The Kingdom

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.

We’ll be talking local issues and taking your calls on the fastest two-hours in radio!

Join us locally at 1380am “The CAT!” or online at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button).

18 thoughts on “The Kingdom

  1. Beach Street, 60% vacancy. Brown & Brown opens a high end cafeteria? Millions spent on Beach Street renovations. The new B&B building is ugly, does not fit well into a “beach” comunity.
    City of Daytona council and mayor, non are leaders, no one sets vision.
    People who reside in Daytona accept medioracy.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. And you really believe anything he says ? When on that fateful night ,they told us that a local landscaping company would doing the work . All we had to do was bid on it. When in fact the bidding was done before they even broke ground !

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  3. 😫🤬 like many of your loyal followers, I HAD NO IDEA about the in-house restaurant at the Tower of Power. My god. Convenient for the employees, sure. But as you pointed out, WHAT ABOUT BEACH ST.?! You seem to be absolutely correct again. Daytona has been had. Again. Now, the employees can even grab their lunch onsite and walk across to THEIR park and enjoy their lunches, never having to venture south. I mean, why give up a cherished parking spot near The Tower to patronize a local business? And by the way, LOCAL in my opinion isn’t getting fish from Orlando which is undoubtedly farmed. Things just keep getting better and better around here, don’t they?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. J (Jackass) Hyatt Brown is a crook and a liar of monumental proportions and all of the brown nosers that continue to genuflect in front of him are complete and utter buffoons. It amazes me that in this day and age that nothing has changed. A few in power can can influence the ones who are put in place to watch over our best interests to totally do the opposite. I’m relatively certain that the full service restaurant was in the original drawings and he never gave a rat’s ass about any of those establishments along Beach Street. Keeping them inside the building allows him to control their minds and prevents them from seeing the real world outside. What a crock!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Took a ride to downtown last week from Ormond with my wife for a walk and do some shopping.Passed by as my wife said keep driving these buildings look like they are ready to fall down.Four things I hate which are cockroaches,media,politicians and builders.I heard Sean Moodys report this morning as Bernier spouts his I know it all trash.

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  6. Surprise!!!😂😂😂
    Really though, anyone that couldn’t see this coming has their head so far up their ass they couldn’t see the clues if it him them full in the face like a bat! Might as well close up shop Mark, because while you shine a light on the issues it’s like lighting a candle in a hurricane. Let’s face it, the ones with money in Daytona Beach own the politicians and the real decisions are made in the boardrooms, not at Council meetings.

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  7. Great article and your usual twisted comments. Not much different than the CNN versus Fox one sided debates. I guess your loyal followers would like to go back in time and have the continued ugliness of that rat infested area that showcased Daytona Downtown so elegantly. It was quite the sight. Now we are stuck with an ultra modern building which I’m sure you have not visited. I have and it is magnificent. You don’t need to actually do your homework to rile your followers into believing they were cheated. Time to get the facts straight on the HQ that Brown and Brown built, not Hyatt Brown. It’s a public company with 1000’s of shareholders. However the gift to the city of more than 18 million was straight of Mr Brown’s and his wife’s pocket. Just like the museum and the huge donation to Stetson local academic scholarships. Give us a break and stop being so damn jealous of a guy who has worked his tail off for 65 years and has done more good than any of us will ever do for Daytona. It’s beneath you.

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    1. Mike I will stick with Barker .I wont do business with Brown and I live in Ormond and dont like anything in Daytona and wont go there.My guests think it is a shithole and one building wont change the skum city government ,midtown or the beach trash.Dont like Barker than why read it unless you are a friend or employee of Brown.Downtown Daytona is still rat infested .Shame the Browns dont own Buc-ee’s because that is what Daytona is known for now like the old South of the Border

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Reminiscent of the sharecroppers shopping at the company store… “maybe da big boss man be good enough to deduct my restaurant tab from my paycheck.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey Mike,
    How many of those 1,000’s of shareholders actually had a say about the building on Beach St AND how many citizens of DAB & Volusia County were part of the negotiations for all the tax breaks/financial incentives B & B received for the building. And let’s not forget Brown more or less told the city of DAB if they didn’t approve the improvementst/streetscaping to Beach St they could forget about most of his $18M contribution for the park. I don’t think Mark is jealous of anyone much less Hyatt? 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As a shareholder of BNB I feel the HQ should have been in a more appropriate city like a Charlotte or Atlanta or even Dallas but Hyatt pushed for Daytona because he loves the city. He has led BNB to incredible levels during his tenure and NO I had no say in the Boards selection of Daytona. Do you honestly feel that the city would be better off with out the investment and the new park gift. Also do you know the difference between the public company and Hyatt’s personal contributions? They are quite different since he in fact owns a minority share of BNB.

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      1. Yes, I do know the difference between HB’s personal contributions & the public company. You say HB is a mInority shareholder? That may well be, but if you think for 1 minute that decisions of this magnitude (multi-milllion $) new office building are made without his final say (thumbs up or down) you are exactly the kind of shareholder they love to have and living in some sort of fantasy world.

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  10. Two Billionaires from the Familys5 end up in the same building growing a joint enterprise, i wonder how/when the other 3 get a teat……

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  11. Maybe not jealous but certainly envious. Mark is a blogger. He writes extremely well and I like a lot of what he blogs. I’m not for over developing and I feel we do have problems with our city government. Our city needs massive planning and clean up. The new building was a start. If I had a vote as a shareholder of BNB I would have voted for Charlotte or Raleigh or Atlanta or Dallas because it’s much more corporate. Hyatt loves Daytona and has given millions to the city. I’m not jealous or envious of this man or his accomplishments but I certainly listen when he speaks. I’ve never met a more intelligent businessman than Hyatt.

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  12. I agree about B&B – the building is so out of place & now this – I had no idea about their restaurant, etc.! I was just down there yesterday; met my daughter @ McK’s for lunch (she had lunch at the Dancing Avocado Monday – IDK where Tues) – the whole street is a ghost town and most of it is dilapidated. Such a shame. The only time we ever go down anymore is when we go to Angell & Phelps or Tom Cooks; I don’t usually walk. But not having been to McK’s in years, I forgot where it was & parked over a block to the North; walking down past all the shops/restaurants before I met with her – it truly is depressing. I drove past the B&B monstrosity on my way down from OB – DAB/VC should NEVER have given permission, let alone dollars!

    Liked by 1 person

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