Lake Wales - Sara Jones

Lincoln Avenue Development Corporation board president and Lake Wales resident Sara Jones asked the Lake Wales City Commission to hire a city staff member to help the board’s work to improve the neighborhood.

LAKE WALES – City commissioners recently instructed city staff to hire an individual whose role would primarily be to help residents living in the northwest sector of Lake Wales.

Last year, city leaders raised money to hire a city planner in an effort to transform Lake Wales from what it looks like now to a “city of trees,” similar to what the original city designers envisioned – a project called Lake Wales Connected. Those city planners told the commissioners that, in addition to planting lots of trees in the coming years, another step that could help improve the look of the city would be encouraging more affordable workforce housing development in its northwest neighborhood, around Lincoln Avenue.

An advisory board led by Sara Jones, an attorney and resident of Lake Wales, was created and named the Lincoln Avenue Development Corporation. The board’s chief function is to represent the northwest neighborhood’s residents and to make recommendations to the city commissioners.

On March 10, Jones told Lake Wales commissioners that the amount of work required to transform the neighborhood exceeded that which can be sustainably done by a voluntary board. Jones recommended the city hire a staff member whose primary job would be helping residents of the northwest neighborhood and to lead reinvestment in the community.

Lake Wales City Manager Ken Fields said that the northwest neighborhood could benefit from an organization similar to Lake Wales Main Street — a public/private partnership that supports and encourages growth for prospective and active business owners in the downtown area.

Fields told commissioners that the Lincoln Avenue Development Corporation could perform similar work around Lincoln Avenue with public funding.

Jones recommended that Community Redevelopment Agency matching grants be set up to encourage residents of the neighborhood to make aesthetic and repair investments. Jones further recommended that city matching grants also help provide down payment assistance to those who want to purchase homes in the neighborhood.

The City of Winter Haven has similar programs, using CRA matching grant dollars to help residents invest in their own property as a means of raising property values in the city — which, in turn, raises the amount of taxes collected.

Fields said it could take around 60 days to get the job description written and the job advertisement published.

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