By Alisha McDarris
RIO -- The Rio Neighborhood Advisory Committee is down but not out after last week's county commission meeting that squelched their plans for community redevelopment.
The group of residents whose job is to advocate for the community outlined a Creative Placemaking Plan for the Community Redevelopment Agency. Their purpose is to promote a distinctive community identity and vibrant local economy by financing redevelopment within focused areas. Those areas are typically ones that require revitalization.
That's exactly what the NAC aims to do with their plan and has for years: to help create a clear identity for Rio and an understanding of what the town is trying to achieve and represent. The group is responsible for several beautification projects in the city like the welcome sign at the western entrance to the town.
The plan included improvements like artistic benches, bus shelter designs and roadway and sidewalk beautification to revamp the area.
Jim LoPilato, once the chairman and now a member of the NAC, cited Downtown Stuart and even Port Salerno as communities that had been successfully redeveloped thanks to similar plans.
"Over the last 50 years Rio has become nondescript," said Susanne LoPilato, a concerned member of the community and Mr. LoPilato's wife. "We're trying to revitalize the community."
The plan also includes a blueprint for how they want the community to progress regarding business development and architecture.
Mr. LoPilato said they are simply trying to make Rio the desirable place it once was. They want to bring businesses back into town to help make it a thriving community.
Mrs. LoPilato bemoaned the fact that there isn't even a place for her to sit down and get a cup of coffee or a meal in her town and would like to see restaurants return to the area.
But all of the plans the NAC proposed to the CRA and county commissioners required funding that they were not inclined to provide.
"Last night was extremely disappointing," Mrs. LoPilato said. "They essentially told us we weren't a priority."
"They were very open to the concept but didn't want to be obligated to fund it," Mr. LoPilato said.
He said he went into the meeting with high hopes, believing that since the CRA wanted the community's input that they'd be receptive to ideas, but he's not completely discouraged.
"I'm confident we can work our way through it," Mr. LoPilato said.
The next step for the NAC is to rework their plan to fit into the CRA's parameters. They will attempt to procure private funding and volunteers to see the projects that they believe are vital to the success of the community completed.