Downtown Lake Wales

Envisioning an improved downtown for Lake Wales was the topic of discussion at the Lake Wales Main Street Mixer last month.

LAKE WALES – Residents and local businesses are being asked to put on their thinking caps this spring to help reinvent two areas of Lake Wales.

Urban designer Victor Dover has been hired by the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency to come up with a plan that would redesign and reinvigorate two historic downtowns — the city’s traditional downtown district, as well as a second in the northwest area of the city.

Dover and members of his firm, Dover, Kohl and Partners, are expecting to get ideas from the community when they are in town in early April for a week.

“We get to help people figure out what they want their town to be like, which means visualizing change before it occurs,” Dover said during the Lake Wales Main Street Mixer and annual meeting Jan. 24. “We're going to get you to describe that to us. We'll go through a process together and arrive at a good plan.”

Dover said he became aware early of the “infectious enthusiasm” of Lake Wales leaders, and that the process will be “a very interactive event” which will include many opportunities for input from the public.

“I think we've arrived at what we will look back on at as a historic moment in the life of your community,” Dover said. “You'll help decide what should be in the design strategy. Every one of you has a list of the things you'd like us to improve on. You have to be citizen planners. We're living through the second coming of the great American small town — people are learning to leverage their assets. ”

The plan includes what Dover called “designing in the sunshine,” which will include a spot where anyone can stop in to offer ideas during the week.

“We're going to set up an easy to get to location. We'll set up an open design studio, and we'll camp out here for a while. You can look over our shoulders that week,” he said.

After all the input is gathered, a closing event at week's end will serve as a starting point for Dover’s firm, when its preliminary plans would be made public.

“That would be a work-in-progress presentation. We're going to let you look at it. We're going to ask you, 'is this what you meant'? At that point the work will be very soft and very changeable,” Dover said. “We'll have a lot of unanswered questions and we (will) use your feedback and fix what's wrong.”

Dover said he was also pleased that the project included two distinctive and important areas in the town's past.

“You're all in this together. No one is left out,” he added.

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