FROM GEORGIA AVENUE — One of the most commonly expressed concerns about the Old Volusia County Jail redevelopment proposal is the loss of parking. The lot between the former correctional facility and Conrad Realty Co.’s property is currently used for public parking for nearby businesses, although it’s not a formally designated or maintained parking lot.BEACON PHOTO/ANTHONY DeFEO"/>
FROM GEORGIA AVENUE — One of the most commonly expressed concerns about the Old Volusia County Jail redevelopment proposal is the loss of parking. The lot between the former correctional facility and Conrad Realty Co.’s property is currently used for public parking for nearby businesses, although it’s not a formally designated or maintained parking lot. BEACON FILE PHOTO

GlassHouse Square, the project by developers associated with Deltran Operations to redevelop the Old Jail in Downtown DeLand, was approved unanimously by the DeLand Planning Board July 20 despite some remaining concerns about the project’s plan to provide parking.

After several hours of discussion, and comments from neighboring property owners, the voting members of the Planning Board unanimously approved the project, subject to some stipulations, including incorporating: 

— Language clarifying plans to enforce the city’s noise ordinance around GlassHouse Square;

— Language crafted by GlassHouse Square LLC’s attorney and the attorney representing the neighboring Conrad Realty properties ensuring the neighboring historic buildings will be protected during GlassHouse Square’s construction;

— A vibration monitoring plan crafted by the city’s engineers to help protect the nearby historic buildings;

— A recommendation that the DeLand City Commission, per City Attorney Darren Elkind, “explore and maximize the ability to have shared public parking in low-demand periods” at GlassHouse Square;

— Language exploring the potential of setting aside a bond to cover potential damages done to the Conrad Realty properties during the construction of GlassHouse Square.

When the project was seen by the Planning Board last month, one of the board’s main concerns was the lack of specifics on where parking for employees and residents of GlassHouse Square would be. The Planning Board asked that the developer return with a parking plan. What came back was not definitive, but confirmation that parking would be within 800 feet of GlassHouse Square, and most likely off-site.

While the developer’s attorney, Alex Ford, couldn’t give any details on specifically where that parking would be located, the latest planned development agreement notes that 40 spaces would be provided during the first phase of GlassHouse Square’s construction, and 10 additional spaces would be added during the second phase of construction.

Those spaces would likely not be open to the public. Ford’s main concern was that residents of the project’s five planned residential units and employees working at GlassHouse Square would have parking. The developer also intends to hold events on the property, and Ford anticipated that the parking would often be in high demand.

Another hot issue the Planning Board labored over in June was the potential for construction-related damages at the neighboring Conrad Realty properties. Conrad Realty’s historic buildings are made of sand brick, which was used after the 1886 fire that burned down much of Downtown DeLand. Sand brick, while fire-resistant, isn’t particularly sturdy when it comes to ground vibrations.

Conrad Realty President Barb Shepherd urged the Planning Board to include language crafted by engineers in the planned development agreement. She, nor any of the lawyers involved, know enough about construction to craft that language, Shepherd said. 

“It’s really on the city to research and figure out — and specify — what are the requirements for construction adjacent to the sand-brick buildings that make up a significant portion of our precious Downtown DeLand,” she said.

Ford confirmed that it was not his desire, nor the developer’s desire, to damage Shepherd’s buildings.

“The last thing in the world anybody wants is for her building to come tumbling down,” Ford said. 

Ford and Conrad Realty attorney Mark Watts are working closely, Ford said, to draft language protecting the properties favorable to both parties.

A long time coming

GlassHouse Square has been in the works since 2018, when the City of DeLand first issued a request for proposal, or RFP, looking for a developer to fix up the Old Jail. 

GlassHouse Square was selected out of a pool of three applicants, including Shepherd’s Conrad Realty, to build on the rubble of the Old Jail once the city tore the structure down. 

Citing concerns that the latest plans for the project differed from what was originally promised to the City of DeLand, the Planning Board asked the GlassHouse developer in June to bring back some information about what has changed. 

That original agreement provided a conceptual design for what the city could expect GlassHouse Square to eventually look like. The document noted that GlassHouse would develop “each Project on the Property in a manner which is consistent with the Conceptual Development Plan …” 

Per attorney Ford, they’re on the right track. 

The only notable change, he said, was the original proposal’s specified area where the parking would be. Due to some issues, Ford said, the parking could no longer be located at the proposed lot along West Howry Avenue. 

“I think other than that change,” Ford said, “it’s virtually identical to what was attached to the development agreement.”

Another change Ford did not mention had to do with the results of that original parking plan falling through. The space between the project’s two buildings was originally planned to include an open space with an “interactive water feature,” and space for vendors to operate. 

If off-site parking is not secured for GlassHouse Square, the project’s 50 parking spaces will be located in that area between the two buildings. Ford still expressed the developer’s interest in utilizing the parking area as event space.

After several hours of discussion, the DeLand Planning Board approved the project by a unanimous vote, minus Member Dan Reed, who recused himself.

Having passed the DeLand Planning Board, the next step for GlassHouse Square is to come before the Historic Preservation Board at the panel’s Aug. 4 meeting. After that, GlassHouse Square will come before the DeLand City Commission. It will require two approvals — on first and second reading — for the rezoning application to move forward.

The Historic Preservation Board meets at 5 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month unless otherwise noted. The DeLand City Commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of every month. Both city boards meet in the City Commission Chambers in DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. All meetings are open to the public.

— Editor’s note: Conrad Realty Co. President Barb Shepherd is publisher of The Beacon, and the newspaper leases its offices from Conrad Realty.

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