Continued revitalization efforts in Palatka earned the city an award from the Studer Community Institute.
The city and 1 Putnam received a Community Resiliency Award during the 2020 EntreCon business and leadership conference recently for engaging residents in revitalizing downtown.
SCI founder Quint Studer is the Pensacola businessman 1 Putnam hired to guide revitalization efforts. Prior to the conference, Studer asked cities to share steps they are taking to get stronger and more vibrant.
Palatka was highlighted for 1 Putnam’s 2019 community feedback contest, which asked residents for their ideas on what is needed to improve downtown Palatka. A $1,000 prize was offered and 1 Putnam received over 300 responses, with survey results used for a strategic plan.
“Palatka was looking not just for ideas, but also engagement and creativity,” Studer said. “They came up with a good way to maximize response.
“The ideas were incredibly clever and tied to the community’s identity in a far better way than any outside planner could do. And there’s been great ongoing enthusiasm.”
Cathleen Holzknecht of 1 Putnam said the contest was exciting for the community.
“We were amazed by how good the ideas were and by the number of people who participated,” Holzknecht said. “We’ve incorporated a lot of the ideas into our planning. Our community is blessed with so many engaged citizens.”
Criteria for the award centered on ideas and best practices that would be easy to replicate. Other winning communities included Columbia, Mississippi; Elkins, West Virginia; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Martin County in Florida; Chillicothe, Ohio; Springfield, Ohio; and Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Studer said he wants to share best practices and ideas that other communities can learn from and was grateful for Palatka’s participation.
“While it’s the big glamorous projects that usually get the most attention, I’m more impressed by the small but impactful things communities do to move toward vibrancy,” Studer said. “These are the kinds of things that are doable and sustainable.”
Studer helped revitalize Pensacola and he still believes Palatka can become a vibrant town as it looks to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic that stalled revitalization efforts and a number of downtown projects.
Earlier this year, Studer said Palatka still has benefits to attract new businesses and residents, including its affordability compared to other areas.
“The question has always been how to create vibrancy,” Studer said. “Now the question is how is this obstacle an opportunity.”
Copyright 2020 by Palatka Daily News - all rights reserved.