Communication Builds Our Community

Design Creates Value

Series: Lake Wales Renaissance | Story 9

This is the ninth 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.

Victor Dover and his co-author have poured their careers as town planners into what has become the definitive handbook entitled Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns. The book recounts the history and experience of a wide range of different situations across the globe that produced over 150 excellent streets. Those designs are expertly analyzed as to how and why each came to be successful.

In conclusion, the book's last paragraph on page 385 begins by asking the question: "How do we make our cities and towns great places where people want to be? The last sentence of that paragraph answers the question. "History and experience have shown us how to make great places and great streets. All that remains is to do it."

That's where we are in Lake Wales. Thanks to planning firm Dover-Kohl's workshops with our citizens, after considering our own desires and self-analysis, and then applying their expertise to our circumstance, we have been provided the design for success. Properly implemented, it will be transformative.

History and experience shows that if we treat our streets and sidewalks as "outdoor rooms" with the walls of the rooms being the buildings that face the streets, they can then be designed as desirable locations where people innately want to get together.

Our streets might no longer be one-way opportunities for vehicles to get somewhere else in a hurry. Instead, they could provide pleasurable two-way traffic where drivers and occupants will experience the outdoor rooms along with the people located on the sidewalks as pedestrians or patrons of outdoor cafés placed under the shade of trees and awnings. The vehicle occupants would sense a subtle invitation to get out of their cars and enjoy the outdoor room with everyone else. It's the kind of street design that has been demonstrably successful elsewhere – causing cash registers to ring and property values to rise.

Thus, public acceptance of the design – places where people want to be – creates value. As explained in earlier installments of this Renaissance Series, the lifeblood of the Community Redevelopment Agency is the increase in property values. That increase not only benefits owners, it also creates increased tax revenues that are deposited into the Community Redevelopment Trust Fund. The Fund is then able to pay for the borrowings that created the improvements, and also is able to provide for additional improvements in the future.

The key is to most assuredly design and build the place where people want to be. This area of Central Florida does not have anything like what has been designed for Lake Wales. We have an advantageous location at the intersection of highways 27 and 60. If we do in fact build the quality improvements inherent in the design the Community Redevelopment Agency has unanimously approved, we have the potential for becoming a destination for more than just the citizens of Lake Wales. By bringing in disposable income from outside the community, we would create a positive balance of payments which would measurably enhance the local economy.

We have the design, which is perhaps the most important ingredient. Nonetheless, a number of critical judgment calls need to be made in the future in order to assure financial success in a competitive market. Our community has a number of successful entrepreneurs. Many of those entrepreneurs love this place and would be willing to help us make the decisions to assure success.

As stated in Street Design, all that remains is to do it.

The Next Installment: Trees Trees Trees


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