Lake City CRA Master Plan
And then there was one
Columbia County, FL (Posted
2010 • at 10:57 am)
Master redevelopment planning expert, Kurt Easton, of
IBI Group makes his presentation to the LC Council as
lead urban designer Suzanne Thompson looks on.
Late Thursday afternoon, Lake City again showed that
it is leading the way into the 21st century in Columbia
County, when the three finalists came before the City
Council to present themselves and their ideas on why
they should be chosen to develop Lake City's CRA Master
Plan. All were at the top of their game and the cream of
the urban planning and design crop.
Thursday's selection will most likely be one of the
most important that the City Council will ever make.
City Manager Wendell Johnson's "last stand" here in Lake
City is proving to be the one that may define his life's
work and experience. The fact that each of the
presenters was somebody's first choice was both a credit
to the selection committee's judgment and representative
of the talent that came before the City Council.
All the candidates were well spoken, literate,
experienced, accomplished, not the "good ole boys" and
had what is considered a detriment and unimportant
across the street in the seat of county government,
college degrees and advanced degrees – a combination
that gave the presenters a confidence and grace that
comes with that territory.
It was unfortunate that not one member of the County
Commission, the IDA, the School Board, the Hospital
Authority, the LCCC Board or the County Manager came to
the show to see Lake City, as it continues throwing off
the shackles of the past.
The Professionals Agreed
City Manager Wendell Johnson, framed by two of the
presenters, is working on a project that may define his
life work's experience.
All three presenters were in agreement that input
from the public is the integral part in developing a
successful master plan and each one had their own ways
to encourage public participation.
All agreed that the waterfront on Lake Desoto is
integral in the development of the downtown master plan
and a successful downtown.
All agreed that grant finding and funding was
essential and each group claimed to have the expertise
and experience in that field.
All three groups had done extensive urban design and
planning in Florida.
Kurt Easton was the redevelopment planning expert (go
to resume) who represented the IBI Group and the
first thing he did right out of the box was to maximize
the educational backgrounds of his two associates, who,
he explained, composed the core group and would be the
folks with whom the city would be dealing.
Mr. Easton introduced lead planner, Bankim Kalra, who he explained had a bachelor's degree
in architecture and a masters in urban planning, along
with seven years experience in redevelopment planning,
urban design and architecture. (go
Mr. Easton then introduced lead urban designer and
senior landscape architect, Suzanne Thompson, who he
explained, with a huge smile, had obtained her master's
degree in landscape architecture from Harvard. That spoke for itself.
Mr. Easton explained that his group was architects
and masters in urban planning and that all IBI master
plans require an extensive public participation process
to insure success.
Mr. Easton then gave a laundry list of IBI Group
Tallahassee – Saint Pete – Panama City -- Bonita
Springs (one site) – Kissimmee – Westside neighborhoods
in Pensacola – Titusville – Cocoa – Sarasota – Safety
Harbor – Tarpon Springs – Dade City – Tavares -- ...
Go to the Lake City CRA
Mr. Easton said that in the past twenty five years he
has been involved in master plans in about a hundred
cities and that his master plans are based on among
other things, economic projections and pro forma
He said, "IBI plans are grounded in economics... IBI
plans are formed using the best technical practices of
urban planning and design to determine creative
solutions for each community's distinct needs."
He explained that IBI is a more casual firm which
turns public concerns into economic engines.
One council member asked, "What separates you from
Mr. Easton answered, "... We do redevelopment
planning. We are strategic thinkers."
Another council member asked, "What are the three
most important characteristics of Lake City."
Mr. Easton answered, "You have Lake City (downtown) –
the base – the neighborhood – the lake."
Mr. Easton explained that "getting young people to
move into your community" is something that should be
considered in developing the master plan.
Mr. Easton didn't get any argument when he said that
the number one goal for the master plan and Lake City
was "economic stability."
When asked about his background Mr. Easton said that
when he left graduate school he went to work for Brevard
County as a planner and eventually ended up being the
Director of the
Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency.
After, again stressing the need for public
participation, a recurring theme of all the presenters,
Mr. Easton was asked why his group was the best.
Without hesitation he replied, "We do award winning
As the saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water,
but you can't make it drink."
The City Manager, his team and the City Council have
brought the cream to Lake City to guide the citizens of
all Columbia County to make the capitol of Columbia
County something everyone can be proud of for
generations to come.
It is now up to you.