Live Oak, FL

Community members with James Rojas' model at Heritage Park
Community members with James Rojas' model at Heritage Park

On November 14-16, 2013, Live Oak, FL (population: 6,918) hosted their CIRD workshop on rebuilding their downtown, which was devastated by Hurricane Debby in 2010.  Live Oak's collaborative goal is to use the reconstruction as an opportunity to build walkable, sustainable streets, and a vibrant downtown. 

The CIRD conference provided a forum for local government officials, realtors, local artists, entrepreneurs, and other residents of the community to create and share ideas of what they want for the community, which began with each participant creating a model of their ideal Live Oak with Place It! founder, James Rojas.  Ed Barlow, Vice President of NorthStar Ideas, led discussions on branding Live Oak, and a collaboration between participants and local artists in creating logos for Live Oak.  Kennedy Smith, Co-Founder of the Community Land Use and Economics Group, and one of the nation's foremost experts on commercial district development, spoke on Live Oak’s potential for revitalizing their Main Street.  Rick Hall, President of Hall Planning & Engineering, Inc, guided a walking tour of the town, illustrating how its streets can become more connected and walkable.  

The workshop was interactive and creative, but also focused on concrete issues facing the community—from improving their parking, to developing their marketing strategy. Participants stated that the most valuable part of the workshop was "learning about successful strategies used in other small towns through discussions with the speakers," while also "learning of local resources that will help make Live Oak what it wants to be."

On the workshop's final day, the logos, and lists of ideas and plans created at the workshop were unveiled to the community at Live Oak's beautiful Heritage Park and Gardens, where more people joined in on adding to Live Oak's model of its downtown, and map of the town's streets.  Therefore, the ending of the workshop, was also a kick-off to continue the great work that commenced there, inviting other community members to join in.  A presentation was later made at an Advent Christian Village in Dowling Park, where the artists’ logos and the hands-on model of downtown were utilized. There will also be a presentation for the County Government during a graduate class at the University of Florida.  

Since Live Oak's workshop, its Community Redevelopment Agency board has approved conceptual designs for downtown housing, along with a façade grant program, and finalizations for the town's Heritage Trail.  Rick Hall also returned for an additional workshop for the CRA board.  The National Association of Realtors® awarded Live Oak with a $15,000 Smart Growth Grant to help fund the workshop and its outcomes.  An overview of the workshop has been submitted to the IFAS Cooperative Extension, which can be viewed here at the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP).