With a dig of their shovels, City Commissioners, City Staff, Chamber and Main Street Winter Haven representatives, engineers and contractors kicked off a long awaited project to revitalize (and make functional) South Central Park in downtown Winter Haven. This project has been in the works for over 10 years and has undergone two revisions in its design to accommodate the changing and bustling landscape of our downtown. This is an exciting project that will right-size dangerous streets and, once completed, will provide 38 more parking spaces than what exists today. Read below for more information on this project, timelines and features.
Communication - Stay in the Know
During the Business Partner Group meeting last Wednesday, the City staff and general contractor, Cobb Site Development, presented plans for the South Central Park project.
First and foremost, City Manager Mike Herr wants to ensure that communication about the project and the potential impacts during construction are a top priority of the City. The City would like for this to have as little impact as possible on the downtown businesses. Later in this post you will see their proposed phasing to try to minimize that impact.
You can follow the progress of the project on the City website, Chamber website, Main Street newsletter and all of our social media platforms. If you have specific concerns or questions regarding this project you can email email@example.com and a City representative will address your concerns as quickly as possible
The project will kick into high gear on September 5, 2017 and must be done within 12 months - making the date of completion September 2018. The general contractor is Cobb Site Development out of Wauchula, FL. The park was designed and engineered by Winter Haven's Envisors: A Pennoni Company.
Cobb has already been in town for the last month making sure that they are aware of as many potential issues as possible and to become familiar with parking patterns and flow of business. Project manager Kyle Cobb assured the attendees at the meeting last week that construction vehicles will be parked in a designated staging area and not parked in any downtown business parking spaces.
T.Michael Stavres presented the features of the project. The overall goal of the project is to create a public space that can be used for both community events as well as additional parking (and can be converted easily between the two). If you have ever traveled abroad, the concept of a piazza perhaps best describes what the City wants to emulate. Other features include:
The photo above outlines the proposed phasing of the project. Phase 1 begins now and will last two months. That will focus on right-sizing Ave A SW. Phase 2 will be November - December and will address 5th St SW. Phase 3 will be in January and will make the necessary changes to Central Avenue between 5th St SW and 4th St SW. Phase 4 will address the changes to Magnolia Ave, the rest of Ave A SW and 3rd St SW. The final phase of May 2018 - August 2018 will be the 4th St SW parking lot (this is the area in front of Arabella's, Wiggins, Smit, Burby, Reineke & Company, P.A. C.P.A.'s, Carden & Associates etc.
The reality is that we will have interruptions but from the communications we have received from the City, they will try to minimize those as much as possible. Below is a map of public parking and which parking will be affected by the project. If you have any issue with parking or construction vehicles please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also keep you up-to-date on any changes throughout the project.
If you are a business downtown, expect to see City staff stop into your office on occasion to check in.
The cost of this project is $4,444,444 and is being funded through a bond.
Some design has changed since this conceptual video below, but it helps you to visualize the renovations.
History of South Park
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Birdsong reviewed the history of South Central Park:
Back in the early 1900’s South Central Park was central to the vibrancy of a little town called Harris Corners - a place we all know as Winter Haven, Florida. Back in the day, this public place was home to an active railroad depot bringing people, and commerce, to this flourishing small community in the center of the state. There are pictures of large groups standing along the railroad tracks waiting for the next train to stop and drop off visitors, residents and consumer goods.
With the invention of the automobile and availability of roadways throughout Polk County, the purpose of this park as a main meeting stop for deliveries and travelers diminished. It became a location to enjoy the outdoors, to hold celebrations and special events, and to gather with other community members to talk about the topics of the day.
Through the years, parking became paramount, beautification was not viewed as a necessity, and concrete public spaces were created. Though still useable, this portion of the Central Park District shows its age with its lack of imagination. It also is the final piece to creating a fully accessible expanded downtown. City Commissioner Virginia Foley Miller made downtown and park beautification her mantra while serving on the Commission in the 1950’s. In that era, flowers and landscaping were not viewed as a priority; progress by way of concreate and manmade structures were the sign of a progressive forward-thinking community. I think she would be very happy today to see the completion of her vision of a beautiful and usable public space that enhances the quality of life of everyone who comes to downtown Winter Haven.
Additional local visionaries include those families who owned this property and saw the significance of public space. While this is a pretty valuable piece of property, the Bowen family chose to donate the land to the City for public use. It is because of their foresight and generosity that we are all able to celebrate a reimagined open gathering space. Today the downtown parks host over 175 events per year.