Public shares vision for Mount Dora’s Grandview District

By Roxanne Brown via DailyCommercial.com

MOUNT DORA — Representatives of Redevelopment Management Associates (RMA) out of Pompano Beach hosted a community open house at the Martin Luther King Center in Mount Dora on Thursday to hear from people about what they’d like to see happen to improve the conditions of the Grandview Market District.
The open house was a result of a recommendation from the city’s North East Community Redevelopment Agency (NECRA) board to bring in a group to look into the condition of the district.

About two months ago, the city hired RMA (for just under $25,000) to conduct research. Thursday the public was invited to give their input, share ideas and hear about other areas RMA has seen transformed.

“This is long overdue,” said Councilman Cal Rolfson, whose district (2) includes Grandview. “The majority of racial minorities are here but it’s still a part of the city as a whole and the council needs to make sure it is treated with the same dignity and supported by the same services as any other parts of the city would expect.”

At the meeting, RMA presented an overview of its plan.

On the walls of the center were posters with questions that people could answer anonymously.
The questions were: “What can be preserved that will support investment?; What can be enhanced to encourage education and investment?; What can be exposed and promoted to attract development?; What can be invested in that will improve the area’s competitiveness?; What can be capitalized on to establish the area as a good location for investment?”

“It’s really easy to clean up a blighted area and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” RMA Senior Manager Lynn Dehlinger said during the presentation. “We have to look at it holistically, we need to look at the entire Mount Dora area and we need to connect it.”

The Grandview Market District is about a mile northeast of the Downtown District. Both districts have their its own CRA with Grandview’s being established about 10 years ago.

Dehlinger said ideas to enhance the Grandview district include bringing in the right businesses to enhance the historic buildings and popular culture-rich eateries that exist there, including Sugarboos BBQ and Ivory’s Take-Out Restaurant.

Dehlinger said that one big idea in the works to promote the area is an appeal to celebrity restaurateur Guy Fieri, who visits well-known local eateries around the country for his Food Network show “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.”

She said another idea being considered is a road connecting the downtown and Grandview districts so that people walking the downtown area would have more to see once the area is transformed.
“We just have to give them a reason to walk there,” Dehlinger said.

Ideas people had placed on sticky notes included more community events that embrace the culture of African-American people and those of other races who live or own businesses in the Grandview district, clean-up of the area’s parks and vacant lots, more lighting, help with new business start-ups, the renovation of aging buildings and businesses, the implementation of gathering places to lessen loitering outside businesses, the addition of programs for the area’s children and more.
After all the ideas are gathered and sifted through and research is completed on what has worked in similar areas throughout the nation, a report will be compiled and presented to the NECRA board and to the City Council, Dehlinger said.

Michelle Blanco, a local barber looking to open a community barbershop said she feels inspired by the effort.

“Knowing things are happening to get something done to improve this area might help some of the mentality around here. It might inspire some of the people to move better and strive for something greater,” Blanco said.

Dothan Jackson, who owns the East Town Cue Ball, a business in the Grandview District, said he thinks businesses that can attract people to their side of town is key.

The open house and research, he said, is a start.

“I think it will help. It (the area) needs help. It needs ideas for businesses,” he said.