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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

Orange and Crystal Avenues to Receive Major Streetscape Facelifts

New Paving and Landscapes Funded by

 

Last updated 8/28/2023 at 12:15pm

Artist rendering courtesy City of Lake Wales

This street-level view of Crystal Avenue looking east from First Street shows the human-scale effect of the plantings that will make the street more attractive for pedestrians and shoppers, as well as potential investors.

A million-dollar reconstruction of block-long stretches of Orange and Crystal Avenues is anticipated thanks to a federal grant and an intergovernmental agreement.

The dramatic change will see new streetlights, street furniture, curbing, and the installation of numerous trees and other plants installed in rain gardens that will help absorb stormwater, .

The work will include the resurfacing of the two streets east of First Street through and including their intersections with Market Street. The project will also be "ADA compliant," providing ramps for wheelchairs and strollers.

Funding for the project will come from an $800,000 grant arranged by US Congressman Darren Soto, who formerly represented the area. His district lines no longer include Lake Wales. Soto previously arranged the infusion of funding for downtown street rehabilitation in the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act approved by the US Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021. Those funds will aid in fulfilling the Lake Wales Connected plan.

The 20 percent local match will come from the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency, which issued an $18.5 million bond to fund the Connected plan. That debt will be paid by the "incremental" increase in tax receipts created by the rise in property values by property owners benefitting from the improvements.

The effort is an extension of the Lake Wales Connected plan, which is intended to change the city's historic center into a leafy pedestrian oasis. Aging core-area streets are being reconstructed with wider sidewalks and other attractive features. A new downtown mixed-use zoning district provides for the creation of attractive residential uses in the area, and it is hoped that the streetscapes will enhance the attraction of the neighborhood to help attract investment.

The project is moving ahead thanks to a new interlocal agreement between Lake Wales and Polk County, which will serve as the "local agency program" administrator for the grant. The two governmental bodies approved the arrangement that will allow the city to accept and implement the federal grant.

Artist rendering courtesy City of Lake Wales

Orange Avenue will see a significant change with new street trees, rain gardens, streetlights, benches, and other improvements as part of the make-over.

The Lake Wales Connected plan was adopted by the city more than two years ago and includes 63 action items. Some, such as the Park Avenue Trail and the recently-opened BizLINC business incubator, have been completed, while others, including affordable housing initiatives and the reconstruction of Park Avenue, to include a new brick street surface, are well underway.

At a recent commission workshop Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson sought assurance from city staff that the design will complement that being used on Park Avenue. He was told that the design for Orange and Crystal Avenues has already been completed by Chastain Skillman, the same engineering firm that designed Park Avenue.

The project will eventually include a major reconstruction of First Street north of Central Avenue, and improvements to Central Avenue East of that intersection, as well changes to Scenic Highway, including the construction of a roundabout at Crystal Avenue near the Lake Wales Public Library.

 

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