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Recently the MainStreet DeLand Association broadcast an online survey to business owners and citizens, seeking their preferences about how to spend city Community Redevelopment Agency monies in the Downtown commercial district.

One option is a Streetscape to improve sidewalks, lighting and landscaping along West Voorhis Avenue, similar to what was done on Indiana and New York avenues several years ago.

When first viewing the portion of Voorhis Avenue from Florida Avenue west to Clara Avenue, it seems difficult to imagine a thriving business district. This block has boarded-up buildings, weed-filled vacant lots, and empty parking places!

However, if one thinks deeper, you can appreciate how a Streetscape could become a catalyst for further economic expansion of the prosperous Downtown shopping/restaurant/tourism and cultural arts just a few blocks north.

Take another look — at the corner of Voorhis and Clara, you see the two-story brick J.W. Wright Building, currently under restoration partially funded by a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

Just this week, the building was entered into the National Register of Historic Places as of “State Significance,” all due to hundreds of hours of personal volunteer research by historian Sidney Johnston of the Stetson University staff.

This 1920 vintage building is programmed by the Greater Union Life Center to become an employment-development center and entrepreneurs business incubator. 

Just around the corner to the south on Clara Avenue is the African American Museum of the Arts and the Noble “Thin Man” Watts Amphitheater. To the north is the historic 135-year-old Greater Union First Baptist Church, with gorgeous stained-glass windows.

Back at 247 W. Voorhis Ave. is a two-story 1890s house needing a paint job — this structure has seven well-appointed offices. I started negotiating to purchase this building several weeks before I heard of the CRA Streetscape possibility. I’m buying that building because I believe in Downtown DeLand. I’m “putting skin in the game”!

Heading toward Woodland Boulevard, the empty church parking will fill again with worshippers when COVID-19 is defeated. These spaces could also be open-air markets and auxiliary parking for businesses built in vacant lots.

A Streetscape on Voorhis could stimulate investment in the closed restaurants and further business and apartment development on land at two corners of the well-traveled Florida and Voorhis corner.

City CRA monies spent on expansion of the Downtown district could foster more housing and commercial investment in the Spring Hill area nearby.

Please consider your online choice of the Voorhis Avenue Streetscape as a vote for a better Downtown DeLand!

— Shuttleworth, former mayor of the City of Lake Helen, owns two Downtown DeLand businesses: Florida Victorian Salvage on West Georgia Avenue, and DaVinci Design Studios on West Howry Avenue.

Get involved:

To take the city’s survey, go here: bit.ly/3rcwgkA

To reach members of the Community Redevelopment Agency, send an email to Mike Grebosz, greboszm@deland.org, and ask that it be forwarded to the CRA members.

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