Daytona Beach: A Tale of Two Cities

They call it a dichotomy.  I think.

The word defines a stark division or contrast between two things that are opposed or entirely different.

The partition of a whole into sets, something split and completely dissimilar.

When you point out a dichotomy, you draw an unmistakable distinction between two things.

This vocabulary lesson begins our look at the two markedly different communities that comprise Daytona Beach.

I was reminded of this polarity while perusing the News-Journal on Sunday.

In Clayton Parks’ “Word on the Street” column, we were once again treated to a feel-good hype piece fanning the pandemonium surrounding pre-sale information requests for Latitude Margaritaville – the proposed 6,900 to 8,000-unit development by Canadian developer Minto Communities in affiliation with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings.

According to a Minto representative, some 70,000 Parrotheads have registered to receive marketing material on the highly-touted “active adult” escapist community – where, beginning in the “low $200’s” – you can claim your own slice of paradise in the palmettos and pine scrub west of I-95 and “…escape to an island-inspired life as you grow older, but not up.”

Everyone who is anyone in the Halifax area is absolutely giddy over Latitudes.

When our local Big Wheels aren’t taking personal credit for the project – they are breathlessly ballyhooing it as the renaissance – a virtual rebirth of the Daytona Beach Resort Area.

After all, when you factor in the new “Buc-ee’s” – advertised as a “destination” mega gas station/convenience store – 120 fuel pumps anchoring a gargantuan “travel convenience center,” a mysterious, yet-to-be-named “specialty grocer,” and a surfeit of restaurants and retail on the frontage road just east of our sparkly new Tanger Outlet – you get the idea that Daytona’s sandy Phoenix is on the rise.

According to Minto’s overexcited Senior Vice President Bill Bullock, “How could you not be ecstatic?  On both the east and west of the interstate you’ve got incredible things happening – and they’re all complementary uses – it’s putting Daytona back on the map!”

 Hell, yeah.  Ecstatic.

Then, I turned the page.

It was like listening to “Happy Days Are Here Again!” dissolve into that old Depression-era dirge, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”

In the Editorial section was an enlightening piece entitled, “End the Eyesore on the Boardwalk.”

As regular readers of these tedious screeds know, I recently took a short walkabout through the ruins of Daytona’s Boardwalk – and what I saw brought me to uncontrolled anger.

If you haven’t visited our core tourist draw in a while, please have a look and form your own conclusions:

In my view, the Boardwalk – a dystopian wasteland of rust and rot, populated by sleepwalking homeless, and anchored on both ends by down-at-the-heels penny arcades – represents the grim consequence of multi-layered political corruption, gross mismanagement of public funds and resources, and wanton neglect by greedy property owners who consistently put profits over progress.

How does the dilapidation that is the true face of Daytona Beach comport with Minto’s purpose-built, artificial paradise with “Palm trees swaying to an ocean breeze” and “Everyday feels like an escape” feel? 

It doesn’t.  It can’t.

Trust me, the people who stand to profit most wish that people like me would stop making the obvious comparison in public.

Blemishes are meant to be covered – not openly discussed – especially when they transmogrify into gruesome tumors.

As the big money moves west, so does the focus and attention of our movers-and-shakers – you know, the Chamber of Commerce set, our goofy elected officials and their friends in high places, like the CEO Business Alliance, etc.

Like victims of a contagious pandemic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, our elected and appointed officials – and those who make their living grubbing from government coffers – will conveniently forget the fetid mess on what remains of the beachside as developers start churning ecologically sensitive land west of the Interstate into the “Next big thing.”

No one wants to be left behind.

To our ‘economic development’ types, the festering carcass of the beachside represents an old, ugly and intractable problem, an embarrassing shrine to human greed and government ineptitude – a turnip squeezed dry – a grotesque thing no longer worth the effort and expense of saving.

Conversely, Latitudes Margaritaville represents Progress.  Fun.  Opportunity.  Money.

