Major step in revitalizing downtown Williston completed

The City of Williston’s Community Redevelopment Agency has finished a major phase in plans for downtown revitalization. Part of the phase included giving the participating businesses on Main Street a facelift.

WILLISTON — The City of Williston’s Community Redevelopment Agency has completed a major phase in plans for downtown revitalization. This phase included renovating a city-owned “arcade” or walkway from Main Street to the back of the businesses, creating a community park off of NE First Avenue, and giving the participating businesses on Main Street a facelift.

The CRA contracted Gainesville-based Walker Architects to design the elements to be both modern and a nod to the historical architecture of the area. Oelrich Construction Inc., out of Jonesville, worked with Walker Architects to conduct the site work. Delays caused by COVID-19 and price increases due to supply chain problems were no problem for these professionals as the project still came in within budget ($740,069) and on time (December completion).

The arcade was revitalized with new metal tile ceilings that mirrored the original ceiling, lighting and a mural created by Christian Stanley of C. Stanley Creative from Orlando. Mr. Stanley has created murals for Chicago, Las Vegas and local cities including Inverness and Lakeland. The mural brought local elements together including Williston’s traditional crops, spring diving, equestrian sports and cattle raising.

“The historic arcade, which was once a walkway to a movie theater, will serve as a gateway from the new parking lot to the businesses on Main Street,” Nick Williams, CRA Chair, said of the arcade. “We hope that this revitalization project in the heart of Williston will provide a more welcoming environment that will attract new businesses and shoppers.”

The walls of the new “Firemen’s Park” are remnants of a historic fire station and Coca-Cola bottling plant. Fireman’s Park replaced a blighted building and is now a beautiful area to relax while waiting to meet up with friends or having a coffee and is a great central location for future events. The façade of the businesses on Main Street were repainted in the color the building had in the 1930s and the old awning was replaced.

About the CRA

The CRA was established by the City of Williston on March 16, 1999. The goal of CRA is to: “revitalize business and residential sections within the downtown area. By suggesting improvements intended to preserve and enhance downtown Williston, the CRA envisions a town that is visually attractive and welcoming to visitors and those who live in the surrounding countryside. The CRA plan is designed to help ensure the safety and enjoyment of all pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists, while at the same time maintaining a town of diversity and interest. Williston will be appealing for its services, as well as cultural, educational and health facilities, maintaining what is best about our town, physically and spiritually.”

“It has taken many years for the CRA to reach the stage where major blight in the center of our downtown could be remedied in such a positive and creative way,” Williams said. “This is the agency’s largest project to date. Before renovation work could begin, key initial steps involved the purchase of vacant properties as well as the demolition of buildings that had been sitting unused and in a state of decay for well over half a century.”

The CRA is funded by Tax Increment Financing, known as “TIF” funds. TIF funds are a commitment from the county and city to invest in redevelopment.

The CRA will begin construction of the new parking lot on the block in early 2023.

A ribbon cutting event will be held Feb. 9 at noon at the Firemen’s Park, 35 NE First Ave., Williston, Florida.

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