Community Character Code

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” ― Alan Lakein


Communities, especially those struggling with blight, may lack an identity and are frozen. These are the places that are unable to visualize the possibilities of their community let alone a future beyond tomorrow. These are places that are stuck.

However, in everyone of these places, there are individuals that that have hope. These are the residents that remember the energy of the past, or have moved to this location because they see potential in the future. Frankly speaking, sometimes communities need a pep talk and swift kick.

The small community of Rio is located in the heart of Martin County, waterfront, and home to a mix of uses. The community peaked sometime in the 1970's when seasonal residents flocked to the motor lodges and mobile home parks for the winter. Since then, the snowbirds located elsewhere, and property neglect set in. As a result, the community was designated as a Community Redevelopment Area.

The Rio Community Redevelopment Plan was developed to outline several over arching goals related to the creation of a vibrant, livable community with a strong sense of place. This includes an emphasis on local placemaking and image creation with an emphasis on quality of life and sense of neighborhood along the central CR-707 corridor.


A core group of passionate residents in the community organized to advance the redevelopment of Rio. They all agreed that they struggled with the image of their community. They could lacked the visuals to show what could be possible and what they would like to see in their community. The residents of Rio petitioned Community Development staff for assistance in establishing a plan that would build on improvements within the entire CR-707 corridor.

The community needed help in placemaking. Through a series of public workshops with the assistance of a professional Illustrator, residents were able to brainstorm depictions of Rio’s heritage, formulated themes, drafted accompanying visuals, and set out locations for an array of elements to be interspersed throughout the corridor.

This public engagement process was not focused on technical master plans or allocations of uses, it was about developing a public identity. Residents were provided a images to evaluate and discuss, and throughout the process additional images were provided to hone in on the character. Sketch plans were then prepared and mocked up so that illustrations could be prepared. Placemaking plan is not about a specific building or site. These illustrations captured the essence of the community as a whole.


The illistrations synthesized the feedback and community input. These images were memoralized into the Rio Creative Placemaking Plan component proposed for official adoption into the Rio Redevelopment Plan. This plan, and illistrations are currently being used to support several Arts and Public Places projects, influencing Martin County Capital Improvement Projects, and inspiring private investment.

Rio Porches Path

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