Revitalization of Midtown moves closer to reality

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH, LEAD STORIES, NEWS

BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
DAYTONA TIMES

A booming Midtown is one step closer to reality as the next step of the Midtown Master Plan is undertaken. The City of Daytona Beach has received two request for proposals (RFPs) to implement the area’s redevelopment.

The redevelopment will be executed with input of the public from either Real Estate Research Consultants (RERC) of Orlando or Jones Lang LaSalle of Miami.

“I would have sold tickets if I knew so many people would be here,” said Thomas R. Kohler, senior principal of RERC, to the standing room only crowd at the Feb. 14 meeting. Kohler gave a presentation on his experience with redeveloping other minority areas at the public interview meeting for his firm. Jones Lang LaSalle was interviewed at a previous meeting.

The meetings were initially closed to the public but Daytona Beach Commissioner Paula Reed requested that the meetings be opened for input from the residents that were affected by the plan to which the city commission agreed.

Board to rank proposals
Deputy City Manager Paul McKitrick, sits on the selection committee of the Midtown Redevelopment Services Board, the committee that will choose the highest-ranking firm.

According to McKitrick, the committee was to meet Feb. 20 to rank the participating RFPs. Following the ranking, the RFPs will be submitted to City Manager Jim Chisholm who will review the rankings and submit the results to the city commission for final approval.

The rankings will take into account each firm’s approach to the project, experience and qualifications, schedule for completion and budget and cost effectiveness.

The award will then be made to the firm that offers the best value to the city. However, it is important to note that although one company may receive a higher ranking than the other, the city commission has the final say meaning it is possible that the highest ranker is not chosen if the commission does not see fit.

Vision for Midtown
The plan the two firms are vying to implement was designed back in 2010 by Florida A&M University (FAMU) students and staff with input from the Midtown Redevelopment Area board, residents and businesses.

The vision of the plan is to “preserve the unique historic and cultural qualities of the African-American Midtown District, while creating a new era for Midtown that is the model of an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable community.”

Midtown was known as a booming Black entertainment, residential and business district in its heyday but according to residents, suffered unfortunate side effects of integration in the 1950s and 1960s as Blacks sought the wares, restaurants, businesses and homes of the greater Daytona Beach area.

As more and more residents left the area or chose to spend their dollars outside of the community, businesses closed, vacant buildings grew in number. Midtown began to suffer.

But through the vision of community activists, elected officials and the action of the Master Plan those scenes of Midtown could soon be just a memory.

Streetscaping and businesses
Urban design and neighborhood structuring, streets and transits, parks and green space, community gardens and public markets, businesses and residences as well as the expansion of several sites throughout the area are all part of the revitalization efforts.

The plan has created a foundation to revitalize the area, Daytona Beach Midtown Redevelopment Project Manager Charles Bryant said in an interview with the Daytona Times at the plan’s inception.

“We didn’t have anything in place before. We couldn’t get anything done. We always heard we didn’t have a plan. Now we have a blueprint, where do we want to go,” Bryant said. “Don’t sit down and wait until we make changes. We don’t know everything. We are learning too.”

“Don’t come after everything has changed. Be a part of the process. Don’t wait until the building is built to complain,” he demanded.

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