable equipment are ineligible for the grants, as is new construction.

According to Karen Thompson, executive director of Lake Wales Main Street, the grant program is intended to stimulate business as part of the "Connecting Lake Wales" planning and re-design efforts currently underway. The detailed planning process is being conducted by a team of experts managed by Dover Kohl and Partners, a Florida-based urban planning business. Their work is well underway and has been the subject of several earlier public events and presentations.

"Our priorities are to recruit new businesses, promote downtown through events and marketing and see this design strategy through to fruition," Thompson said in response to questions. "Public investment stimulates private investment."

Thompson added that a future façade-grant program is under consideration. A previous version of that program nearly 20 years ago resulted in numerous improvements to storefronts throughout the downtown area, and a resulting rise in property values.

Part of the early draft recommendations by Dover Kohl was an emphasis on downtown housing, and the conversion of upstairs space to new residential space. City codes have often presented obstacles to such re-development of commercial buildings, but Thompson said that, too, may change. (See Related Story: City Blocking Seminole Redevelopment?)

"Dover in constant contact with our city planning department," Thompson said. "They are addressing codes to adapt to the design strategy long-term. Housing in downtown is always the goal. If people live in downtown, they will shop, dine and bring life to the streets."

Dover Kohl

Rendering of Seminole Hotel revitalization by urban planners Dover Kohl

"For now, our priorities are to recruit new businesses, promote downtown through events and marketing and see this design strategy through to fruition," Thompson added.

See Other Stories About "Connecting Lake Wales" :

Citizens Invited to Help Shape City's Future

Open Design Studio Attracts Input From Citizens

Walking Tour of Northwest With Urban Planners


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