BEACON PHOTO/JEFF SHEPHERD POSSIBILITIES — This view of the 200 block of West Voorhis Avenue, looking west, shows a street with an air of neglect. Although the area has been contributing to DeLand’s Community Redevelopment Agency fund since the CRA was created, it has not seen the benefit of CRA funds, which have largely been spent in the central core of Downtown DeLand.

The City of DeLand is looking for input on future plans to fix up a portion of West Voorhis Avenue. 

The Downtown DeLand Community Redevelopment Agency will host design consultant CPH Inc. in a special meeting to present preliminary plans for the West Voorhis Avenue Streetscape project. The project was selected by the public last year as a recipient of CRA funding that needed to be directed to community development projects.

West Voorhis Avenue rests along the southern boundary of the Downtown DeLand CRA. The street is home to a number of historic landmarks of DeLand’s Black community, including Greater Union First Baptist Church — first opened in the early 1880s — DeLand’s African American Museum of the Arts and the J.W. Wright Building. 

The Wright Building once served as a meeting place for DeLand’s Black community and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. An effort to restore the building began last year.

Streetscaping West Voorhis Avenue would better integrate the rich history of the area into Downtown DeLand, African American Museum of the Arts Executive Director Mary Allen said. 

“Voorhis is instrumental; this was a very influential area here,” Allen told The Beacon. “This is the area that was recognized as the hub of the Black community.”

CORE GATEWAY — This graphic shows the City of DeLand’s core gateway, in purple, and the Downtown DeLand Community Redevelopment Agency district, in red. West Voorhis Avenue sits along the southern boundary of the CRA district, which goes west along the street to Clara Avenue.

When the project was discussed by the CRA last March, former state Rep. and former County Council Member Joyce Cusack spoke in favor of the decision to allocate CRA funds to the project.

“You see, for many years, it was not very popular for folk of color to be in the Downtown area of business,” Cusack told the CRA board during a public comment period. “We are finally going to bridge the gap, and become a city and a CRA that supports all of the CRA and the Downtown DeLand.”

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, in the City Commission Chambers in DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave., and will be open to the public.


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