Suwannee Democrat

Suwannee Democrat

January 15, 2013

Locals tour area cities with CRA

Live Oak — The local Extension Office and the Live Oak Community Redevelopment Agency teamed up with dozens of locals for a bus tour to three different regional cities to learn about a range of projects completed through their CRAs and how the community at large has benefitted from them.

About 30 people attended the tour.

The first bus stop was in Gainesville at the Technology Enterprise Center. Senior Analyst Sarah Vidal-Finn gave the audience an overview of what the CRA has done in Gainesville and provided some insight to their future developments.

Since Tropical Storm Debby, the city of Live Oak has been working to develop a storm water drainage system that would prevent future flooding. Engineer Diane Gilreath with the CRA in Gainesville spoke to the crowd about storm water issues and showed examples of different projects the CRA has done to avoid excessive water in downtown streets. Business Development Coordinator Shaad Rehman explained how the CRA has used facade programs and other economic development incentives to grow their community.

The bus then rolled to High Springs for lunch at the historic Great Outdoors Restaurant. At the restaurant, the group was joined by GOR General Manager Carol Doherty who shared the history of the restaurant. High Springs Mayor Sue Weller provided a walking tour of the town.

Following the tour in High Springs, participants then loaded the bus and departed for the Alachua City Hall. Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari gave an orientation of Alachua’s CRA before he loaded up on the bus and gave a tour of Alachua.

“The city of Alachua hired a firm to conduct a parking study, implemented the plan and now has an effective parking system downtown,” stated Live Oak councilman and Live Oak CRA chairman Jacob Grantham. “This would be a huge benefit to our downtown businesses.”

Executive Director of the Live Oak CRA Shannon Ventry said that tour participants, “saw firsthand the benefits of CRA improvements and how they resonate through the district, city and county.”

“There were many similar situations we face where the applications we saw may be used and the same type of results may be expected,” she said. “We learned the importance of providing the infrastructure needed, such as storm water management, then capping the project off with a beautiful, more useable space in which to live, work and play.”

Ventry called the bus tour a great success.

“Julie Evans of the Department of Economic Opportunity shared an example from High Springs where their downtown sinkhole issue was converted into an attractive park feature that draws folks to the area and functions as an open air market/event center for the community.”

Grantham said, “The tour was very informative. I look forward to meeting with our CRA and council to discuss projects that were successful in other similar areas.”


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