110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Al Everson
posted Oct 1, 2013 - 3:48:43pm
Deltona's original commercial hub now seems almost like a ghost town. That could change, if business recruiters have their way.
Three years after the Winn-Dixie Supermarket closed in Deltona Plaza, the shopping center that served so many of Deltona's first settlers now struggles in a flagging economy.
"It is a big center. There's still a lack of tenants," said Jill Strumpf, president of Bruce Strumpf Inc., the Clearwater Realtor that leases and manages Deltona Plaza.
Of the 61 units inside the aging center, 28 are occupied, and Strumpf would like to fill more spaces.
"There have been a few people looking," she said. "We'd be happy if we could find a major tenant."
Built in 1966, Deltona Plaza became a thriving marketplace, especially for those within walking distance, but growth in Deltona and in surrounding cities over the years siphoned off much of the buying power of Deltonans. Deltona Plaza's decline accelerated after Winn-Dixie exited the anchor space of the complex in September 2010.
Strumpf discounted rumors of a possible demolition of Deltona Plaza or a massive renovation.
"We have no plains for redevelopment or tearing it down," she told The Beacon. "We can't do anything unless we have a firm tenant going in."
Nor would Strumpf say if the 37-acre property is for sale or what the asking price may be.
In recent weeks, city officials said they are trying to recruit a call center into the old Winn-Dixie space, which offers 44,900 square feet, or more than one-third of Deltona Plaza's total 130,000 square feet.
The identity of the company scouting for a location for a call center has not been disclosed. Confidentiality currently shields the name, and the effort is now known by a code name, Project DIAL.
If Project DIAL pans out, Deltona Economic Development Manager Jerry Mayes said, it would bring at least 500 full-time jobs to the city over three years. Those full-time workers would also have health-care benefits, in addition to an estimated base pay of about $20,000 per year.
Asked how long before a decision on Project DIAL may come, Mayes said he does not expect an announcement for at least three to six months.
"There's still a lot of working parts to go through," he said. "I don't have any idea of how long."
The "working parts" include coming to an agreement with Strumpf for the lease of the old Winn-Dixie space, and applying for state economic-development incentives.
The Deltona Plaza property is a "brownfield" site, meaning there is possibly toxic material — left by a former dry-cleaning business — in the soil or groundwater, and thus the property may be in need of an environmental cleanup.
State laws encourage the reuse or redevelopment of brownfields, and that means an incoming company promising employment opportunities would qualify for a payment of as much as $2,500 for each new job created for the first four years of the company's establishment or expansion on the site.
In addition, the state would provide workers' training through the Center for Business Excellence of Volusia and Flagler Counties (formerly known as the Workforce Development Board).
City officials have also offered to offset some of the costs of setting up a call center, by tapping Deltona's economic-development infrastructure fund, which currently has $2 million earmarked for companies that would bring new jobs to the city.
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