Deltona is keeping up with its older neighboring cities by planning a makeover for run-down and blighted sections.

Now the biggest city in Volusia County, Deltona was carved out of the Florida wilderness between Orlando and Daytona Beach in the early 1960s, primarily as a retirement village.

Though the city lacks the history of a downtown business district that dates back more than a century, it nevertheless has some of the urban problems associated with aging buildings, including aging homes, as well as property neglect, along with changes in traffic patterns that have made some byways unsafe for pedestrians.

There are even a few “brownfields,” so named because of possible soil contamination from fuel storage tanks or dry-cleaning businesses.

To make the city more attractive to prospective business owners and the people who call Deltona home, city leaders have created a Community Redevelopment Area, or CRA.

Deltona’s CRA is unlike those in most other cities, which usually outline a central commercial core that’s in decline.

But what is a CRA?

The CRA is a special zone established to provide financing for cleaner and brighter building facades, attractive landscaping, better lighting, eye-pleasing signage, improved sidewalks and bike paths, and convenient and alluring parking.

But where does the money come from? A portion of the property taxes paid by property owners within the district is set aside for use only in the CRA.

By law, the taxable values of properties in the CRA are frozen at a benchmark level. The Volusia County Property Appraiser’s Office continues to assess the CRA properties at their estimated market worth, and the difference between the frozen value and the market value becomes a taxable increment that yields revenues for the CRA fund.

Property taxes paid on any increases in value flow into the CRA budget, instead of being divided among the various taxing agencies.

The theory is that, once the CRA’s work is done, the agencies that gave up their tax dollars will reap additional revenue from the higher taxable values that the CRA’s work made possible.

No work yet

Deltona’s CRA was approved by the City Commission in 2016, and the Volusia County Council formally established it in 2017. The CRA will expire in 2026, unless the local officials in power at that time extend it.

CRA funds may be spent for such things as developing streetscapes, providing facade grants, installing streetlights and parklike amenities such as benches, and ensuring access for people with disabilities. CRA funds may not be expended for ordinary governmental activities like installing water and sewage lines or improving stormwater control.

Since its CRA was formally created, Deltona has collected $213,000 in its redevelopment fund, according to Lee Lopez, the city’s public-information director. Thus far, Lopez noted, none of the CRA revenue has been spent.