Communication Builds Our Community

What's so Hot About Dover-Kohl?

Series: Lake Wales Renaissance | Story 5

This is the fifth installment in the Lake Wales Renaissance series. Lake Wales City Commissioner Robin Gibson serves as Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.

Dover, Kohl & Partners is an internationally known town planning firm working out of South Miami. Among their many achievements are nationally recognized revitalizations of traditional communities much like Lake Wales. Victor Dover is co-author of the definitive work on the subject entitled Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns. The firm has reached the point where it can select the Requests for Proposals to which it decides to respond.

Why Lake Wales?

Victor Dover knows us. As luck would have it, he is a serious bicyclist. He escapes the congestion of South Florida by cycling on the back roads of rural Central Florida. He enjoys the hills and lakes of the Lake Wales Ridge, and he has come to know Lake Wales. He views us as an authentic small town with unique qualities: natural beauty, an Olmsted heritage, significant architecture, and great potential. (The Olmsted landscape architecture firm of New York was the best of its kind in their generation. The firm designed Bok Tower Gardens, Mountain Lake community, and Lake Wailes Park. They also presented their design vision for what is now historic Lake Wales. Because of the Great Depression, their vision was never completed.)

What's Happened so Far?

We have a plan. Dover-Kohl was selected as our planner, and they went to work by utilizing their tried and proven method for arriving at a community-inspired product.

First, they did their homework --- document accumulations, site visits, and interviews. Then they moved a consultant team to town for a "Charrette Week," setting up shop in a downtown building. The team included urban designers, town planners, a landscape architect, an economist, and a traffic engineer along with all their maps, charts, and tech gear. They worked with folks from Main Street Lake Wales, the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency, City officials and staff, and hundreds of local citizens --- all to create a common vision. At the end of the week a closing session was held at the Lake Wales Woman's Club where a rough form of the common vision was presented to the group for review and comment.

The Final Product

Their method of conducting community-wide design sessions with the public worked. All voices were heard, contributing to the end result. The vision that emerged was no longer limited to just downtown. The plan, appropriately entitled "Lake Wales Connected," calls for downtown to be connected to the Northwest area and to Lake Wailes Park in an inclusive and unified revitalization of the town's historic core. The connections are to be made by bringing the original Olmsted vision to life: redesigned streets and paths lined with an abundance of trees --- attracting new residents, customers, and businesses.

How do People like it?

On October 1, 2019, the City Commission, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, heard the public's strong approval. The CRA responded by unanimously adopting Dover-Kohl's Lake Wales Connected plan.

How About Implementation?

It's underway. We are proceeding carefully with construction of a prototype street design. The Chastain-Skillman civil engineering firm has been retained for the design, engineering and construction plans. The prototype will consist of a stretch of Park Avenue from Scenic Highway going through the historic commercial district to Wetmore Street. The visual design concepts will be unveiled at a workshop tentatively scheduled for early July to get public comment in advance of final approval. Once constructed and in place, the public and Commissioners will have a chance to evaluate the design as it actually exists on the ground before committing to the more extensive and costly aspects of the plan for the future.

So, we're in business, but proceeding carefully.

The Next Article: Potential Trouble Spots


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