Most of you who read my columns are aware of my efforts through a program called Neighborhood Leaders and the Corridor of the Year Contest. On Saturday, November 4th, a team of judges will canvas the four member-selected finalist corridors: Apopka Boulevard, Clarcona-Ocoee Road, Eden Park Road, and Votaw Road.
My effort has enlisted the engagement of the entire community. The clean-ups are only one part of the total vision. A total area makeover involves homeowner engagement, neighborhood improvements, private business investment, and municipal infrastructure improvements. Collaboratively, we have developed a vision for each of the areas.
Apopka Boulevard, while one of the oldest roadways in northwest Orange County, is a gateway to downtown Apopka. Did you know that downtown Apopka has the lowest median household income of any area in Apopka? Folks wonder why more businesses are not located in the City Center. This is why - the low incomes and blighted conditions. This is the basis for me being such a strong advocate for the success of the Apopka CRA.
So, the value of cleaning up Apopka Boulevard as a gateway to Downtown Apopka should result in more private sector investment. We must attack the speeding and lack of contiguous sidewalks, which are barriers to more pedestrian activity. More pedestrian activity will reduce the crime and visibility of the homeless population. On a positive note, a few years back, the county-sponsored new LED street lighting. Additionally, I would love to see the city erect a monument, add irrigation, and install landscaping at the northeast corner of Sheeler and Apopka Blvd. If we want more upscale establishments to choose to be located in the City Center, we reinvigorate gateways that are clean and inviting. The Southern Apopka Team has made a tremendous difference on the Apopka Blvd corridor.
The Clarcona-Ocoee Road Team has made great strides in increasing neighborhood engagement, improving the quality of the HOAs, advocating for quality new development, and requesting improved city and county infrastructure. I advocated for a traffic study, special appropriations for pedestrian safety and speed reduction, and for the state to complete the Coast-2-Coast Trail gap located along the corridor.
Once the trail is constructed, the plan is to apply for several AARP grants for erecting exercise equipment and public art. Once the transportation appropriation funding is received from the state, chicanes, roundabouts, and “suicide” lane removal and replacement with landscaping beds will be completed. I have a five-improvement plan for all these improvements to become a reality. The work takes diligence and tenacity. I’m pleased the Clarcona-Ocoee Team has come together and is working collaboratively alongside of me.
Eden Park Road Lockhart desires to create a downtown mixed-use district on Edgewater Drive. Thus, cleaning up all their gateways to Edgewater Drive has been necessary. Thus far, the Lockhart Team has cleaned up Magnolia Homes, West Beggs, and Eden Park Road. Trees have been trimmed, entranceways pressure-washed, and beds re-landscaped. Bob & Carol Tanner, however, have worked their hearts out on the roadway. The team has expressed a desire to select Rose Avenue as their entry for 2024. In the total picture, the Lockhart Team has been a smashing success.
Votaw Road was a tremendous challenge for the People of Wekiwa Springs. This team won the inaugural year of the COY contest with Wekiwa Springs Road and the recruitment of Sprouts and improvements to the CVS. However, Votaw Road has a different, more rural feel than Wekiwa Springs Road. Nevertheless, the Wekiwa Springs Team has focused on HOA entranceways, pressure-washing sidewalks, and tree trimming. Additionally, the team sponsored painting a mural on a blighted gas station and creating a pop-up park area at Thompson and Votaw roads to host their inaugural Easter Egg Hunt. Moving forward, the ultimate goal for Team Wekiwa Springs is to create a suburban “center” at Thompson and Votaw roads. I’m working with the Orange County Planning Department to unveil some concepts this spring.
I hope you follow me on Facebook to see which team attains a first place in the Corridor of the Year Contest. No matter who wins, the amount of work done makes every corridor a winner!