BY KEVIN D. THOMPSON | PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER | OCTOBER 23, 2018
LAKE WORTH — After 18 months, Lake Worth, the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County on Tuesday morning finally announced the launch of the Arts and Cultural master plan for downtown Lake Worth, an initiative the city hopes will be key for economic development.
“The plan is not about changing our culture, but rather about embracing it,” Mayor Pam Triolo said at a news conference at the Cultural Council’s office on Lake Avenue. “We’re going to use it as a force for the economic development of the entire city. It will enhance our downtown vibrancy while improving everyone’s access to art and culture downtown. Lake Worth will be a place where emerging and established artists live, work, exhibit and sell their art in galleries and even on street corners.”
The master plan focuses on five priorities: maintaining and promoting Lake Worth’s unique character, retaining and enhancing the downtown vibrancy 24/7; encouraging greater arts and culture engagement and collaboration; improving access to arts and culture within downtown and strengthening public support.
William Waters, the city’s director of community sustainability, said there will be some announcements in upcoming months about significant investments and changes downtown.
“There are a lot of interested parties thinking of investing in Lake Worth,” Waters said. “There should be some announcements by the end of the year on some exciting projects downtown.”
Changing downtown has been a discussion that’s been raging for months — what should downtown Lake Worth look like as a number of businesses are either closing or moving?
Consider these recent developments:
- Kilwins, the downtown Lake Worth chocolate shop, closed because of high rents.
- Starbucks recently moved to North Dixie Highway.
- Studio 205, the gift and novelty shop off Lake Avenue, moved because of a rent increase by Peters Development.
- Blue Front closed July 4 and became a catering business.
- Saito’s Restaurant shut its doors in the summer.
- Callaro’s Steak House was sold for $1.4 million and shut down, but is expected to reopen with new owners in the fall.
Dave Lawrence, the Cultural Council’s president and CEO, believes the new plan can help.
“I think a plan like this helps to enhance the downtown vibrancy,” he said. “The beautification efforts keep streets more lively in the evening with gallery openings and performances throughout the community, so a cultural plan can help address some of those very issues.”
In 2015, the Cultural Council was awarded a $165,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties to establish a cultural district to support local talent and to promote Lake Worth as a destination for arts-related businesses, arts and cultural center and education at arts related institutions.
“Just creating a cultural district wasn’t going far enough,” Lawrence said. “How can we assist our partners in Lake Worth in creating a sustainable and vibrant cultural community ... enhance the city’s vibrancy and quality of life, engage residents, artists and business leaders in a plan to attract visitors and new residents through quality programs and experiences?”
In January 2016, Lake Worth, the CRA and the Cultural Council began working on a master plan for downtown that included surveys, workshops and focus groups.
“It’s been a very collaborative and supportive effort among three entities that have not always worked together,” Waters said.
On Nov. 29 through Dec. 1, the city will introduce FOCUS, a celebration of art, music and design. The event starts with mural paintings by more than a dozen local artists on 10 different properties throughout downtown and west of Lake Worth. It also will include a city design competition and arts-related activities downtown. The event ends with the Lake Worth’s annual holiday tree lighting and artist market.
“Culturally plannings can be such a wonderful tool to bring the community together,” Lawrence said. “It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity for the city of Lake Worth and its residents to celebrate the authenticity of the arts that already exists and to build it up further.”
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