From the beachside to the west side, new homes and businesses will continue to sprout throughout the city in 2019.
DAYTONA BEACH — While much of what 2019 will bring is a mystery one week into the new year, one thing is certain: a flurry of development and new rules aimed at improving the city are coming in the months ahead.
The bulk of new businesses, houses and apartment complexes will be concentrated on the west side of Daytona Beach. But the beachside will see a few oceanfront hotels under construction and firmed up plans for the desperately needed overhaul of East International Speedway Boulevard.
Downtown, which is poised for a burst of change, will start with construction of the 11-story Brown & Brown Inc. office tower overlooking the Halifax River as well as the likely $15 million makeover of Riverfront Park.
The city is also scheduled to finally complete construction of the new First Step homeless shelter west of Interstate 95.
With a dizzying list of what’s about to get under construction or open for business, here are some summaries of the larger projects.
Brown & Brown Building: The insurance firm is outgrowing the office building it leases on Ridgewood Avenue, so the company is constructing a new national headquarters on Beach Street with plenty of elbow room. The 220,000-square-foot building will have space for about 1,000 employees.
The $40 million structure will be built on the south end of the property, leaving space for possible future expansion. The general contractor and contractor for all site work should be in place this month, said David Lotz, Brown & Brown’s chief corporate counsel.
Site work could start next month, Lotz said. Brown & Brown bought up some houses near the site, some of which have already been demolished and some which will come down in the next 30-45 days, Lotz said.
The goal is to open the new building by late fall of 2020.
Riverfront Park: In the next month or two, city commissioners will decide whether to accept the offer from Cici and Hyatt Brown to pay for and oversee a $15 million makeover of Riverfront Park. In return, the Browns are asking the city to commit to spending up to $800,000 per year to maintain, irrigate and secure all the new things that would be in the 22.5-acre park that runs along the Halifax River from Orange Avenue to Main Street. City Island would not be included.
Those improvements could include new flower beds that would be switched out every few months, about 50 new trees including large live oaks and magnolias, a splash pad, a running path with a soft surface and two new restroom buildings.
The $800,000 per year the Browns are suggesting be reimbursed for maintenance costs once the park is overhauled is on par with the $35,000 per acre spent on a Tallahassee park of similar size, said Hyatt Brown, chairman of Brown & Brown Inc.
If city commissioners approve the plan and a lease agreement with a non-profit foundation the Browns have formed, public meetings will be held to allow people to weigh in before final design plans are adopted.
If the park remake is approved, the city-owned land will be fenced for construction starting in June or July, Brown said. The revamped park would probably reopen by late summer 2020, he said.
It’s part of a larger plan to entice people to visit the downtown more and live there. Brown said one of the architects he would use on the park project designed Lake Eola Park. That 20-acre Orlando park helped drive out crime and pulled in thousands of new downtown residents, he said.
“If you’re really going to energize downtown, you’re going to need to spend some money,” Brown said. He said an “economic renaissance” is within reach.
Beach Street Redesign: The $2.5 million project runs from Orange Avenue to Bay Street, and involves reduction of driving lanes from four to two and parking space changes. Construction should start this summer.
Tomoka Town Center: The sprawling new shopping/dining/living complex at Williamson and LPGA boulevards that includes Tanger Outlets Mall continues to expand. On the north end of the property, a Sam’s Wholesale is under construction, and on the eastern side of the site new apartments are going up along with new restaurants and stores.
One Daytona: A hotel across from Bass Pro Shops is under construction at the mixed-use development, as are apartments being built on the east end of the site bordered by International Speedway and Bill France boulevards. New restaurants and shops are also still filling in the open spots of the upscale complex that includes everything from a Lilly Pulitzer shop to a P.F. Chang’s to a luxury movie theater.
First Step Shelter: About five miles west of I-95, the city is building a 100-bed shelter for homeless adults. More than one year after the groundbreaking ceremony for First Step Shelter, underground utility and building foundation work are nearing completion. First Step Shelter Executive Director Mark Geallis said he was told vertical construction could start this month. But the city has still not given the official notice to proceed.
When Geallis went to the shelter site late last week, he said he “did not see any workers or new construction underway.” The only things built above ground level so far are a structure for a monument sign at the entrance of the property and an enclosure for a dumpster, he said.
