The future is coming fast in DeBary.
Long considered a retirement village and a wide place in U.S. Highway 17-92 between Sanford and DeLand, DeBary’s population now numbers almost 20,000. That figure is destined to increase markedly, if planners are correct, as new settlers move to the River City.
DeBary’s center of gravity is poised to shift from the “main street” of U.S. 17-92 and Highbanks Road southward to a largely undeveloped area around the SunRail depot.
The mostly vacant land offers entrepreneurs and visionaries the opportunity to create their own ideal community from scratch.
DeBary City Manager and former Mayor Carmen Rosamonda sees the chance to make something new, by taking the best ideas from other desirable places in Central Florida — Winter Park, Maitland, Baldwin Park, Longwood, etc. — and refining them for DeBary.
“We’re not trying to be like everybody else,” Rosamonda said, adding DeBary can be “a quaint customized environment.” “We’re not going to have the big-box businesses. We’re not going to compete with Orange City.”
To build anew from the ground up, DeBary has established a special economic-development zone, known as the Transit Overlay District. The TOD encompasses about 210 acres, mostly privately owned, and zoned for mixed-use development.
The TOD, according to the latest proposals, will become a melange of homes, businesses, offices, restaurants, parks and trails, all accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists, and anchored by the SunRail connection. Developed to its potential, the TOD will be a place for DeBaryites and visitors to gather for outdoor events and celebrations, or just to spend a day or night in a change of scenery.
Too, three hiking and biking trails converge in the TOD, almost guaranteeing more people will come.
“I think we’re going to be one of the leading destinations in Florida,” Rosamonda said.
The new DeBary, easily accessible and walkable, will be a showcase of how to develop new human habitat — in an area that, despite all the urban growth the Sunshine State has experienced, has thriving pieces of Old Florida wilderness.
“This is conceptual,” DeBary Economic Development and TOD Director Roger Van Auker said, adding the figures may change. “This is not what it will be, but what it could be.”