Vero Beach Cultural Arts Village will be transformative Reply

COMMENTARY

BARBARA HOFFMAN

How would you like to live in a home in a creative community where neighbors can live, work and sell their creations right from their homes? A community that appreciates and supports arts and culture? An established neighborhood – with small homes, large lots and tree canopied streets? A place where visitors will come to visit the shops and participate in the events?  

The Edgewood neighborhood residents and a Leadership Team under the Cultural Council of Indian River County have been developing the plans for the Cultural Arts Village. Located south of Route 60 between 14th and 20th Avenues, the Cultural Arts Village will complement the Downtown Arts District.

Starting with a design workshop held in September 2015 involving over 400 people; residents, architects, community leaders, historic preservationists, urban planners and city staff, putting their heads together to imagine what the Village could be.

The Vero Beach Cultural Arts Village in the Edgewood neighborhood is a place where artisans will live and work in their homes, murals will adorn buildings, and a sculpture garden, water wall and performance plaza will become focal points of the neighborhood.   Bicycle paths and trails, a shaded tree canopy along the main corridor, street lights brightening the neighborhood and street signs with original street names will maintain Edgewood’s neighborhood character and attract creative residents.

Exploring neighborhoods desirable for an arts village, The Edgewood neighborhood seemed perfect. Its traditional designed houses, homes once occupied by pioneer families and teachers from the old high school, wide boulevards, alleyways, large and small lots, beautiful tree canopies, and located next to the Arts District, all met the vision of our arts village.

No dramatic physical changes were envisioned for the neighborhood. Think retrofitting rather than redevelopment, with a view to restoring and maintaining the neighborhood character: preserving structures, street layouts and motifs that are important parts of this area’s sense of place.

Half of the Edgewood housing stock was built before 1949 in several architectural styles, with many worth preserving. The Cultural Arts Village will be a vehicle to make this happen.

Goals expressed in the report were designed to maintain the Edgewood’s neighborhood character and attract creative residents with the theme of Neighborhood First:

  • Enhance and preserve the quality of life
  • Beautify neighborhood by improving the streetscape, planting trees, preserving tree canopies
  • Strategically place murals, sculptures, green walls and gardens
  • Make the neighborhood safer and more family friendly by adding new street lights, street signs, bike paths, performance stage and mini parks
  • Preserve and adapt historic residences
  • Foster community communications and connections

The quality of the plan produced by the design team and urban designers from the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council is a plus for the arts village concept. It details attractive ideas for murals, signage, public performance areas and historically evocative building types in the Edgewood neighborhood. The plan, adopted by the Vero Beach City Council directed staff to work with the Cultural Council on the plan.

Imagine residents living, working and selling out of their homes, with studios, galleries, B&B’s and cafes nearby. A neighborhood where artists, creative professionals and residents can live and work…a place to enjoy festivals, fairs, galleries, performances and more…a place where people will want to visit.

Working closely with the Vero Beach Planning Department zoning changes have been developed to protect and preserve the character of the neighborhood and which allow artists to live, work, and sell from their homes. There will be no change in density and building heights will be kept at 2 stories. Some tweaking of the zoning may be needed to permit uses like artists working and selling in their homes or lodgings such as B&B’s. In the core of the Village zoning will preserve and enhance the quality of life, and the outer edges of the Village will allow for light commercial such as ice cream shops, coffee houses, drug stores, small fresh markets in addition to art studios, galleries, and information centers.

Building a neighborhood and sense of community continues with clean-up neighborhood and landscape weekends planned starting in October including street cleanup and plant workshops.  Progressive gratitude parties will be ongoing and the neighborhood watch program continues to work on safety and code issues.

Colorful murals and street art are being placed throughout the Village on walls, fences, and open spaces. Murals painted by high school students from Vero Beach High School, St. Edwards School and Indian River Charter High School will adorn the many fences and professional artists are preparing several walls for painting murals.  Sculptures are being considered for open spaces.

A full street tree canopy on 19th Street from 14th to 20th Avenue has been designed and trees will be planted throughout the next several months. Street lighting plans have added significant numbers of lights to the neighborhood and will be installed and new street signs that include the original name of the street will be installed.
An outdoor performance plaza in partnership with the Indian River School District is being designed to include a semi-permanent stage, stage shade structure, paving, with a green wall, and water wall being considered.

Pocket parks, street furniture and sculptures will accent the neighborhood.

If you live or own property in Vero’s Edgewood neighborhood, you are already in the right place. This neighborhood looks forward to welcoming new neighbors and visitors to the Cultural Arts Village

Editor’s note: Barbara Hoffman is Director of the Cultural Council of Indian River County.

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