Developing in Debary: Future Growth Strategies

Shari Simmans

DeBary, the gateway to southwestern Volusia County, is a growing city along the corridor between Daytona Beach and Orlando.

More than 23,000 folks call DeBary home, and the city is home to businesses, the arts, recreation, history and more here on the northern shore of the St. Johns River.

And although this 25-square-mile community has been incorporated since 1993, it’s been lacking one thing: a downtown. But not for long.

“DeBary Main Street broke ground in January, and we anticipate that the first buildings will be occupied by the end of the year,” says Shari Simmans, director of the city’s Economic Development, Communications, and Government Affairs.

Prior to coming to DeBary, Simmans, she spent 30 years in the Washington D.C. area in leadership roles supporting high-level elected leaders, governments and associations.

Her role now includes fostering collaborations that propel business and public affairs transformations, such as DeBary Main Street.

“Main Street represents more than $500 million in investments, transforming infill land into additional revenue for the city and the county,” Simmans says.

The project is a multi-phase initiative that will span the next three to five years.

The increase in property tax and new businesses generating additional sales tax will provide revenue and commercial assets for DeBary.

“As DeBary does not have a downtown, we plan on utilizing the new space for community-wide events, festivals and gathering spaces, further solidifying the close-knit community bonds that make us one of the best places to live.”

Simmans notes there is a long list of restaurants, shops and service-oriented businesses that are hoping to move to DeBary Main Street once the developers open up the market.

“We have a very loyal customer base here in DeBary and look forward to giving our residents additional options where they can enjoy a high quality of life.”

When completed, DeBary Main Street will be a center that marries activities and special events, buildings and public areas together in a walkable, pedestrian-oriented space.

It will connect to the community at large through roadways, trails, and SunRail, a 49-mile-long, 16-station commuter rail system that serves the region.

DeBary Main Street also connects residents and visitors with natural resources, such as fishing piers, a disc golf course and kayak launches.

“We are the ecotourism capital of central Florida, showcasing a diverse array of both active and passive recreational activities,” says Simmans. “The three major Florida bike trails intersect at only one point in their over 600 miles, and that is in DeBary.

DeBary Main Street will open in two distinct phases.

In the first phase, townhomes will open, providing living spaces in the new downtown area. Also coming are live-work units. They’ll offer a combined environment for both residential living as well as work and retail.

Commercial out parcels will be developed during this phase, too.

The project will expand more in the second phase to include dining and shopping spaces on the ground floor. Above those, residential spaces and apartments will add to the option of living spaces from the first phase.

It was growth – inconsistent and uncontrollable growth – that brought about the idea of DeBary Main Street, Simmans says.

“DeBary, like all Florida cities, is facing growth challenges as developers looked to take advantage of the hot housing market; DeBary was primed for inconsistent and uncontrollable apartment growth.”

Using innovative land planning techniques, joint marketing agreements and other public/private partnerships, DeBary set in motion a plan to build a downtown from scratch, Simmans notes.

“[It will] reduce the high density legally while creating commercial and recreational assets. Our new Main Street promises to enrich community life.”