DeLand may take over Old Jail; ‘Vision Plan’ could see Georgia Avenue area transformed

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ATOP AN ALBATROSS — From left, DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus; Mark Shuttleworth, owner of Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques; DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar; and DeLand City Engineer Keith Riger stand on top of the Old Volusia County Jail’s roof. The city may soon take over the long-disused building, which sits on prime Downtown land, from Volusia County. 

ATOP AN ALBATROSS — From left, DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus; Mark Shuttleworth, owner of Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques; DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar; and DeLand City Engineer Keith Riger stand on top of the Old Volusia County Jail’s roof. The city may soon take over the long-disused building, which sits on prime Downtown land, from Volusia County. 

BEACON FILE PHOTO

View the Georgia Avenue district vision plan here

DeLand may find itself the new owner of the long-vacant Downtown DeLand jail under a land-swap deal with Volusia County. 

In exchange for the building at 130 W. New York Ave. commonly called the Old Jail, the city would give up its former City Hall Annex at 121 W. Rich Ave., which the county currently leases. That building houses the environmental health and vital statistics offices of the Department of Health in Volusia County.

Additionally, according to City Manager Michael Pleus, the county has offered to throw in two county parking lots on the south side of West Georgia Avenue, and a property on the corner of South Amelia and New Hampshire avenues that was long ago a vehicle-inspection facility. 

The Old Jail sits on 0.86 acre of prime development property with frontage on both West New York and West Georgia avenues in the up-and-coming SoNY — South of New York — district of Downtown DeLand. 

If the swap goes through, the city plans to demolish the concrete, asbestos-ridden structure, since the purpose-built jail would be difficult to clean up and retrofit for commercial or residential use.

City officials would likely put out a request for development proposals, similar to what was done several years ago for the former Downtown YMCA property, near the corner of Woodland Boulevard and Church Street. 

The jail property and the lots on the south side of West Georgia Avenue are key components of a Georgia Avenue District Vision/Master Plan, developed by consulting firm CPH at city officials’ request. 

The plan was presented to the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency board at its March 5 meeting. 

“That is the cornerstone of what I believe the city wants to do, and without those parcels, I believe it would be difficult to achieve what the plan calls for,” said Javier Omana of CPH.

The plan, which has been in the works since mid-2016, is an illustration of what the area around West Georgia Avenue could look like, if several properties, including the Old Jail, are redeveloped. 

It’s not a development plan; instead, it’s meant to show the public — and potential developers — what sorts of things the DeLand community desires and what sort of development would fit with the area. 

The CPH plan identified eight underutilized parcels as ripe for development: the Old Jail, the county parking lots on West Georgia Avenue, the city parking lot at the corner of South Florida and West Georgia avenues, and five parcels owned by Comfort Service Inc. on West Howry and South Florida avenues. 

Planners from CPH held two community meetings, where members of the public were invited to look at large boards with examples of development from other cities and place a green or red dot on each example, signifying their approval or dislike, respectively. 

Based on those results, the consulting firm worked up a plan that could see 32,480 square feet of commercial space, 86 apartments, eight lofts, eight “live/work” units, 6,500 square feet of gallery space and 22,500 square feet of artist/exhibition booths — all developed on the eight parcels identified.

The vision emphasizes mixed-use buildings, walkable development, and space for artists and artisans to produce and sell their wares. 

The plan garnered mostly positive reviews from members of the CRA board — which is made up of the City Commission plus two Downtown business owners — but one member of the public expressed concern about the level of government involvement.

The plan outlines possible public improvements of nearly $7 million, but city officials stressed that those improvements are not planned, they are just possible. What actually happens in the area, City Manager Michael Pleus said, will be largely up to private enterprise.

Don Dempsey, who owns a number of properties in Downtown DeLand, said there is concern among property owners on the north end of Downtown about the amount of money being spent on the south end. 

“There’s a large majority of property owners on the north side of the city, and no disrespect to Barb or Mark … but there is a perception that the city is kind of bending over backwards to develop their neighborhood, where we’re kind of being left out in the wind,” said Dempsey. 

The “Barb and Mark” he referred to are Barb Shepherd, owner of Conrad Realty Co. and publisher of The Beacon, and Mark Shuttleworth, owner of Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques, who both own properties fronting West Georgia Avenue.

City Manager Pleus reiterated that the CPH plan is a sketch of possibilities.

“We did this vision to show the public, the merchants and to give everybody a chance to say, ‘This is what it could be,’ so a private developer could say ‘Oh, maybe I should look at this piece of property; maybe there’s something I could do with that,’” Pleus said.

— Anthony DeFeo, anthony@beacononlinenews.com


Streetscape project almost finished

The Georgia Avenue Streetscape project is in its home stretch, with little work left to be done aside from paving the street and installing decorative pavers. 

Construction began the week of Jan. 15 on the project, which was designed to improve the drainage and aesthetics of the small-but-busy street. City officials said the final step, installation of pavers in the roadway, should begin April 2 and will probably conclude by April 20.

The work also includes installing removable bollards, which are protective metal poles; on Georgia Avenue, they will be used to close the street to vehicles during events that take place in the neighborhood.

At its March 5 meeting, DeLand’s Downtown CRA board unanimously approved a change order for the project, which will:

Construct a new landscape island in the city parking lot at the corner of West Georgia and South Florida avenues;

Add the repaving of the alley that runs between the buildings fronting Woodland Boulevard and the Conrad Realty Co. property, also known as Pill Alley or Wings Alley; 

Account for extra work that had to be done due to water-main conflicts during the course of the project.

The changes total $84,066, bringing the cost of the project to $632,561. The difference will be funded through contingency funds set aside, CRA contingency funds, money from the city’s utility fund, and funds originally set aside to pay Duke Energy to install new streetlights.

Since the project began, Duke Energy replaced the streetlights along the road with brighter LED streetlights, rendering replacements unnecessary.

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