Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City – There will be a plan
But will there be an execution?

Kurt Easton explains the Community Development Plan process.
IBI's Kurt Easton, in the glow of a power point, reviews the Community Redevelopment Plan process as sixty plus people showed up at the downtown library to contribute their ideas to the process. Once again, no one from the County Government made an appearance.

Over the past thirty five years, depending on who's counting, there have been at least three downtown redevelopment or revitalization plans for Lake City. Number four is on the drawing board. Master Planner, Kurt Easton, IBI's group leader speaking about the public meeting, told the Observer, "This is an excellent turnout... We will have a plan."

Councilwoman Moses
Councilwoman Moses jumped in to the future plan.

If the enthusiasm shown by the participants at Tuesday night's Lake City Community Redevelopment public meeting was an indication of things to come, this time Lake City may well have more than just a plan to show for its efforts.

IBI's Easton began the meeting with a slide presentation and a recap of the findings of the other focus groups.

"Everyone seems to agree that Lake DeSoto and the waterfront should be the premier amenity of the downtown area," he said.

A focus group working hard.
Bankim Kalra guides one of the focus groups.

Mr. Easton told the group, "You want to attract people who want to invest in your community... We want the neighborhood to thrive."

No one disagreed as the assembly formed into little focus groups by table. For about forty five minutes each group brainstormed as IBI's urban designer Suzanne Thompson and Senior Planner Bankim Kalra visited each table, answered questions, gave direction, and shared their knowledge and insight.

CRA Director Jackie Kite makes a point.
Suzanne Thompson looks on as CRA Director Kite makes a point to LSHA's Berry.

At the conclusion of the forty five minutes of brainstorming, the groups reported their findings.

What they found -  The Strengths

The lake; the wetlands; the Elks Club; the Blanche


Municipal building; City Hall; Chamber of Commerce

The Weaknesses

The city brass had an equall seat at the table.
Chief Gilmore, Mr. Cason, Mr. Johnson and Ms. Kite put their heads together.

Dilapidated buildings; people don't feel safe in the area - especially in the evening; desperate need for more area marketing; vagrancy and loitering; public safety (a recurring theme in all focus groups)

The Opportunities

Increase seating capacity around Olustee Park; a theater; African American art - culture museum; French pastry shop and healthy restaurants; getting LCCC and St. Leo involved in the downtown; a beautiful soup kitchen; a chain restaurant that people are familiar with; old city hall site (opportunity to strengthen the tax base); a wetland nature trail

New Stuff

A group puts their heads together.
Everyone put their heads together.

Urban agriculture – everyone grabbed on to that


Introduce commerce and business; improved lighting; lake access from city hall, close the drive around the lake; an entrance from 90 to the LSHA – taking the traffic out of the downtown; local people have to support local business

Most humorous idea

From one of the Vann clan of Vann Carpet fame: "Nobody's coming downtown to buy carpet at night, but we’d like it if they came down to buy beer."

Laura Pitman Moody holds up a picture.
Laura Pitman Moody, seated, holding up another photo.

An idea that only one person thought of

Sandra Smith: "We need micro loans so people can do more than just façade improvements."

An idea that most people thought was a good idea

Increase the size of the Community Redevelopment Area

A person who really did her homework

County resident, Laura "I really love Lake City" Pitman Moody, came with pictures, magazine articles and a ton of ideas.

Reflecting the thought of many

Blondell Johnson
Community Activist and forty year resident, Blondell Johnson, is hopeful that this will be different.

Blondell Johnson: "I am hopeful that this will do something good. Hopefully, this will grow."


On April 5, 2010 the Community Redevelopment Agency appropriated an amount not to exceed $94,100 to hire the IBI Group to prepare a new CRA Redevelopment Plan. The process is now on a roll and is being committed to and being taken seriously by everyone except the County Manager and the County Commission, who have ignored all invitations from both the City and the IBI Group to become involved.

Tuesday's Public Meeting was attended by county and city residents; Police Chief Gilmore; City Manager Johnson; the City's Second in Command, Grayson Cason; Councilpersons Moses and Hill, Citizen's Advocate Audré Washington, Administrative Asst. Joyce Bruner and LSHA former Chairman and present General Manager Jack Berry. One attendee drove from Jacksonville to attend. Folks are taking this seriously and everybody wants this to succeed this time.

With or without the county, this time things are looking up for the future of the downtown of Lake City. It would be nice if the county came on board.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On July 29, 2010  Paula from Gainesville wrote:

The story is great but the pictures make it personal. People just identify with the story better. They look and say, "hey there's what's his name" or "there's me."

This is a story the residents can be proud of. It should bring out community pride. They need more opportunities to bring them together.

That's how the library should have bee planned. When people feel they have a voice and can see the fruit of their input it gives them a little piece of the project to call their own. And they're more likely to help take care of it.


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