Downtown Winter Haven

A family walks through South Central Park in downtown Winter Haven earlier this week. Officials are considering adding more kiosks, such as the directory pictured above, to the downtown district and are also discussing possibilities for the water tower.

WINTER HAVEN — Winter Haven’s Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Committee met Monday, July 29, to discuss ideas to continue to make the downtown area better.

Through the agency, there is around $1.2 million available to spend on the downtown district this year.

One such idea under discussion included helping to fund the city commission’s recent affordable housing initiative, with the goal to encourage more downtown employees to live near work.

Other topics of discussion included fixing the leaks in the city’s parking garage, which are known to be most noticeable when it rains, as well as continuing to pay for a police officer to patrol the downtown area full-time, beautifying downtown alley spaces, improving signage, cleaning downtown sidewalks and adding some brick pavement, tax incentives to encourage more development, adding trees, painting the downtown water tower, purchasing vacant land, paying off past loans and further funding facade grants.

The money to invest in the downtown area comes from recent property tax value increases in the district.

Normally, when property tax values go up inside city limits, those property taxes fund city projects. The downtown area is part of a CRA district, however, and property value increases in a CRA district fund projects only for that district.

Ideas for how to spend that money start at the advisory board level, which includes a group of resident volunteers.

Members of the Winter Haven Downtown CRA Advisory Board start the discussion and make a recommendation to the Winter Haven CRA Board. That board makes recommendations to the city commission for adoption.

The ideas being discussed now may later become part of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

Board members spent most of the time talking about a handful of ideas, in particular. One such idea was placing more kiosk-like structures downtown. The group was shown an artist's rendering of a spire, a marker roughly 6-feet tall, that would be lit up at night and educate visitors where to find restaurants, parking and other city amenities.

Costs were estimated at $20,000 each with four proposed — one each at the north, south, east and west entries to the downtown area.

Contact Charles A. Baker III at cbaker@d-r.media.

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