BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
“It’s a great day in Daytona Beach and a great day in Zone 6,” Paula Reed, Daytona Beach City Commissioner said last week at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Orange Avenue Reconstruction Project held at James Huger Park on Orange Avenue.
The project is more than 20 years in the making and has probably been the single top priority of the commission over the last 10 years and most certainly since 2009, according to Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.
In 2009 the area suffered devastating flooding due to massive rainfall and inadequate sewer systems. Flooding caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage citywide and made national headlines.
“Five years ago, the Orange Avenue area had significant flooding and significant rain that were described as hundred-year rains. They damaged the community greatly. At that point in time I think that the political will of the commission became such that it was the number one priority,” Henry continued.
“Historically this part of the community has felt, rightfully so at times, underserved,” Henry told the crowd. “This is a major, major investment. In my mind it is the right thing to do and the right time to do it, but it also speaks to the progress we have made as a city as it relates to our priorities.
Our priorities are to do our best for all citizens of Daytona Beach in all areas and I think this speaks to that end.”
Better lighting, lights
Orange Avenue is part of the Zone 6 district of Daytona Beach and a majority Black neighborhood.
The street leads through the community and straight to the steps of City Hall.
“When the entire project is completed, not only will it look much better but it will be safer for motorists and pedestrians,” Henry continued.
“Sidewalks will be widened from four feet to six feet, the lightning will be much improved, new traffic lights will be installed, and most importantly and most challenging is the fact that we will have new underground utilities like water and sewer and storm water which will all be expanded and ultimately offer better drainage.”
The mayor noted that one of the great challenges of a project of this magnitude is minimizing the impact it will have on the businesses. He said, “I was visiting the Boys and Girls Club about three months ago and I was talking to kids between ages 8 and 14 about Orange Avenue. A child came up who was maybe nine or 10 and she asked, ‘What is going to happen to those businesses?’ I thought it was perhaps the most insightful question I’d had, particularly considering her age. We are going to do everything to support the businesses and to ensure they have the least amount of invasion possible.”
Funding for the project came from multiple sources. Of the $17.6 million price tag, more than $6 million are coming from grants from the Volusia County Council and the Florida Department of Transportation. The remaining funds come from the City of Daytona Beach and a low interest rate loan from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The construction project will be completed by Thadcon LLC, which has been in Daytona Beach for 57 years. Thadcon is the same company that handled the Beach Street Streetscapes and the multi-million dollar makeover for Atlantic Avenue.
The mayor also thanked City Manager Jim Chisolm at the groundbreaking for having the project come in under bid. It was originally estimated to come in at over $19 million.