This year’s presentation will reflect the accomplishments of the past year but will focus on what we expect in 2008. The new year has the potential to be the most rewarding year in quite some time, as a number of projects that are being planned are scheduled to come to fruition. The areas of high expectation include downtown re-development, Lincoln Ave re-development, and City capital projects.
Downtown Re-DevelopmentThere are signs of a positive momentum beginning to take shape downtown:
- The renovation of old city hall is now well-underway, with a new branch campus of Polk Community College set to open in 2009;
- The Bullard building at Scenic and Stuart is being re-modeled at a sizeable cost to create office and apartment lofts upstairs;
- Tres Jolie has opened in their new location on Park Avenue with a substantial investment for its bakery, restaurant, and catering business;
- In anticipation of their mall lease expiring, Brenda’s gifts has opened a new store on Park Avenue;
- The Bank of America building has been sold to the 610 Corporation, a firm with holdings that include properties in downtown Winter Haven. Peterson Myers has leased the upper two floors and construction plans are being drawn. The third floor of that building has never been occupied!
- The City and the County have agreed to waive impact fees (except City water and sewer impact fees) in a “core improvement area” that includes downtown and the Lincoln Avenue neighborhood commercial district;
- The Chamber’s new CRA (Community Re-Development Agency) steering committee has hired Martin Vargas to do the first phase of a downtown study with a $25,000 donation from Richard Quaid, who purchased and just completed the remodeling of the north arcade. The study is scheduled for completion in February, and it is anticipated that some recommendations will be implemented immediately with CRA funds budgeted in this fiscal year;
- The City has received title to the Grand Hotel, and proposals for its use are being solicited with a deadline of March 31.
Lincoln Avenue Neighborhood Commercial Re-DevelopmentThere is progress being made in re-developing the Lincoln Avenue Neighborhood Commercial District:
- The first new business on Lincoln Avenue since the hurricanes is preparing to open! Massey’s Meat Market is located at 344 Lincoln Avenue, between C and D Streets;
- The Green and Gold Foundation operates a Farmer’s Market in the vacant lot at the SE corner of Lincoln Avenue and C Street on Fridays and Saturdays;
- The CRA has acquired the Walker Building at the SW corner of Lincoln Avenue and C Street and is working with an architect to explore re-modeling options;
- City staff is also exploring the feasibility of building a police sub-station at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and B Street with the help of an investor who is working with the Green and Gold Foundation.
City Capital ProjectsThe CRA Board, consisting of the City Commissioners, recently approved a $9.5 million bond issue for capital projects. The biggest single project will be street re-surfacing, with funds also budgeted for utility projects. All funds will be spent in the CRA area, which is generally the historic area of the City and includes downtown and the Lincoln Avenue/Northwest area.
Our town is welcoming the new year with great anticipation. Happy New Year, Lake Waleans!