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As Downtown DeLand marches south, urban-living options are set to increase.

Plans for a multifamily apartment complex on nearly 3 acres just south of the DeLand Regional Library have not reached DeLand’s Planning Department, but on July 18 the city’s Planning Board unanimously endorsed rezoning the parcel. 

Attorney Mark Watts with Cobb Cole represented EMS of DeLand LLC, in the request to the Planning Board. 

EMS principals include Kirk T. Bauer, Martha Bauer and Elizabeth Riley.

While the exact development planned for the parcel wasn’t part of the discussion about the rezoning, Watts said he would return with a Class 4 site plan for the apartment development. 

“Class 4” is for a multifamily development with more than 80 units, according to the City of DeLand.

The zoning change was from an expired Planned Development to Downtown Commercial zoning. That provides more flexibility to work in an urban area, Watts said. 

He said the developer is “well known around the state, and did a similar project behind Winter Park Village.”

That project is Village Park Senior Living.

Completed in 2013, it was a joint venture between Palm Beach Gardens-based Eastwind Development and Winter Park-based Atlantic Housing, which is listed on Volusia County documents as associated with the DeLand project, according to DeLand planner Sarah Davis. 

Watts said Atlantic Housing presented Village Park to his client simply as an architectural example of what the DeLand complex could look like, but is “not proposing to do senior housing” on the Downtown DeLand site along South Alabama and East Voorhis avenues.

“They’re working on site plans now,” Watts said. “The general scope of the project is 90-100 apartment units.”

The apartments will be available to people of all ages, and the investors are examining the local housing market to establish rental fees, he said. 

The “Osceola” unit at Village Park is a one-bedroom, one-bath, 659-square-foot apartment that rents for $821 monthly, according to an online brochure published by the management company, Concord Rents.   

Concord, which describes itself as a national leader in multifamily affordable rental housing communities, also manages DeLand’s Taylor Place, an affordable-housing community.

When the project came before DeLand’s Planning Board, Member Gus Gibbs recalled the history of the site.

“This is … where Michael Arth was going to build the Taj Mahal?” Gibbs asked.  

About 13 years ago — after successfully rehabbing the formerly derelict neighborhood along East Voorhis Avenue, between Amelia and Alabama avenues ­— urban invigorator Arth envisioned The Palm Garden on the 2.5 acres, as a “pedestrian-oriented commercial and residential development surrounding a tropical oasis and spring-like pool with waterfalls,” according to www.pedestrianvillages.com. 

He had the site zoned for a Planned Development, and planned an elaborate Spanish Colonial Revival-style shopping complex, more than 50 residences, nearly 30 businesses, semi-underground parking for automobiles and 200 parking spaces for bicycles.

Then came the Great Recession. The multiuse PD expired when no development order materialized, according to the city.

More recently, Arth got City Commission approval for a smaller pedestrian-oriented housing development nearby, just south of East Voorhis Avenue. 

In April of this year, commissioners approved a preliminary plat for Arth’s Palm Garden Cottages PD, which will have 13 lots and 13 cottages.

Arth is concerned about what might be planned for the property north of Voorhis.

“We want to make sure that a project in keeping with the historic character of Downtown is built,” Arth wrote in an email to The Beacon July 30. “Ideally it would include Craftsman-style row houses, hidden parking, and attractive entrances for pedestrians and cars. The palm trees along Woodland must be preserved.”    

Watts said he has worked with Atlantic Housing in the past, on both low-income and market-rate projects. He said the apartments alongside the library and behind Save-A-Lot grocery will not be low-income housing.

“We are proposing a market-rate project,” Watts said. 

With the Planning Board’s recommendation for approval in hand, the DeLand City Commission will vote on the zoning change at its regular meeting Monday, Aug. 20.

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