Downtown restoration with clay pavers part of town’s economic recovery plan

There’s a faster way to get to Wauchula and a new downtown once you arrive.

Wauchula, Florida residents will tell you their town along US 17 is the last bastion of sunny South Florida, situated within an hour of Tampa and Orlando and the beaches along the Gulf Coast, not far from Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades beyond. It began in the 1900s with a Southern Railway depot.

These days, city officials are working to reverse declines in the population base and find a way to grow again with new businesses and jobs.

When the state changed US 17 from two lanes to four lanes, straddling Wauchula’s downtown, it had a negative impact on the the business district. But city officials discovered that the state has funding available for beautification projects near relocated state highways, as a tool for economic development.

Rick Schappacher, the engineer for the project, says that the $1.7 million grant provided a way to gut the existing sidewalks from the back of the curb to the buildings on Main Street and add bump outs, landscaping and planters.

Olivia Minshew, the director of community development, says that the idea to use Pine Hall Brick English Edge pavers came about because of an existing fountain that used commemorative engraved pavers sponsored by donors to defray the cost. The new pavers blended well with the old and, once installed, prompted many to take a new look at downtown.

Cleaning up downtown is seen as a key to economic development. A lot of people have spruced up their storefronts and we have added a number of businesses. This has been a tremendous asset to downtown.

—Olivia Minshew

Officials are hoping that some of those new arrivals will decide to stop, look around and stay for awhile. And maybe even start a business.

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