Planned in the early 1990s, the Southwest Activity Center was envisioned as sort of a copy of Heathrow along I-4 in Lake Mary.
The SWAC, according to civic and business leaders, was a grouping of lands destined to become a showcase of single-family and multifamily dwellings, retailers, restaurants, hotels, office parks and clean, light industries.
The SWAC was a joint-planning venture spearheaded by Volusia County, with the cities of DeLand and Deltona as partners. Parcels within the grouping were located in each of the three jurisdictions.
It was anticipated that the build-out of the SWAC would take years, but nothing happened until the past decade or so.
The SWAC was known as a development of regional impact (DRI). A DRI, under former laws and planning criteria, was a project so massive that its effects — especially economic — would cover a wide area, drawing people from other localities to live or work or both within its boundaries.
Despite its strategic placement — location, location, location — the property sat idle.
Deltona withdrew from the DRI in 2009 and vowed to chart its own course to develop the 900 acres within the city limits, while the SWAC parcels in DeLand and the unincorporated area of the county remained largely untouched.
Deltona, in fact, was the first to bring any development to the former DRI, beginning with a Duke Energy substation and followed by Epic Theatres, a 12-screen cinema that opened in 2011.
Since then, several businesses have opened within the Deltona Activity Center, on the east side of the interchange, including RaceTrac, Burger King, McDonald’s, Wawa, a 90-bed Halifax Health hospital and, not least, a 1.4 million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center.
More development, including an industrial park with other high-cube warehouses, is underway.
In fact, though the DRI was abolished, the land within it is changing in ways closely aligned with the old proposals.
“What we’re seeing is that the area around 472 is becoming more developed,” county Growth and Resource Management Director Clay Ervin said.