Local News

LP vision takes public/private partnership

LAKE PLACID - In his eight years driving through the downtown, Ken LeBlanc has seen the problems and then imagined the solutions to revitalizing the Caladium Capitol's business district.

At Monday's meeting of the town council, LeBlanc said that as a director on the Chamber of Commerce, he believed in starting a committee a year ago to create a vision for the downtown.

LeBlanc presented a slide show to illustrate his vision for Lake Placid's downtown.

The downtown has many hair salons and service fronts such as doctor's, real estate and insurance offices, he noted.

Then he offered a slide showing the locations of the downtown's retail establishments.

"These are the things that you want the most in your downtown, which we do have in our downtown ... we just maybe don't have as many of those that we want," LeBlanc said.

The downtown parks are "great" such as DeVane Circle, which is "awesome," since its renovation, he said. The downtown is not lacking in parks.

The downtown is comprised of 42 percent service fronts, 22 percent buildable, 20 percent retail, 9 percent parks and 7 percent hair salons, he said.

LeBlanc noted the large gaps between retail stores.

"You want to get people in your downtown and you want them to be able to continually window shop downtown," he said. People don't want to necessarily walk the long distances between retail shops.

LeBlanc summarized the things that makes downtowns thrive: restaurants, sidewalk cafes, retail shops, plazas, murals, parks, nighttime shopping, nighttime restaurants, weekend hours and entertainment.

LeBlanc's slide presentation showed a downtown community near Gainesville that had many businesses with fabric awnings with the business's name in lettering on the awning, brick pavers and windows with no lettering on them so people can see into the businesses.

Establishing a Community Redevelopment Agency is important and the town needs it, but private investors are really needed in conjunction with a CRA, LeBlanc said. "I think revitalizing the downtown should be a public/private partnership."

He noted that individually the businesses can't advertise outside the area to get the people into the downtown. A CRA can do that collective advertising such as in Sebring.

A culture has to be created so people will want to come downtown, LeBlanc said. It's a big effort that will take some time.

Mayor John Holbrook commented Thursday on LeBlanc's efforts.

"I was excited about his presentation," he said. "It means a lot to me and most of the residents of Lake Placid that somebody is showing this kind of interest and is willing to put forth the effort to try to revitalize the downtown."

Holbrook said he wanted to meet with LeBlanc to go "deeper" into his ideas and plans.

LeBlanc and his committee have done a great job, Holbrook said, and he hopes they continue because it's something the town can look forward to and growth with.

At the council meeting, LeBlanc said he has a professional architecture degree from Florida A&M University where he studied urban design and also studied the preservation of historic downtowns. He is a contractor and developer and his business, The Cottage Company, is located on Main Street.