APM Construction Corp. of New Smyrna Beach is building the 15,000-square-foot First Step Shelter for $4.3 million. That’s on top of the $1.6 million to complete the site work.
The goal is to have the one-story shelter open by this fall, Geallis said.
“I’m still hopeful it’ll open by then,” Geallis said.
The contract the city has with APM Construction calls for the building to be complete by August. If APM misses the substantial completion deadline in July, the company could be fined up to $3,000 per day. If APM misses the final completion deadline in August mandated by the contract, more fines of up to $1,500 per day could be imposed.
City spokeswoman Susan Cerbone said “site work continues. Lime rock base and crushed concrete for parking and roadways has been installed. Eastbound and westbound turning lanes are completed along West International Speedway Boulevard. Landscape sod has been placed around retention areas.”
Once building construction is complete, and furniture and equipment are purchased and ready to be delivered, Geallis estimates he’ll need about 30-45 days to be ready for the clients who will be offered an array of help.
For now, Geallis is spending some of his time fundraising to ensure shelter operating costs will be covered. He picked up $14,598 in donations from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, partly through 10,000 fundraising letters sent out the week before Christmas.
He said he’s also doing online fundraising and developing an effort dubbed “Change for Change.” The idea is for people to donate to the shelter the change they would be owed while buying something at local businesses.
Homeless Safe Zone: A few years ago, the city designated some vacant land it owns on the southwest corner of Clyde Morris Boulevard and Bellevue Avenue as a “safe zone” for homeless people. The property is still available for the unsheltered who need a place they can legally be from sunset to sunrise.
But some local leaders want to put the safe zone in another location. Police Chief Craig Capri said some of the homeless are drifting onto airport property, and he has received complaints from people who pass by as well as those who live nearby or have businesses in the area. The chief also said it’s not safe for the homeless to be on the edge of a busy road.
“We need it more off the beaten path,” Capri said. “I told (the city manager) we’ll have to find another location.”
The site will remain a homeless safe zone for now, and if there’s another cold snap, Capri said, “we’ll have to be flexible” and consider allowing tents at night. But the chief said he doesn’t want the 24-7 tent city that popped up on the property a year ago and devolved into a trash-strewn nuisance. He said the larger concentration of people last winter also led to fights and drinking, and the spectacle drew well-meaning people constantly dropping off food, some of which went bad.
The purpose is to provide a place to sleep, not hang out, he said. He’d like city leaders to take a close look at relocating the safe zone to the city-owned property where First Step Shelter is being built after construction is complete.
“Services will be right there,” Capri said.
But not everyone thinks that’s the solution.
“I have a lot of concerns about having the safe zone there,” Geallis said.
Capri said the shelter site is just one idea, and he’s open to other options.
“I want to find some place fair to everyone involved,” the chief said.
Panhandling Rules: City commissioners will make a decision next month on whether to enact strict new panhandling regulations. Last month, city commissioners heard hours of testimony from local residents, business owners and police who have had run-ins with panhandlers. They’ll hear more of those stories at a special meeting Jan. 16.
With the unwanted begging mushrooming in the city over the past few years, commissioners are considering a new set of panhandling rules they’ll vote on at their Jan. 23 and Feb. 6 meetings.
The proposed regulations call for a ban that would extend within 20 feet of an entrance or exit of commercially zoned property; a bus stop or public transportation facility; an automated teller machine; parking lots and garages; parking meters; parking pay stations; and any public restroom owned and operated by a governmental agency.
Additional panhandling bans would be on the Boardwalk, within 150 feet of any signalized intersection, and within 100 feet in any direction of any daycare center or school including pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
A proposed measure also lays out panhandling behavior that won’t be tolerated. The list includes approaching people in vehicles to aggressively beg; soliciting people at outdoor dining and merchandise areas; soliciting people when they’re standing in line waiting to enter a business; touching a target of panhandling without the person’s consent; and using profane or abusive language.
There are also proposed prohibitions on panhandling after dark and while a beggar is under the influence of alcohol or illegally used drugs. Panhandling so severe that it crosses the line into what the city deems aggressive panhandling would be illegal citywide under the measure.
Capri said he’s already noticing a drop in the number of panhandlers in the city. He theorizes that they’ve heard there could be new rules and moved on to places that will offer less resistance. They’re not all homeless, and some have cars and can easily panhandle in nearby cities, Capri said.