Live Oak, FL
November 14-16, 2013
Local Coordinating Organization: Live Oak Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)
Workshop Challenge: The CIRD workshop convened local government officials, realtors, local artists, entrepreneurs, and residents to share ideas in order to develop a vision for rebuilding Live Oak’s downtown district and public spaces which were devastated by Hurricane Debby in 2010. The goal was to rebuild a more walkable, sustainable, and vibrant downtown.
Workshop Outcome: The CIRD workshop 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. 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 in evaluations 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.” The CIRD workshop effectively mobilized different groups towards a common purpose and vision by engaging the artist community, the Live Oak Artists Guild, small business owners, key decision makers, such as the director of the Live Oak Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), and the community at large.
Post-Workshop Accomplishments: 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. Existing and new businesses alike have benefited from Façade Improvement Grants, managed by the Live Oak CRA and funded through City and County Tax Incremental Financing (TIF). These grants, at a maximum of $8,500 each, have been put to good use, fixing windows and doors and adding improved signage, awnings, and landscaping to the ever-increasing number of downtown businesses.The Live Oak CRA was able to make targeted investments in green space, programming and pedestrian infrastructure, with the knowledge and reassurance of community backing and stewardship. Since the workshop three new restaurants have opened downtown as well as several new service business: a computer repair shop, a dentist’s office, a realty firm, and a social service organization. The Live Oak CRA has also invested over $320,000in improving the pedestrian infrastructure around Heritage Park along Helvenston Street. New sidewalks, fencing, pedestrian crosswalks, and signage were installed.