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Express yourself — This chalkboard was installed recently by Conrad Realty Co. on Artisan Alley, as part of a City of DeLand project meant to give residents and visitors a means to communicate their visions for DeLand’s future. All visitors are invited to chalk their thoughts on the board. Photos of the board are sent to the city before the board is cleaned, and the fun begins anew. Among comments left June 5 are “More Alley; no Deltran!” referring to the Old Jail project, along with suggestions for a cat cafe, a cigar lounge, and a motor-free day. Comments favoring Deltran’s plan have also been chalked on the board.

I attended the joint special meeting of the DeLand City Commission and the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency May 28.

The purpose of the meeting was to get further input to help guide and finalize negotiations between the City of DeLand and Deltran Operations USA Inc. for the formal development agreement of the Old Jail property on New York Avenue.

Much work has been done, but more still needs to be done to develop a project consistent with the vision for Downtown DeLand and, especially, the Georgia Avenue area.

The current plans from Deltran for the GlassHouse Square project call for a 30,000-square-foot, three-story building facing New York Avenue, an 8,100-square-foot building on Georgia Avenue, and an open green space between the two buildings.

The current plan also calls for GlassHouse to own and maintain the alleyway from New York Avenue to Georgia Avenue.

Overall, I am excited about the concept. I am concerned, however, that the project will overwhelm the area with an excess of retail and office spaces, that the buildings would overpower the Historic Volusia County Courthouse, that a number of badly needed parking spaces would be eliminated, that there would be no place for handicapped parking, and a public alleyway would be closed off.

I would like to see a slightly smaller project with more parking in the immediate area.

First, the building on New York Avenue will be located directly across the street from the Historic Volusia County Courthouse, so it should not overshadow this key Downtown landmark but should complement it.

I would like to see the New York Avenue building reduced in size by 10 percent to 15 percent, so it would not overpower the neighboring Courthouse and City Hall, and will provide more space in the alley for parking. Deltran can get its required 10,000 square feet on the third floor and part of the second floor.

Six thousand square feet of the second floor can be used for the small-business “incubator center” as proposed. The rooftop entertainment center, reduced in size to approximately 8,000 square feet, should provide enough space for a spacious venue and catering kitchen for events.

With events on the third floor of the New York Avenue building, there will be a need for additional parking. How many of us have tried to find a parking place on a Friday night when people are enjoying the Farmers Market and a play at the Athens Theatre? If there is also a party at the event center on the third floor, where will those guests park?

We cannot afford to lose all the current parking spaces now on the Old Jail site. Also, where would handicapped guests or visitors to the building park? The alley needs to stay open for handicapped parking and for vendors and customers to access the events.

I propose the City of DeLand retain ownership and maintenance of the alleyway. The alleyway can be closed for events, but with access to handicapped parking always available.

DeLand needs to keep enough space for a through alleyway with diagonal parking spaces on the east side of the alley and about four handicapped-parking spaces. Decreasing the size of the two buildings will allow for more room for the alleyway, the parking and a nice sidewalk.

As for the building on Georgia Avenue, it needs to fit in with the vision for Georgia Avenue and to allow access to the alleyway. It can be decreased in size and still offer small artisan shops on the lower level, with studio and living space for artists on the second level, and a third level with a bar and art gallery that has a rooftop patio overlooking the event space between the two buildings and Georgia Avenue.

I hope the city will consider the points I have presented. A slightly smaller building will not detract from the beauty of the old Courthouse. The development should be designed to attract more people to the area, and therefore more parking spaces will be needed.

A public alleyway controlled by the city will allow increased access to the area so that people can enjoy the activities and facilities offered.

I am looking forward to a developed project that can be enjoyed by all West Volusians three years from now.

— Long has been a resident of West Volusia for 27 years. She is also a stockholder and board member of Conrad Realty Co., which is a neighbor to the proposed GlassHouse Square project.