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Greg Heeter

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<p><p>Greg Heeter</p></p><p></p>

Imagine a better use for Southridge/Sandhill. Let’s create a public-private partnership and mixed use of the property, instead of a 23rd repeat of one developer packing single-family homes tighter and tighter on tiny “snout house” lots.

Envision dividing the 167-acre property into three large sections: the north (north of Euclid Avenue, where there is less contamination), the middle (including the old dump and the north portion of the old golf course, where there is the most contamination), and the south (along Beresford Avenue, less contamination).

Let’s imagine that a portion of the property can be purchased by the City of DeLand. There is an expanding pool of federal grants being made available for cities to purchase properties and convert them to community assets. Why not apply for some?

The northern third of the site might be made available to developers specifically for affordable apartments, and town homes or condos to address needed housing.

Don’t place these in boring rows, but in a village arrangement with winding walking and biking paths and sidewalks, perhaps with a European-style plaza. Connect the sidewalks and bike trails to the transportation hub along Euclid Avenue just down the street at Woodland Boulevard.

Residents of those homes would enjoy a southward view across a sloping green space with broad live oaks: a “park view.”

The large middle section of the old golf course could be reserved for two purposes:

• An active entertainment venue on one side, perhaps with a small modern golfing feature with driving, chipping and putting areas, and a fountain or waterspouts for kids. Maybe also pavilions and open meeting spaces for picnics, weddings, etc. A bandshell would take advantage of the natural slope of the property to allow the public to sit on blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy outdoor concerts or even plays.

• The remaining part could be a quiet, open park space, with old growth, moss-draped live oaks, wide grassy areas, and plantings. This would be a place for walking, running, sitting, staring, relaxing and de-stressing — DeLand’s Central Park. But, most of all, it would have space for Frisbee discs and kites, and small wooded areas to enable outdoor kid stuff.

Lastly, along the far south of the property along Beresford Avenue, 40 or 50 acres could be available to developers for more apartments, town homes and a condominium. It could consist of housing for young people and downsizing seniors.

The small shopping market or “commercial zone” already on the table could remain to meet the immediate needs of residents in the area. The “Gateway at Riverwalk” complex along Lake Monroe in Sanford comes to mind. The bottom floor of the condo could be set aside for a tavern and grill, ice cream and snacks, offices, shops, etc., with wide sidewalks and umbrellas for outdoor seating looking across green vistas.

This combination of city and public assets would be a fantastic differentiator for DeLand.

I’m certain the creative residents of DeLand, with the support of professional urban planners, can put together even more interesting, fun, and value-adding options for the irreplaceable area that is Southridge/Sandhill. But envisioning some combination of spaces like this is a great place to start.

We don’t need to have all of these features planned, defined and budgeted today. As long as the high-level components are arranged in advance, the individual sections could be implemented across time.

Everything doesn’t have to be done now, but if we don’t think about it now, the property will be concrete and sprawl by the end of next year — never to be available again.

Please imagine more than the current City Commission teetering toward sprawl. And, let commissioners know about it.

— Trained in industrial-organizational psychology, Heeter specialized in learning and workplace performance, and knowledge management. He now avoids hard scheduling demands through hobbies like kayaking, woodworking and reading.


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