Businessman would like a more walkable area.
Where else can you buy a coffee, submarine sandwich or ice cream and then have a quick walk to the beach, other than at the Granada beach approach? At least part of the trip is always quick, because you must walk briskly across State Road A1A in the time given by the light.
As you drive through the intersection of A1A and Granada, the ocean beckons, but getting there is not that easy, without driving onto the beach. Granada Plaza, the beach, and a retail area with a public parking lot south of Granada are separated by heavy traffic corridors.
Local businessman Ron DeFilippo has done a lot of thinking about the area. Owner of Lulu’s Oceanside Grill and several buildings in that neighborhood, he said he sees tremendous potential.
His restaurant in Gainseville, the Swamp, has the benefit of 50,000 college kids nearby, and he always thought the beach would provide a similar source of customers.
But while Lulus has built a steadily increasing customer base, it doesn’t see the traffic of the Swamp.
“You should sit in a lawn chair at Granada Plaza and watch,” he said recently. “Visitors get of their car, take a picture of the ocean and then get back in and leave.”
Easier access to the beach and a walkable area would be big steps toward keeping those people in the area, he said.
“You can’t walk across Granada from Halifax Drive to A1A,” he said. “You can’t get across A1A without track shoes.”
DeFilippo would like to see a way for cars to drop people off at the beach with their chair, cooler, book, towel, umbrella and sun tan lotion. His vision would entail a complete redesign of Birthplace of Speed Park with parking and turnaround area.
For getting across A1A, he suggests a tunnel.
He feels strongly enough about his ideas that he’s had them drawn up by architects in a plan called “Bridges to Beaches.”
For financing, he points toward the tax money collected In the Granada Community Redevelopment Area that is used as grants for building improvements.
Walkability is the key, he said, to not only attracting tourists, but also encouraging development of townhouses, high rises or updated housing that would bring in permanent residents.
Another idea for easing the crossing State Road A1A, he said, is to have a traffic cop in a box in the intersection like you see in other countries.
“It would be so unique,” he said.
He said the city should concentrate on the area’s development because the ocean is the big attraction of Florida.
“People are like lemmings,” he said. “They always rush down to the sea. That’s why we came to Florida.”
He also owns the Gaslamp Shoppes on Granada, just west of Halifax Drive. He sees that area as a potential place for welcoming people as they come off the bridge. His idea involves moving the two-story building that houses the Historical Society to the back of the lot, making room for a welcome area.
Mainstreet director says things are happening
Julia Truilo, executive director of Ormond MainStreet, agrees the area has a lot of potential and points out one project this year that will make a difference. The median on East Granada will be landscaped in the same manner of West Granada, making the street more appealing to residents and visitors.
For the long term, she said Ormond MainStreet and the city want to encourage multiuse developments that would bring in retail as well as more residents. There are closed businesses and unused parcels that provide available space. She said MainStreet is in the planning stages of a campaign to catalog a list of potential sites and market them to developers.
She is encouraged by a national trend where people are moving into urban neighborhoods, even in small towns, for the convenience of walking to shops and restaurants.
The city has taken steps to encourage people to stay in the area and use local businesses. Signs were installed along East Granada Boulevard pointing to a city parking lot and shops. Vining Court was streetscaped about four years ago and more parking was added.
For the tunnel idea, Truilo said a study a few years ago determined it was physically impossible, due to slope, available footage, etc.
For walkability, she said the timing of the light at A1A could be examined, as well as the speed of traffic on Granada.
Remodeling Birthplace of Speed Park, while possible, would be difficult.
“It would take a lot of political will to make that happen,” she said.
But she said people should make suggestions and get involved.
“Changes can happen if people are willing to put their ideas out there,” she said.