New Brick Street Will Dress Up Park Avenue
Project Advancing Despite Heavy Rains
Last updated 10/7/2023 at 9:12pm
The multi-million-dollar reconstruction of Park Avenue is proceeding close to schedule, as evidenced by the hard-working crews who have been seen laying the thousands of bricks that will eventually form the surface of the new street and parking spaces.
The new high-quality clay-brick pavers were selected as the most durable and traditional surface for the project after a study by engineers and architects involved in the design of the project, an early phase of the multi-phase Lake Wales Connected project being undertaken by the Community Redevelopment Agency.
When the construction is completed residents and visitors alike will be treated to a completely different image of Park Avenue if plans come to fruition. New street lighting, art installations, benches, bicycle racks, and plenty of shade trees and ornamental plantings should transform the area into a shady pedestrian oasis.
The street will also be opened to two-way traffic for the first time in many decades.
Gomez Construction was selected to construct the initial portion of the $11.5 million transformation of Park Avenue. The progress of the project recently required the closing of a block of First Street in addition to the stretch of Park that is nearing completion. That street has now been dug up to replace underground infrastructure before the paving will move through that intersection to the eastern portions of Park Avenue.
The Connected project was developed with citizen input gleaned through a series of meetings, workshops and charrettes led by engineers, city planners, and landscape architects. The project was initiated by Lake Wales Main Street in an attempt to restore the historic district to its former role as the city's central business district.
The downtown area has been designated as a National Historic District and contains many great examples of the period architecture popular during the "Great Florida Land Boom" of the period between 1916 and 1926. Most of the structures in the area date to that period.
The downtown area has languished economically for more than a decade, a situation the Connected effort aims to correct by attracting private investment.
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 values within the district, further increasing CRA revenue in an upward spiral of reinvestment and improvement.