Communication Builds Our Community

Businesses Remain Open as West Park Avenue Transformed into Shady Oasis by Construction

Lake Wales Connected Plan Will Create "Re-envisioned" City Center

In nothing less than a transformation, the formerly dreary stretch of Park Avenue west of First Street is swiftly becoming an attractive green oasis intended to help draw pedestrian traffic to the heart of Lake Wales.

The three-block-long stretch of the street west of Scenic Highway is the heart of the $20 million investment being made by the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency to reinvigorate the city's urban core.

Conceived as "Lake Wales Connected" by a team of planners, the effort extends to several other blocks of the downtown area and into the Northwest Neighborhood, a long-neglected part of the city. The award-winning design was adopted more than three years ago, and will take place in multiple phases.

All businesses in the area will remain open during the work, and shoppers and diners are encouraged to come downtown and watch the transformation unfold. Project contractors Gomez Construction are managing the $11.5 million reconstruction of the street in short phases to minimize the impacts.

Rows of oak trees are being planted in three rows along the street, freshly-resurfaced with attractive brick pavers on West Park. Its intersection with First Street is also under construction, the second phase of a project that will eventually take in another quarter mile of that street.

"This is going to be beautiful, right here," city horticulturist Kevin Polk said, indicating a sweep of broad sidewalk which will be lined on two sides, offering a dense, shady canopy for walkers and cyclists.

The trees also shade a row of new parking spaces on the south side of the street, which is being converted to two way traffic. The street formerly offered an over-wide strip of asphalt, but the new design restricts travel to two narrower lanes, which planners called a "traffic calming device" which encourages slower, safer speeds.

Trees occupy "cells" intended to direct roots downward, a technique that project designers Dover, Kohl & Partners previously used successfully in a redesign of Winter Park's own Park Avenue shopping district more than 25 years ago." target="new">The prinicpals recently won a new award for their work designing the community of Seaside.

Other oaks and a variety of annuals and perennials will be planted in "rain gardens," planting areas set lower than the surrounding grade designed to capture and infiltrate rainwater. That feature is also planned for upcoming improvements to Orange and Crystal Avenues.

The Park Avenue work has recently moved to the start of phase three, which has seen the removal of existing asphalt to the east of First Street. New sidewalks are being poured during the overnight hours, so they are ready for foot traffic by early morning.

The entire Lake Wales Connected plan is designed to offer easy walking access for pedestrians, while accommodating outdoor dining on wider sidewalks. Bike tracks will link the downtown with surrounding neighborhoods and a growing city and regional network.

The project is expected to help raise property values, increasing the funding source of the CRA in a self-fulfilling cycle.


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