A Smart Project Comes to Holly HIl

When Jayson Meyer first envisioned a corporate campus for his company, Synergy Billing, he imagined the campus as a thriving place where his team members could work, play and live.

That vision is taking form today in Holly Hill, a small community bordering on Daytona Beach. There, Meyer is creating a 25-acre corporate campus, The Fountainhead at Holly Hill, in a part of the city designated as a Community Redevelopment Area. When completed, the project is expected to reflect a $25 million investment in the community.

When Volusia County Schools closed Holly Hill Middle School in 2012, it had never been on the tax rolls of the city or county. Under a previous city administration, Holly Hill purchased the land and two existing buildings for $60,000 per acre, with the intent to influence the use of the property. There were no serious proposals until Meyer stepped forward in 2015 to offer the city the same price per acre for which they had purchased the land and buildings. Since then, Meyer and the city of Holly Hill have worked to finalize their agreement and plans for the project, with the city providing some incentives.

First, about that name. A fountainhead is the wellspring from which a river flows. Meyer envisions the campus to be the wellspring from which jobs, education and prosperity flow into Holly Hill and the surrounding community.

The Fountainhead at Holly Hill is hailed as a particularly robust example of smart growth, and there are several characteristics of the project that reinforce that view. One need only turn to Smart Growth America to see that this development adheres to many of the principles that seek to “improve everyday life for people through better development.” These are the principles that are guiding the development team. In fact, this is among the reasons that the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity granted Synergy Billing the opportunity to receive over $1 million in tax incentives, including a $213,000 match from Volusia County.

A Mixed-Use Development

A Smart Growth development encourages building homes, employment centers, schools, green space and other amenities near each other. This is in lieu of spreading residential communities, employment and shopping amenities in sprawling sites that are not closely located to each other, necessitating further travel.

The plans for The Fountainhead at Holly Hill include the headquarters for Synergy Billing. In addition, the campus will contain the Synergy Career Academy, daycare, dining and fitness facilities, a community health center and 88 units of workforce housing. The site is located on or near public transportation in an urban neighborhood that is facing economic challenges.

The Fountainhead at Holly Hill will ultimately include office space, not only for Synergy Billing’s headquarters and the Synergy Career Academy, but also for other businesses that wish to locate there.

Making Use of Compact Design

One of the most important principles of smart design is to make good use of land that has already been developed, a strategy known as compact design. As Smart Growth America says, “Building within an existing neighborhood can attract more people to the jobs, homes and businesses already there, while also making the most of public investments in things like water and sewer lines, roads and emergency services.”

The location of The Fountainhead at Holly Hill in the heart of an urban neighborhood fits this description perfectly. This type of infill development on an underutilized piece of land will take maximum advantage of the services and infrastructure already in place. It is expected to draw even more investment into the community.

Create a range of housing opportunities and choices

Smart Growth America notes that diversifying housing options within existing neighborhoods can give everyone more choices about where to live.

The housing crisis across America, and in the Daytona Beach area, is well-documented. Including workforce housing in the plan for The Fountainhead is a key component of the development.

This type of housing was first developed in Aspen, Colo., where housing is exceptionally expensive and much land is federally controlled. The first responders, nurses and teachers whose services are needed by the residents and tourists were not able to afford housing in the town. Some hospitality and retail workers were forced to sleep in their cars.

Workforce housing provides an alternative. Workers are able to rent housing based on a percentage of their wages.

Meyer is working with an experienced developer of workforce housing to bring this housing concept to Holly Hill. The apartment homes will be available to both Synergy Billing employees and other members of the community.

Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place

The Fountainhead at Holly Hill will be a unique and interesting place that preserves the sense of community surrounding the project. It will include fitness trails, water features and public art to distinguish it from its neighbors, while welcoming all onto the site. The energy will attract new residents to the community and encourage current property owners to invest in the repairs and maintenance of their homes and businesses.

Direct development toward existing communities and make development decisions predictable, fair and cost-effective.

As Smart Growth America points out: “Developing within existing communities – rather than building on previously undeveloped land – makes the most of the investments we’ve already made in roads, bridges, water pipes and other infrastructure, while strengthening local bases and protecting open space. Regulations, zoning and other public policies sometimes make this approach unnecessarily difficult for developers, however. Local leaders can and should change policy, when necessary, to encourage development within existing neighborhoods.”

The advocacy group adds: “Developers play a crucial role in how towns and cities are built. Many developers want to build walkable, urban places, but are thwarted by restrictive regulations or complicated approval processes. Municipalities interested in encouraging smart growth development can and should examine their regulations and streamline the project permitting and approval process so that development decisions are more timely, cost-effective and predictable for developers. By creating a supportive environment for development of innovative, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use projects, government can provide smart-growth leadership for the private sector.”

This has certainly been the case for The Fountainhead at Holly Hill. The site is perfectly situated to demonstrate this principle, and the experience of working with the city of Holly Hill and Volusia County has been instructive for all parties. Meyer says he has learned more in the last three years than he expected and it’s possible that’s true for public officials and staff, as well. What has been clear is that all parties are committed to seeing the project become reality.

Meyer has purchased the first parcel of land. Work to renovate the existing buildings has begun. Neighbors have already commented on the improvement in the appearance of the old buildings.

“It’s been an interesting and exciting process,” says Meyer. “Most of all, it is gratifying to see my vision growing in Holly Hill.”