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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

West Park Avenue to Remain Closed for Lake Wales Connected Construction

Street Will Be First of More Than 20 Blocks to be "Reimagined"

 

Last updated 3/27/2023 at 5:06pm

Courtesy Lake Wales CRA

The western portion of Park Avenue is portrayed in this view looking east from Wetmore Street. The project is expected to require about 18 months to completion.

Crews from Gomez Construction will be barricading a block of West Park Avenue between First Street and Wetmore Street on Monday, March 6 to begin the $11.5 million transformation of that street and, eventually, the adjoining eastern blocks and the adjacent MarketPlace.

The project is the first major undertaking of the ambitious $20 million project defined by the Lake Wales Connected plan, which was developed with wide public input. The finished product will feature a brick-paved street and wide sidewalks capable of hosting cafes and outdoor dining under the shade of scores of new live oaks.

A portable construction management building has already been placed at the corner of Wetmore and Park. Crews were busy on Thursday and Friday preparing a parking lot which will serve the Lake Wales Post office and adjacent businesses. Access to the parking will be from Orange Avenue, one block to the north. Signage will be placed to direct traffic to the newly fenced facility.

The contract for this phase of the project was awarded in early December to Gomez Construction for an offered bid of $11,591,834.18. The firm maintains offices in Miami and Winter Park, and since 1994 has completed multiple projects across North and South America and the Caribbean, according to their website.

The Lake Wales Connected plan, created by a highly-regarded team of planners, traffic engineers, landscape architects, and new urbanists, spent months gathering public input and comment from Lake Wales residents before shaping them into a finished plan, which has since won statewide recognition.

A groundbreaking ceremony in January brought a large gathering of city officials and community leaders to celebrate the start of the Lake Wales Connected project.

Courtesy Dover Kohl & Partners

This video portrays the entire length of Park Avenue following completion of the streetscape project. A lush canopy of street trees will be enhanced by flowering ornamentals on the opposite side of the street. West Park Avenue asphalt will be removed to allow for a triple row of Live Oaks.

The project is being funded from the proceeds of an $18.5 million bond financed entirely with CRA funds, meaning there is no liability for Lake Wales taxpayers. The funds flow from the "tax increment" generated by rising property values within the CRA district, in excess of the base year valuation.

The CRA is currently generating cash flow of about $2.7 million annually. The project is expected to further raise property within the district, further increasing CRA revenue.

Other elements of the Connected plan, including streetscape work on Central, Orange, and Crystal Avenues, is being funded largely with Federal grants. The plan also includes a huge sidewalk construction and street tree planting project in the Northwest Neighborhood.

 

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