Way back in the fall of 2017, insurance magnate and undisputed ‘King of the Realm,’ J. Hyatt Brown, gathered his loyal subjects before him at an “invitation only” event – where both the message and the audience were carefully controlled – and announced plans to construct his Grand Headquarters building on Beach Street – something that King Hyatt’s handmaidens in government and industry hailed as a panacea for Daytona Beach’s downtrodden downtown.
The answer to our collective prayers and problems – a catalyst for transformative success.
There was gushing adulation from all the right last names as City Manager Jim Chisholm said, “It’s a game changer for the downtown area,” and Dr. Kent Sharples of that mysterious camera stellata over at the CEO Business Alliance swooned, “It’s the biggest and best thing that’s happened since General Electric (or sliced bread, for that matter) in terms of the number of jobs created, salary and impact on our community.”
Whoop! Whoop! Good times were here again, again!
In a September 2017 article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, King Hyatt assured us this magical makeover of our languishing downtown – an area that has suffered the indignity of civic neglect for decades – would, of course, require “government help” to accomplish:
“But bringing the project to fruition will require government help. The company is asking for financial incentives from the city, county and state. Company leaders have been talking to state officials for several months about corporate tax credits that could be given in exchange for creating an agreed upon number of jobs in a particular salary range.
No specific ask has been made yet to the city or Volusia County, but J. Hyatt Brown said he’s had a “very, very favorable response from the city and county.”
Very, very favorable, indeed. . .
Just weeks later, both the City of Daytona Beach and the County of Volusia ponied up millions-of-dollars in infrastructure improvements, financial incentives, and property tax abatement – which, we were told, would assist Brown & Brown in obtaining even more tax credits from the State of Florida for the promised 600 “new high-paying jobs” the HQ would bring to Daytona Beach.
As the News-Journal reported at the time, these lucrative spiffs were championed by “some of the city’s heaviest hitters,” to include the formidable former Mayor Glenn Ritchey, past County Chair Frank Bruno, and representatives from Halifax Health, the Regional Chamber of Commerce, Cobb Cole, ad infinitum. . .
“I am just absolutely delighted,” said Mori Hosseini, chairman and CEO of ICI Homes.”
“John Albright, president and CEO of Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co., said the new headquarters would be “an important spark to the redevelopment of downtown.”
There was heady talk around town – exciting words like “rejuvenation,” “recovery,” and “revitalization” were bandied about – as our ‘powers that be’ assured us tax paying piss-ants that downtown restaurants, shops, and bars would be brimming with young free spending Brown & Brown executives – something that gave strapped area merchants reason to hang on by their splintered fingernails just a little while longer. . .
To prepare for the second coming of the once vibrant Downtown Daytona, we acquiesced to a plan that gifted a riverfront park to J. Hyatt for his self-aggrandizing “esplanade” – if the citizens of Daytona Beach would agree to pay some $800,000 annually for upkeep – then, a bizarre plan was hatched to replace a perfectly serviceable streetscape.
The taxpayers of Daytona Beach were blindsided as their elected officials agreed to underwrite parking garages and apartment complexes – and historic churches were felled to make way for “progress” as defined by the Good Old Boys Investment Club at CTO Realty Growth (née) Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company. . .
We were assured these sacrifices were our contribution to the coming opulence and affluence envisioned by our exalted Monarchy – those uber-wealthy insiders who holds all the cards – the price of a golden ticket to board the Brown & Brown gravy train to prosperity.
The headquarters was billed as far more than just another glass-and-steel office building.
It was essentially a 10-story talisman, a sacred place with the supernatural power to transform a community that has wallowed in blight, mediocrity, and abandonment for so long it has lost its very identity – and ultimately surrendered to the sad notion that literally anything new held the promise of redemption – regardless of what it cost us.
At the time, I dropped a turd in the proverbial punchbowl when I pondered aloud, “What if it’s just another insurance office? You know, a dull place with bored cubical drones grabbing a bite at their desk – doing their eight then hitting the gate – driving home to some overpriced apartment off LPGA Boulevard?”
My concerns were summarily dismissed by those with a chip in the game as the ravings of a nay-saying asshole. . .
I don’t know about you, but my beat-up old heart dropped on Friday when I read a shocking piece on WNDB’s website headlined, “Creative Space Café” Brings Fresh, Locally Sourced Meals To New Brown & Brown HQ.”
In the informative article, we learned from News Daytona Beach’s Sean Mooney:
“The Sanctuary Café—operated by the France-based hospitality company, Sodexo—opened earlier this year in Brown & Brown’s newly opened Beach Street headquarters. The establishment offers guests a variety of meals and some familiar flavors, such as those offered from their own in-house Boar’s Head deli—which uses breads from local bakers.
For those with a craving for fish, the Sanctuary Café also offers a variety of fresh fish that’s sourced right here in Central Florida from Gary’s Seafood of Orlando. That fresh, never frozen fish is then used to create their signature poke bowls. And on Fridays, the fish is used for their Fresh Catch Friday action station where it’s cooked to order.
Patrons can also use the café’s 24-hour self-checkout kiosk to purchase Sodexo’s Simply To Go line of parfaits, sandwiches, salads, and snacks for after-operating hours purchases. Guests can also utilize Sodexo’s free app “Bite by Sodexo” to order ahead and pick up their order once they come in.”
According to the report, the Sanctuary Café will soon offer “fully prepared meals that people can bring home for dinner.”
In addition, the rumor mill is abuzz with gossip that once complete the new Brown Esplanade may host a national chain restaurant as well. . .
Wait a damn minute.
After sucking millions of local dollars in “economic incentives” – good, old fashioned corporate welfare that everyone agreed to ignore on the promise of prosperity – J. Hyatt brings in a French food service group who won’t even source its fish in Daytona Beach?
A full-service restaurant – complete with a 24-hour kiosk – which ensures employees never leave the campus?
What about the jampacked local restaurants and shops?
What about the bustling downtown experience? Storefronts filled with young, upwardly mobile executives enjoying a working lunch at the Dancing Avocado Kitchen – or grabbing a slice at Zappi’s – then meeting with friends and colleagues over a pint at McK’s?
What happened to the panacea project? The “biggest and best game changer” our “heavy hitters” promised?
Welcome to the great bait-and-switch.
Welcome to the Kingdom.
This afternoon Barker’s View joins the public affairs forum GovStuff Live! with Big John beginning at 4:00pm.
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