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Ormond Beach Observer Saturday, May 18, 2019 2 months ago

Plan for downtown enters final stage

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Improvement ideas will be covered in August workshops.
by: Wayne Grant Real Estate Editor

After months of brainstorming, the Downtown Steering Committee has started to formulate action items for the update of the Downtown Master Plan, last revised in 2006.

There was a lot of energy from the steering committee and very good public participation, according to Peter Sechler, of GAI Consultants of Orlando, the firm hired to lead the effort. There were 353 respondents to the online survey, with 88% saying they were fulltime residents and 90% with the same zipcode as downtown.

Sechler is now set to prepare a proposal to be reviewed by the committee and City Commission in workshops this August. A final plan will be voted on by the commission in public hearings.

The Master Plan considers downtown as three different areas: the beachside, called the Ocean District; Granada Boulevard near Beach Street, called the River District; and the stretch between U.S. 1 and Orchard Street, called the Creek District. An idea coming out of the meetings is to have a “connected community” where each district allows people to circulate after parking.

“No one is going to eat at Lulu’s and then walk to U.S. 1 for an ice cream,” Sechler said at a May 15 meeting to get public input. “The distance is too far.”

 

FESTIVALS AND RETAIL

 

Sechler presented a new topic, environmental sustainability, which has to do with sea level rise and storm resilience, a subject that becomes apparent each hurricane season. He said Volusia County has such a plan, and the city should deal with the issue in the Downtown Master Plan.

Other ideas brought up by the committee and the public included more festivals and utilizing the four corners of the Granada Bridge with outdoor recreation opportunities.

To create a sense of place and retain the city’s charm, ideas include painting and lighting Granada Bridge, public art, more outdoor spaces and trails.

For economic development, members said there should be more variety of retail and investment into the private sector. Committee members saw a need for mixed-use of retail and residential to attract millennials to the downtown. Some said the growth of retail and residential areas should be equally treated, so there is no fighting between the two.

Closed businesses and vacant lots are also a concern. Sechler called these “missing teeth” which should be filled.

Some say online retailing hurts brick and mortar buildings, but Secler said it should not be a factor for a downtown, because that’s where people can get “experience-based” retail.

Attracting Lucky’s market showed the city has good momentum, he said. It’s a good indication the city could attract other known brands.

 

GRANADA OUT OF BALANCE?

 

Sechler said 50% of the conversation involved transportation and being able to circulate, which includes walkability, parking and better signage.

“People focused on the speed and behavior on Granada Boulevard.”

PETER SECHLER, consultant for Downtown Master Plan

“People focused on the speed and behavior on Granada Boulevard,” he said.

While the roadway is an important evacuation route and thoroughfare, he said it can be a barrier to people getting around the town. it’s “out of balance’ between traffic and pedestrians.

There was an interest in having a museum corridor, connecting the various historic sites and developing the MacDonald House into an interactive museum.

A civic and cultural center was high on the list, with the proposal of utilizing Riverside Church on North Beach Street, which was recently purchased by the city. 

Sometimes there is talk of new development in place of the Ormond Beach Regional Library, but survey respondents said they like it where it is, providing a quaint, small-town feeling.

Other desired features include a branding for the city, improved biking and walking opportunities, incentives for green buildings and an urban tree canopy.

The downtown, Granada Boulevard from the ocean to Orchard Avenue, is a Community Redevelopment Area. In a CRA, part of the money collected from property taxes goes to a fund for improvements in the area. The county must approve all CRAs and the downtown CRA sunsets in 2036.

In past years, improvements made in the downtown included landscaped medians, underground utilities and improvement grants which resulted in several buildings being remodeled, such as the former HUD building at the corner of West Granada Boulevard and South Washington Street, now a gift shop.

City Manager Joyce Shanahan said the city follows the downtown plan.

“It’s been wildly successful,” she said.

 

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