Communication Builds Our Community

Federal Funds to Aid in Downtown Streetscape

US Rep. Darren Soto Guided City Grant Application

The process of converting barren downtown streets into a shady pedestrian oasis got a financial boost as the City expects to receive a Federal grant.

In a presentation to area citizens via an Internet link from Washington DC Tuesday evening, Congressman Darren Soto mentioned that an $800,000 infusion for downtown street rehabilitation had been included in the recent bi-partisan Infrastructure package approved by the US House. The package is now awaiting Senate approval. Soto gave Mayor Eugene Fultz credit for having brought the candidate project forward for funding.

Those funds will aid in fulfilling the Lake Wales Connected plan, augmenting Community Redevelopment Agency funding of the multi-million dollar effort. The project will be funded largely through CRA capture of the "tax increment" driven by growth and development within the CRA boundaries. The CRA last week hired bond counsel to guide the acquisition of $18.5M for the multi-year effort. The project is expected to take some five years to complete.

Soto, of Kissimmee, also revealed that the recent US census showed that his Florida's 9th District is the most populous district in the nation, and therefore the fastest growing since 2010, with well over 900,000 residents. The wave of growth that has swelled the population of areas like Poinciana has now reached to Lake Wales, which is experiencing its fastest-ever growth.

The Lake Wales Connected plan includes a revamping of Park Avenue from Scenic Highway to Wetmore Street, and First Street from Stuart Avenue to Wiltshire Avenue. The barren stretch of West Park will see a dramatic conversion from a wide slash of asphalt into a narrower, tree-lined parkway.

Also included in the plan will be an expansion of the downtown Market Place into a broader and more inviting plaza with "hanging gardens" and space for regular art shows and other activities.

Soto is a former State Representative and Senator who has served the Lake Wales area in Congress since 2016.


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