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By Robert Connros
Managing Editor 

Downtown Streetscape Plans May Expand to Portions of Orange, Crystal Avenues

Significant Grant Funding May Speed Additional Work

 

Last updated 12/17/2021 at 1:40pm

Two additional blocks of Orange and Crystal Avenues may be added to Lake Wales streetscape plans if the CRA board takes action on Tuesday. The three-block portion of Park Avenue (bottom) and the north-south connector of First Street are already included in the plans.

In hope of landing an additional infusion of grant monies to aid in the revitalization of downtown Lake Wales, the City Commission has authorized engineering design work for portions of both Orange and Crystal Avenues.

The proposal on Tuesday's agenda approved the expenditure of $34,975 for Orange Avenue and $34,895 for Crystal Avenue designs. The work will cover the intersections of North Market Street, providing a visual corridor to the redesigned MarketPlace. From there the new would extend west to First Street, also slated for reconstruction.

According to CRA Chairman Robin Gibson, any work done to the two streets would be coordinated with the more-extensive work being proposed for Park Avenue, including matching the "street furniture, lighting, trees," and other amenities.

"The City Manager (James Slaton) calls this 'Park Avenue light'," Gibson said. "Getting the grant may or may not depend on whether the project is ready to go, shovel ready," Gibson said, declining to identify the potential source. "It's in our best interests not to say" where the grant would come from. "It's not a large expenditure compared to the overall project," he added, saying that "if the grant doesn't come through we have the money to do it anyway."

The CRA, which is funded by tax increments, captures about $2.4 million in tax revenue annually, which would otherwise go to the county and city general coffers. That cash flow is bondable income, and the CRA is presently negotiating an $18.5 million loan which will be used to reconstruct Park Avenue, First Street, the MarketPlace, and perhaps these additional portions or Orange and Crystal Avenues. The eastern portion of Crystal Avenue joins a complex intersection with Scenic Highway which is proposed to be redesigned for a roundabout in the Lake Wales Connected plan.

"The Lake Wales Connected plan calls for the conversion of Orange Avenue to a primarily residential street," Gibson pointed out. "We are considering incentives to encourage that sort of development there, to make it a 'real' downtown area." The street has vacant lands he called "open space appropriate for development."

Gibson joined the rest of the city commission at a workshop on Friday that spent much time discussing the need to densify development in the city to spare the surrounding countryside. Making the city center more attractive was cited as one way to encourage that sort of development.

Congressman Darren Soto has already been able to include an $800,000 infusion in the House appropriations bill to support downtown revitalization for Lake Wales.

 

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