Newly unveiled Downtown DeLand apartment projects could change the face of the city’s main street as developers aim to build hundreds of apartments in the Downtown DeLand Historic District.
“We’ve been working for more than 30 years to try and encourage this type of a development opportunity to come into Downtown, and the great thing is now we’ve got not one, but two,” DeLand attorney Mark Watts of Cobb Cole told the Downtown DeLand CRA at a meeting Nov. 15.
The two developments are DeLand Commons and the Woodland Boulevard Apartments. Both are in very early stages of development, and Watts, representing both DeLand Commons developer Atlantic Housing Partners and Woodland Boulevard Apartments developer Framework Group, discussed the possible futures for the projects.
DeLand Commons, composed of two four-story buildings, would include 173 rental units, including studio apartments, as well as one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Parking would be on-property, but city officials are hopeful that residents would be able to rely on alternate mobility options with so many resources close to home. The bottom floor of the building would include commercial space.
DeLand Commons would sit along Woodland Boulevard between East Voorhis and East Howry avenues near the DeLand Regional Library. The site for DeLand Commons includes the former Save A Lot grocery store that closed earlier this year. Across East Voorhis Avenue from the main apartment buildings, concept plans call for five additional town homes.
Then there are the Woodland Boulevard Apartments, which Watts had less information about. The project is being eyed by Tampa developer Framework Group. The apartments would take over the current site of the Bank of America building at 230 N. Woodland Blvd. between West Wisconsin Avenue and West Church Street and include 298 units and an internal parking garage for residents.
“One of the core assets of living Downtown is the ability to walk to the businesses Downtown,” Watts said. “I think that is one of the reasons why we have consistently, for 30-some-odd years, wanted to have additional Downtown residents come into the city and be able to support not only the existing businesses but the expansion of business in the Downtown core.”
All of this would play well, City Manager Michael Pleus told The Beacon, into future plans to streetscape Voorhis Avenue and provide some transit from the DeLand train station — the future home of SunRail in DeLand — to the Downtown core.
With the DeLand City Commission regularly under fire for approving large housing developments, Mayor Bob Apgar stressed that infill developments like these present smart solutions to the city’s housing crisis.
“We hear a lot about concerns in the community about sprawl,” Apgar said. “Well, this is the exact opposite of any notion of sprawl. It’s putting a major living facility in our Downtown core.”
Developer Atlantic Housing Partners has worked on a number of downtown corridor projects around Central Florida, in cities like Maitland and St. Petersburg. Scott Culp, speaking for the developer, said their focus is on promoting affordable housing for working people in DeLand.
“When we were looking at this particular area, we were focused on definitely mixed-use and mixed-income,” Culp said. “We see the opportunity here in the city of DeLand for some of the attainable housing in the more 80-100 percent of median income, which is more workforce housing.”
According to data from the 2020 census, the median household income of Volusia County residents is $49,494.
More housing means more mouths to feed, but Apgar is confident that a Downtown DeLand grocery store could be a reality in the near future, potentially in the building now housing the Volusia County Clerk of Court’s office at 235 W. New York Ave.
“[Deputy City Manager Michael Grebosz] and I had a meeting with the clerk of court this week, and she’s willing to relocate from that building over there that, in my youth, was a grocery store …” Apgar said. “It’s in the pipe dream type thing, but in the progress with the Putnam, wanting something more attractive than a records building on a main road … it might be back to the future and a grocery store.”
Proposed projects to add rental housing to Downtown DeLand
DeLand Commons, near the site of the former Downtown DeLand Save A Lot: 173 units.
The Woodland Boulevard Apartments, located at the site of the former Downtown DeLand Bank of America building: 298 units.
The Putnam Hotel, 225 W. New York Ave.: Some 60 units.
So what are the developers asking of the city?
DeLand Commons developer Atlantic Housing Partners is asking for an upfront $200,000 contribution from the city and a waiver of 90-percent of the taxes that would be due to DeLand’s Community Redevelopment Agency for about 15 years or until that CRA expires.
The investments are not a deal breaker, Culp said, and City Commissioner Charles Paiva noted they may not be necessary to attract developers like Atlantic Housing Partners.
“I’m not opposed to the subsidy,” Paiva said. “I just feel like we’re pretty desirable at the moment if you look at our population growth and how many people are coming here, so I don’t know that we need to be as generous to make it happen …”
The developer is also requesting a waiver for minimum parking requirements pending a parking study to see how many spots would be necessary. Current plans show 210 parking spaces, including 19 public parking spaces along Voorhis and Alabama avenues.
The two projects introduced by Watts are not the only Downtown DeLand developments planned to include rental housing. The Hotel Putnam, at 225 W. New York Ave., has long sat abandoned after a string of damaging incidents and delays, but the building’s new owners have recently taken steps toward revitalizing the old hotel.
Axia Partners intends to fix up the building and fill it with approximately 60 apartment units.
At this time, both projects are in early stages, Community Development Director Rick Werbiskis told The Beacon. No plans have been submitted to the city for either DeLand Commons or the Woodland Boulevard Apartments.
Expect movement on these projects soon. per Watts, Apgar wants to cut the ribbon on an apartment building in Downtown DeLand before his term is up in November 2022.