As the new president of Ormond Beach Mainstreet, Julia Truilo looks to make downtown a destination, by making it more pedestrian-friendly and artistic.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
The downtown district isn’t broken, Ormond Beach Mainstreet Executive Director Julia Truilo says. It’s alive, but there’s something’s missing. Something like a soul.
That’s where she comes in.
When Truilo took over Mainstreet in September last year, she started on a mission to rebrand. But it wasn’t just the face of her organization she meant to makeover. She wanted to change the way that people see the city.
“The way that we structure our lives now has changed since the old-fashioned mainstreet, where everything you needed was in one place and that’s where (everybody) went,” she said, in her organization’s one-room headquarters overlooking Granada Boulevard. “Everything you need is all across the map now ... so mainstreet has to have a draw.”
The best way to increase that draw is by improving the look and making downtown more pedestrian-friendly — and that’s already in the works, with construction of new medians, parking bump-outs and underground utilities starting this month.
But those changes won’t do it alone.
Arts, Truilo believes, can give the area that extra push.
“There has to be a reason for people to congregate here,” she said, “and the arts are a wonderful way to make that happen.”
Craig Conrey agrees. Mainstreet’s former assistant director, he made up the second part of Mainstreet’s two-man show, before deciding to go back to school to pursue an Industrial Organizational Psychology masters, at the University of Central Florida.
But he’s not going far. Conrey has transitioned into the head volunteer on the Ormond Beach Arts District board, one of Mainstreet’s five subcommittees.
“We want Ormond to have a radically different flavor than (nearby cities),” Conrey said. “We have a different vision. … We’re creating the identity of the downtown. That’s the whole point of Mainstreet: to make (this city) our own.”
In his spare time, Conrey constructs guitar distortion pedals and effects modulators. He learned how to do this through books, and mistakes, he says: “You do it until you get better. And then once you’re better, you do it until you’re the best.”
After the boxes are built, he commissions them out to local artists, who paint and customize them. It’s a hobby that turned into a side-project, that, over time, has turned into a “decent source of revenue.”
The idea took off, he says, for the same reason Mainstreet, and the arts, will take off in Ormond.
“People like things that are theirs,” he said. “They like things that no one else can take. It’s a basic part of human nature. ... If you have a sense of ownership, there’s a huge amount of pride involved.”
That’s what Mainstreet’s here for.
The other four of Mainstreet’s subcommittees are Promotions, Organization, Design and Economic Restructuring — and a few of those departments work closely with city staff.
In its most recent project, for instance, the design board is working with city engineers and the Sunoco company to refine architecture plans for a gas station on the corner of Granada Boulevard, at 3 N. Yonge St. Based on the form-based code, it’s Mainstreet’s job to ensure that the company’s design works with the long-range plan for the rest of the road.
Sliding over a rendering of what the station might look like, Truilo says she envisions the front decorated with a stone wall, to make the corner less like an ordinary gas station and more like the entrance into a town square.
“Our mission, really, as a group, is to try to increase the amount of art available in the district,” Truilo said. And art comes in many forms.
Whereas architectural code involves its own level of artistry, Conrey, at least, is more concerned with incorporating true public art pieces around town. Coordinating what forms public art might take, and working with the city to figure out how and where to make it a reality, he says, will be the Arts District’s “primary focus” in 2013.
“We have so many artists right here, and how wonderful it would be to have some of their work publicly on display, Conrey said. “We have an absurd amount of talent here. It warrants exposure.”
But Mainstreet isn’t only interested in visual arts. Truilo and Conrey also want to set up poetry and creative writing readings around town, and also work on hosting dance troupes and bands.
And this year, they already have a few things in the works— such as the Celtic Music Festival, the second-annual ArtCentric and another Browse the Boulevard.
“The point of Mainstreet is to continue to work on this corridor,” Truilo said, “one step at a time, as buildings become available — for us to work on getting this pedestrian-friendly environment, this core city, back to a unified whole.”