This is an editorial and my own personal opinion (and so I hop upon my soapbox). I am a native of Daytona Beach and lived the majority of my 53 years there. I AM NOT AN EXPERT and do not have the time nor inclination to become and expert on the redevelopment options for Daytona Beach. I have been around a while and think it is time for some common sense.
The issues that face the City of Daytona Beach are many and complex --or are they merely the product of the city’s identity crisis?
The problem facing the “World’s Most Famous Beach” is its own “Multiple Personality Disorder” or “Identity Crisis”. The City has, in the past, acted desperate to attract developers, industry and visitors. After employing many (expensive) consultants, and after a few failed plans and development deals the core problem remains -- NO CLEAR IDENTITY! How can Daytona Beach promote itself, without knowing what it wants to be.
The city that would become Daytona Beach was founded in large part due to the natural beauty of the area. Daytona has a great beach, but not the best beach in the world, and the Halifax River isn’t as nice as it used to be.
NASCAR took root here because the hard packed sand of the beach was great for stock car racing. That drivable, hard packed sand, is also what made Daytona Beach (more) unique. Visitors and locals could drive and park on the beach for free. Those days are gone with beach tolls and no drive zones. The City of Daytona Beach should pressure Volusia County to preserve beach driving and eliminate beach tolls.
Bikeweek has not only held on for many years but also spawned Biketoberfest. By all accounts, the numbers for Spring Break in 2016 are the best since the often maligned event saw its heyday in the 80’s.
Daytona Beachis not a high end luxury destination. It is not a community based on manufacturing or any other industry. Daytona Beach is not currently a mecca for family vacations and it is not a sleepy beach town or retirement community. Daytona Beach was built and grown on tourism, but tourism comes in all shapes and sizes.
Some factions fight for no redevelopment of the beachside, just like some complain about the noise of motorcycles or the trash left behind by Spring Breakers. These people own or rent homes in what the city wants to turn into the, “ezone” or entertainment zone and a battle is imminent and the taking of homes and businesses through eminent domain (no pun intended) is being considered.
Anyone who believes that the ezone (ISB corridor) is not blighted or that it can go back in time to become a sleepy beach town is in denial. If I were on vacation and drove down ISB or Main Street, I would be disappointed and probably never come back. On the other hand, the City’s ezone plan is a pipedream that has already missed many milestones. It would be a tragedy for some local residents and businesses to be displaced against their will in order to implement the ezone plan. However, it would be an even greater tragedy, that would leave the beachside in worse condition, if the property is taken by eminent domain, but the ezone plan is not completed. I don’t trust the City of Daytona Beach to negotiate contracts with developers that would require the developers to complete the projects or pay dearly.
Daytona Beach can be anaffordable family friendly destination, with arare drivable beachthat caters tobikers,race fansandspring breakersall in turn. Daytona Beach could be a thriving tourist destination. All of the ingredients are there!
The city should help businesses fix the blight and preserve the natural beauty and historic buildings. It would be beneficial if the city could provide a nice, clean, hop on hop off trolley, running on A1A and ISB. Many other tourist areas provide that kind of transportation.
Daytona Beach should also start aCity Ambassador Campaignto help educate everyone who has contact with the public on how to provide friendly and hospitable treatment to visitors andWHY it is so important(so they return and tell their friends what a friendly place Daytona Beach is). What I remember most about the areas around the world that I have visited, is how I was treated by the people there.
Most importantly, the City of Daytona Beach needs toembrace what it isand stop trying to be what it is not. Daytona Beach is not Las Vegas or even Atlantic City and we should be thankful for that. The City should take the positives and strengths of the area and enhance them and that won’t be accomplished by stacking huge hotels and resorts all along the “ezone”. I’m usually proud to say I am from Daytona Beach, sometimes more proud than others. Come on Daytona Beach government, make us all proud.
If you have a lot of extra time on your hands, you can read the “Master Plan” for the ezone at the following links. If you own a home or business in the ezone, I would suggest you read it and consult an attorney if you need legal advice.