Poised to be the World’s Most Famous Beach for Future Generations

Poised to overcome a challenging reputation and years of neglect, Daytona Beach is on the brink of revitalization.

Long gone are the days of MTV spring breakers and wild parties as Volusia County ushers in what they hope will be a more family-friendly atmosphere sparking growth among area businesses and a reemergence of the residential communities.

Bringing together a team of area thought leaders comprised of business executives, transportation experts and community advocates, the Volusia County Council formed the Beachside Revitalization Committee in May 2017. Staging a series of public meetings and workshops, the think tank developed a set of recommendations that can be deemed nothing short of extraordinary – seeking a way to bring back to life one of Florida’s most well-known destinations.

Tony Grippa chaired the BRC’s efforts and brought to the table more than business experience. His motivation and passion to see the community he has been a part of for more than a decade recover from a recession that devalued some of the most sought after properties along the A1A corridor in Volusia County and left once vibrant communities blighted and abandoned, is contagious.

“It’s actually the most diverse group that’s gotten together on an issue like this, I believe,” said Grippa. “Everyone’s interest is represented and we’re proud of the fact that there was compromise on each and every issue and every vote was unanimous,” he said.

“The input we got from the neighborhoods was phenomenal – their dedication to come to every meeting and speak to us, there were terrific ideas that came forward and a lot of them we adopted,” said Grippa.

Recommendations for the comprehensive projects to revitalize the area will require local, state and federal dollars and the committee cites potential examples of funding sources as grants, fund transfers, inclusion in the capital programs budget and use of sales tax for strategic improvements. The study’s recommendations provide estimated costs for each sector to help prioritize projects, starting with East International Speedway Boulevard at $23,200,000, Main Street at $4,678,750 (with bridge replacement costs estimated at $55,000,000) – both of which are in CRA or Community Redevelopment Agencies and SR A1A improvements from Granada Boulevard to Dunlawton Avenue around $55,000,000.

Dedicated funding for design has already been allocated by the Florida Department of Transportation as a first step along the way to revamping East ISB.

With transportation and infrastructure funding a hot topic among administration officials in Washington D.C., Volusia area leaders hope federal dollars will be dedicated to the projects, led by requests from local governments.

Nancy Keefer, president and CEO of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce credits the partnerships between the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization, Florida Department of Transportation and elected officials like State Representative Tom Leek for keeping the projects in the forefront.

“It’s understood that improving aesthetics comes with a price tag and there is an opportunity to leverage grants and incentives and open up communications with the public sector on current plans that are in place that require a commitment from businesses and residents to embrace improvements and be a part of the enhancements,” said Keefer. “The most important part of the plan is to get a champion, whether that be someone within the cities or the county who will spearhead improvements and own the advancement of the project.”

Keefer stresses the long-term benefits of the public-private partnerships that will have a positive impact on residents, visitors and local businesses as revitalization takes place and community pride enhances quality of life.

“When you have the number of visitors we have coming to our area, the word of mouth, both positive and negative, will greatly impact the future of an area as a destination for visitors and corporate business,” said Keefer. “As people can start to see improvements; better sidewalks, lighting, bike paths, updated and improved storefronts and pride in the homes that comprise the beachside, the word will spread quickly that something exciting is happening in our area,” she said.

Tremendous progress in Volusia County along International Speedway Boulevard west of the Intracoastal Waterway has been swift with an expansive overhaul at Daytona International Speedway, home of NASCAR and the creation of the One Daytona properties, but east along the ISB corridor progress has been slow, if non-existent, frustrating residents like Amy Pyle, who stepped up to run for Daytona Beach City Council in an effort to see change implemented.

Moving to Daytona Beach in 2010, the New York native left Central Florida, deciding to purchase her historic 20th century home in Volusia County, a block from the beach. Restoring the home and surveying the surrounding neighborhood, she’s become a staunch advocate for the Beachside Neighborhood Watch and a powerhouse for helping cleanup the area alongside fellow residents.

“I’m trying to represent the people who are actually here,” said Pyle. “I started right here in the community – small businesses, build up the neighborhoods, get people moving in, make it a nice place to live and places like this will thrive,” she said. “Tourists love seeing happy neighbors. They love to come in and say maybe we could move here sometime.”

Residents like Rick Gehris, who grew up in Daytona Beach, recall the vibrant and bustling community of their youth. Returning to the area after spending several years in California, Gehris is hoping to see balanced changes that will restore his beloved city to glory.

Reviewing the recommendations for a revitalization of East ISB, which include aesthetically appealing developments from businesses to homes and greenspaces, pedestrian safety upgrades known as “complete streets”, a roundabout anticipated to help relieve traffic congestion along the artery leading to SR A1A and continued beach access, he’s cautiously optimistic about the possibilities.

“Right now is actually a great time because if we could do something about it, if we actually get some good visionaries in there, they could set the foundation up so that our kids and grandkids have an awesome Daytona Beach,” said Gehris.

Lori Campbell Baker, executive director of the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is anticipating the measurable impact improvements to the East ISB corridor will have on the area.

“Improvements to our community always help us in attracting new and returning visitors,” said Campbell Baker. “With about half of all visitation currently generated by local friends and families, we are more excited than ever at the positive momentum that’s happening right now in the destination,” she said.

Open-minded response by the Volusia County Council has encouraged BRC members to stay motivated as they present recommendations to the local municipalities for support.

“We, as a committee have said – the real work starts now,” said Grippa. “We have got to keep this front and center with the local officials. There has to be an investment of infrastructure and neighborhood improvement in that area. I think the positive that can come out of this is when a group this diverse comes together and recommends a plan, it’s now on the elected officials to either change the plan or fund the plan, but one thing I don’t believe is appropriate is for them to ignore the plan. We have to have the collective vision and cooperation to get it done.”

With the broad contributions and participation realized, we are poised to be the “World’s Most Famous Beach” for future generations.

To review the Beachside Redevelopment Committee’s work visit https://www.volusia.org/services/growth-and-resource-management/beachside-redevelopment-committee.stml#

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_gallery type=”nivo” interval=”3″ images=”8703,8704,8705″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_id=”Author”][vc_column][vc_separator][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”7994″ alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_outline_circle” border_color=”orange”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1574704841140{border: 2px solid #ba943f !important;}”][vc_custom_heading text=”Danielle Anderson, a resident of Palm Coast, Florida has worked in the public relations and media industry for a decade. Writing for high profile publications across the state, Danielle started her career as a news reporter for Flagler Broadcasting, where she discovered her passion for telling the stories of communities in Florida. Her love of community extends to her non-profit work as the Executive Director for the Friends of A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway and serving as the current President of the Flagler County Republican Club.” font_container=”tag:p|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row]