Volusia beachside redevelopment committee brainstorming priorities

By Eileen Zaffiro-Kean

The Beachside Redevelopment Committee, formed by the county in June to come up with suggestions to turn around the beachside from Ormond Beach down to Daytona Beach Shores, is starting to zero in on what its recommendations will be.

DAYTONA BEACH — John Albright, president and CEO of Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co., threw out an audacious idea at Monday night’s monthly meeting of the Beachside Redevelopment Committee.

“I think a bold move would be to shut down Main Street and make it pedestrian only,” suggested Albright, who serves as vice chair of the temporary committee.

Speaking three days before tens of thousands of motorcycles will roar onto Main Street for this weekend’s Biketoberfest, Albright offered the idea as a way to help jump-start retail on the corridor that for decades has struggled to attract customers when the out-of-town bikers aren’t around.

Fellow committee member Paul Zimmerman, who has lived on Daytona Beach’s oceanfront most of his life, is open to the idea of banning cars from the road that connects the Halifax River to the ocean. He also wants to take a hard look at the rules that surround Main Street’s two big biker parties, including parameters for itinerant vendors. He suspects the raucous Bike Week and Biketoberfest are directly related to stable homeowners moving off the beachside many years ago.

“How would you feel if your neighborhood was like a fairground?” Zimmerman asked. “We need to understand why people left there.”

The Beachside Redevelopment Committee, formed by the county in June to come up with suggestions to turn around the beachside from Ormond Beach down to Daytona Beach Shores, is starting to zero in on what its recommendations will be. With a goal of coming up with a final list of suggestions by January, the committee will spend the next few months evaluating a draft list of ideas put together by county staff who have been taking notes on committee members’ thoughts during meetings that began this summer.

Preliminary ideas on that list include requesting a baseline or feasibility study, and improving coordination of local governments with the private sector to expand redevelopment opportunities. There are safety improvement ideas including better street lighting, sidewalks and signage.

Other suggestions include coordinating efforts among local governments for the use of federal and state funds, examining successfully redeveloped areas to compare code enforcement practices, focusing on year-round business to attract residents and tourists, and improving the image of Daytona Beach by working with other cities and chambers of commerce.

Still more ideas include pursuing grants for facade and site improvements, and using a dedicated sales tax for infrastructure improvements.

The co-owner of a Pompano Beach planning firm that has helped several downtowns revitalize also jumped in with some suggestions at Monday’s meeting at City Hall.

“Make a place, it doesn’t have to be big, like Main Street, you make it the most drop dead beautiful area, and then the housing around it and business will come,” said Chris Brown, principal with Redevelopment Management Associates. “Do one thing really well. Make it small. Make it digestible. Then it can spread.”

Brown and his company’s director of economic development, Kevin Crowder, were invited by the committee to share their experiences turning around Delray Beach and Miami Beach over the past few decades.

Crowder said in the early 1980s, Miami Beach was one of the poorest, oldest slums in the country. Miami Beach was deteriorating and watching development gravitate to other areas when it was chosen to become Florida’s first community redevelopment area, he said.

Part of the Miami Beach turnaround included a very aggressive homeless outreach program, he said.

Brown said when he started working with Delray Beach in 1991, that city’s struggling downtown had a 50 percent commercial property vacancy rate.

Brown said he started by attracting 25 food and beverage businesses with the logic that those types of businesses would create a destination that would draw people, and eventually other types of businesses.

It worked. The 500,000 square feet of vacant commercial space was filled, and rents soared.

Brown’s company also guided beautification of downtown Delray Beach, buried utility lines and convinced the Florida Department of Transportation to shut down a lane of traffic in Delray’s downtown to create a 12-foot-wide sidewalk and make it a walkable area. A city bond issue paid for infrastructure improvements.

“You have to work block by block,” he said.

Downtown Delray Beach also became a hot spot for street festivals.

“You’ve got to get people downtown by any means necessary,” Crowder said.

“The key to this is how people think and feel about your area,” he said.

Crowder said Daytona Beach could use its strong points like the One Daytona development with its new movie theater, hotels, restaurants and shops — most of which is still under construction — to help weaker areas like the downtown. But a connection has to be made between the two areas, which has not happened, he said.

Albright spoke about the success of Siesta Key, which has short-term rentals in quality homes located in safe areas.

“That’s the opportunity I see for Daytona Beach,” he said.

Albright also talked about the benefit of public art, creatively reusing old buildings, bike paths and riverboat cruises.

Ormond Beach City Commissioner Troy Kent, a committee member, said he had a bad experience with a short-term renter near his home and doesn’t like the idea.

Committee member Charles Lichtigman, a commercial real estate agent with Charles Wayne Properties in Daytona Beach, said the committee will probably need to pare its priority list.

“We can’t be all things to all people,” Lichtigman said. “Maybe we need to narrow the list to do a few things well. If we say we’re going to cover the world, we’re not going to get anything done.”

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