The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.”
Clearly, Heraclitus never called the Halifax area home. . .
The Daytona Beach Resort Area has long suffered from a lack of civic vision – a decades old identity crisis framed by competing images of a free-for-all honky-tonk beer bash and an idyllic family friendly beachside vacation spot.
The fact is, beyond “special events” or a day at our overregulated beach, there simply isn’t much to do here.
For instance, a cursory internet search for “Things to do in Daytona Beach with Kids,” includes fun excursions like, The Daytona Beach Flea and Farmers Market, Tanger Outlets, “Beach Street,” the Volusia Mall, and Ritchey Plaza. . .
How about taking the kids to the world-famous Boardwalk (#8 on the list)?
Been down there lately? Me neither. . .
Last week, the age-old debate of how to resuscitate our decomposing core tourist area was rekindled – this time by Duane Winjum, the latest general manager of The Plaza Resort – the 110-year-old Grande Dame of Daytona Beach hotels at the intersection of Seabreeze Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue.
I always find it bittersweet when a newcomer to our area sees the malignant blight and dilapidation, fetid byproducts of the economic stagnation that has plagued areas of our community for decades, and announce they are going to “do something” about it.
Their hearts are in the right place – and those who come here from areas where things are ‘happening’ – naturally question why that same civic exuberance and pride in place cannot catch here.
And we hope against hope that things will be different this time.
That something – anything – will change. . .
Recently, the owners and management of The Plaza scored a small, but significant, victory when they successfully got Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry off his ass and on the street to meet some folks that he was totally unfamiliar with – his constituents.
In December, Mayor Henry joined Bob Davis, president of the Lodging & Hospitality Association, and Jonathan Abraham Eid, CEO of Vienna Capital, the Los Angeles based investment group that owns The Plaza, to get some dust on the wingtips during a walking tour of “Party Central” on Seabreeze Boulevard.
According to an excellent article by reporter Jim Abbott in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Envisioning a Renaissance,” some Seabreeze business owners were excited to meet Mayor Henry for the first time and seized the rare opportunity to share their thoughts on how to improve things – while another felt like an afterthought “…we’re forgotten over here a lot. We don’t seem to get any of the attention.”
Astute observations by long-suffering beachside merchants who stand like street urchins, gazing across the filthy Seabreeze bridge at the millions-of-dollars in public funds being lavished on all the right last names for the “revitalization” of Beach Street, as they lament, “What are we, chopped liver?”
On Sunday, News-Journal editor Pat Rice used his weekly column to tout Mr. Winjum’s enthusiasm – while quelling persistent rumors that strategic rot has been used to drive beachside property values into the basement bargain bin (like the tactic employed in Downtown Daytona) making local waterfront properties among the cheapest (yet least desirable) anywhere on the east coast of the United States.
According to Mr. Rice, “Unfortunately, there is no conspiracy. The core beachside’s sorry state is largely a result of local government neglect.”
That is true – but why?
To whose benefit?
I mean, what kind of person would force their neighbors to live in squalor to pull off a profit?
I happen to agree with Mr. Rice’s assessment that both the City of Daytona Beach and Volusia County have failed to put the necessary effort into establishing a blueprint for the revitalization of our challenged beachside and beyond.
I also agree that “revitalizing Seabreeze Boulevard could be a catalyst for Daytona’s struggling core beachside.”
So could a wrecking ball and bulldozer. . .
But that is going to take more than idle chat – it will require a complete transformation at City Hall – redevelopment efforts that reclaim empty windows, focus on infill, and build vibrant streetscapes that attract and retain businesses and residents.
Let’s face it, the list of those who have accepted public funds then dashed our hopes on the rocks of incompetency, crushed the dreams of entrepreneurial investors, erected bureaucratic obstructions, regulated anything fun out of business, or turned their backs when small business needed help is long and distinguished.
So please excuse me if I do not share Mr. Winjum’s high expectations for the rebirth of Seabreeze Boulevard.
It is a noble effort, but we have seen it all before. . .
Change comes slow in these parts – and sometimes it never comes at all.