Two sides of the same coin – abject blight and dilapidation contrasting with the excitement and promise of what will be.

The baggage of the past vs. the potential of future progress.

And there is an unmistakable sense of potential in the air.

A smart friend recently calculated the estimated impact fees generated by Minto’s 6,900 new home starts at more than $52-million.

And we’re going to need every red cent of it.

Given the fact that the Margaritaville development will ultimately represent an influx of some 14,000+ aging Parrotheads – that represents a serious impact on our existing roads, streets, water, sewer, health and public safety systems.

And that doesn’t include the future effects of proposed residential developments stretching along the spine of Volusia County from Farmton (a planned community with a maximum development potential of 23,100 “dwelling units”) to the Flagler County line.

However, governments penchant for giving impact fee “credits” and “caps” for influential projects and developers – while pushing tax increases for transportation infrastructure – reminds me that we should be closely monitoring how much of the burden Minto ultimately shoulders.

Why the paranoia, Mark?

Do you really think Minto Communities won’t pay its own way?

What’s wrong with you?  Get with it!  It’s time to welcome the new and shit on the old!

We were told we should be ecstatic! 

Why are you bringing us down, you party-pooping asshole?    

Because experience tells me that whenever our elected officials begin buying into the over-the-top flimflam and faux-hysteria generated by some high-paid corporate shill – anything is possible.

History tells us that these shallow minded, politically motivated hacks will grasp at anything presented as “progress – regardless of how disconnected from the core issues it may be – or how it ultimately effects the lives and livelihoods of their long-suffering constituents.

Over the past 25-years, many traditional “downtown” areas in depressed communities around the country have made a comeback using the walkable urbanism concept, focusing on safe streetscapes with a complex mix of retail, specialty restaurants, housing, arts and entertainment.

Sadly, many distressed residential areas – such as Daytona’s beachside – haven’t fared as well.

Across the nation some cities have determined certain neighborhoods aren’t worth saving.

Timid redevelopment departments – often with the back-handed consent of elected officials – turn-tail and walk away from the incredibly time consuming and expensive proposition of reclaim, renovate, renew and revitalize in favor of simply starting fresh in another part of town.

Sound familiar?

As our friends at Minto construct a simulated “beach community” – something we had and lost – I hope those who care will continue fighting the false optimism and marketing slight-of-hand designed to divert attention and blunt our instincts.

Let’s demand that our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government stay focused on the hard work at hand – and remember the importance of reviving our core tourist area to the ultimate health and success of the region.

3 thoughts on “Daytona Beach: A Tale of Two Cities

  1. the beachside needs a big park, perhaps with a petting zoo, seperately, some rides about 4 good ones, a cable car is very important, and a feris wheel and a cup and saucer type ride along with the bungee jump that exists already. a good restarant like olive garden or ruby tuesdays and a kfc and a mac donalds or wendys. all we can get here are subs and pizza and burger king (who charges too much for its almost stale buns for their burgers.) all near the main street to silver beach area. more police presence to see to it loitering homeless move on to another area. bring in more shows to entertain at ocean center and maybe have comedians come in and twice a month big dances. and dont start charging at the band shell. if all these things were accomplished, it would be a good thing for our city. and tourists would come back more. the very best thing and most important would be to have cars on our beaches again, sunrise to sunset .


  2. “wanton neglect by greedy property owners who consistently put profits over progress.” These are the people our politicians want to give tax dollars to improve their purposely dilapidated properties.


  3. Great writing, btw.

    Help me understand. Are you saying our local government shouldn’t allow incentives for development outside blighted areas?

    I think the city and county have made it clear our core tourism district is worth saving. The question is, does private investment believe it’s worth saving? Protogroup, Summit Hospitality and others do.

    The ones who DO NOT think it’s worth saving are The Sons of the Beaches and individual retirees. These constituents – the very victims in question – certainly don’t.

    I sincerely applaud your writing style and will follow your work.


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