“A few weeks ago, the mayor wrote up a detailed list of suggestions to help the long-struggling Main Street and Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard areas.”
–The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Biketoberfest changes on the way?” Friday, October 15, 2021
Wait a minute.
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry – who, in real life, serves as an assistant principal at an area public school – sat down and cobbled together a list of “suggestions” that will ultimately “change” the two largest, most lucrative, special events in Volusia County?
But don’t worry, Mayor Henry has reassured local businesses, many still struggling to recover from the financial devastation wrought by the pandemic, “My aim is in no way eliminating or getting rid of Bike Week and Biketoberfest.”
Hizzoner’s here to help. . .
According to a report by the News-Journal’s Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, last Wednesday, while area businesses and property owners were preparing for the start of Biketoberfest, the Daytona Beach City Commission took up Mayor Henry’s “suggestions” – much of which appear to involve “better rules” and “cracking down” on things like parking, more government involvement/control, and the enforcement of “redevelopment standards” on Main Street and Mary Mcleod Bethune Boulevard – struggling commercial areas that have suffered from years of civic neglect and stagnation.
In typical form, Mayor Henry likes the notion that businesses and property owners should be “brought to heel” with more regulation and enforcement.
Don’t get me wrong – the idea of cleaning up our horribly blighted core tourist area is decades overdue – and, for far too long, a small group of powerful Main Street area property owners have hampered substantive progress by refusing to establish year-round businesses, opting for vacant storefronts and rudimentary parking lots only open during special events, while those who have a fulltime presence feel they are locked in an “Us vs. Them” adversarial relationship with City Hall.
Because they are.
Like our horribly neglected gateway on East International Speedway Boulevard, for years the City of Daytona Beach has sat idle, taking a hands-off approach while the Main Street Redevelopment Area languished – with decaying flags and faded temporary signage hanging from dilapidated façades while vacant buildings and weed-strewn lots added to the down-at-the-heels feel – the area buoyed only by the incredibly lucrative biker events many full-time merchants rely on for their survival.
That’s why when Mayor Henry “…sees a connection between some of the problems around those two corridors and Bike Week and Biketoberfest, and he wants to remove any barriers to redevelopment that the city might be reinforcing with the way it oversees biker parties,” my first reaction is Qui Bono?
Because you can bet your ass Mr. Henry did not conjure up this lightning-quick decision to move heaven-and-earth and use the legislative process, rather than collaborative planning, to reverse the clearly strategic blight that has driven beachside property values into the toilet and discouraged outside investment for years.
I could be wrong – but I have my own suspicions.
In June 2019, The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s outstanding business editor Clayton Park wrote an informative piece entitled, “Consolidated-Tomoka casts an eye over Daytona’s Main Street,” which announced the hush-hush formation of a limited liability company called “DB Main Street LLC.”
At the time, the powerful Sir John Albright, who oversees the newest iteration that good ol’ boys investment club now known as CTO Realty Growth, said, “We have all kinds of LLCs. We have tons of little entities. I wouldn’t read anything into it.”
Nothing to see here, folks. Keep moving. . .
Those paying attention may recall that the formation of the company followed the unveiling of architectural renderings showing “what could be” on a city-owned parking lot across Auditorium Boulevard from the Ocean Center, just north of Main Street.
Former Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm used the conceptual drawings to highlight a possible multi-story parking garage, apartments or condominiums, and street-level retail shops (renderings that were commissioned by Consolidated-Tomoka) during a February 2019 presentation to the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, which included CTO Realty Growth’s still unrealized plan to develop the former First Baptist Church site in downtrodden downtown.
“Consolidated-Tomoka officials at the time said the Main Street Mixed-Use renderings were produced to suggest what could be done with the parking lot and did not represent an actual project.”
Just spit-balling, eh? Okay.
Now, Mayor Henry – with zero input from residents or Main Street area businesses – those who make their living from the long-established Bike Week and Biketoberfest events (which is estimated to have brought $16 million to the region this weekend) – wants “earthmoving” changes, “big alterations,” boldly stating, “It will take great leadership and a willingness to upset some people who have their own agenda to achieve the greater goals.”
The “personal agenda” part, that is. . .
When you look at other destinations around the county who have successfully reinvented themselves, most winning transformations begin with establishing community and stakeholder “buy in” – an intense process that begins with a collaborative period of planning and design – establishing how government can assist established businesses, and encourage entrepreneurial investment, by reducing onerous bureaucratic hurdles – finding creative solutions to historic roadblocks, considering the concerns of area residents, then forming a clear and collective vision for the future.
Our hospitality gurus have just spent $50,000 with a Canadian consultant for “…a full-scope deep dive into today’s destination image and perception of Daytona Beach.”
In addition, Seabreeze Boulevard merchants are actively looking for ways to improve that entertainment district.
Everyone doing their own thing with little, if any, coordination.
Clearly, Mayor Henry could give two-shits what these studies and discussions may, or may not, show – for reasons known only to him – time’s a-wasting for earthmoving change.
Anyone else see the importance of integrating the results of the hospitality consultant’s report – along with the previous findings of the Beachside Redevelopment Committee and the 2013 “Analysis of Volusia County Tourism Marketing” – as part of a holistic look at our “tourism product” and how City Hall can help (or not)?
Short-term solutions that benefit those with the right last names – change based solely on the enforcement of draconian diktats ramrodded down the throats of area residents and businesses – lasts only as long as the project and administration that pushed it.
True civic, social, and economic transformation can only be realized when those with a stake in the ultimate outcome are made part of the solution.
That begins with an open, transparent, and inclusive process that leads to a clear roadmap forward – not dictatorial government-imposed mandates which only benefit the next “game changing” project du jour.
This one is important – and long overdue.
Perhaps we shouldn’t rely on the same tired bureaucrats and entrenched insiders who got us into this mess in the first place to give us more of the same?
In my view, transforming Main Street and beyond will require more than Mayor Henry’s suspicious “suggestions” and saber rattling to ensure success.