deland commons
PHOTO COURTESY ATLANTIC HOUSING PARTNERS
A LOOK AT THE FUTURE? — This rendering shows what the main apartment building for DeLand Commons may look like from South Woodland Boulevard. This building would house 173 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, as well as a number of ground-floor commercial spaces.

The DeLand City Commission held off on making a final decision Dec. 19 on DeLand Commons, a planned multifamily housing project that would bring 180 apartments to Downtown DeLand’s south side. The development is expected to come back to the City Commission in January.

DeLand Commons has been in the works for nearly a year, but the City Commission held off on approving the project’s site plan, instead asking to see a parking-management plan and some changes to the design of its four-story apartment building.

If approved by the City Commission, DeLand Commons would bring multifamily housing on a 5-acre parcel that stretches from South Woodland Boulevard to South Alabama Avenue to the east, and across East Voorhis Avenue on the south. 

Of the total 180 units, 173 would be apartments in the main four-story building fronting on Woodland Boulevard. That building would include space at street level for businesses to set up shop. Across Voorhis Avenue, DeLand Commons’ remaining acreage leaves space for five town-home units, two carriage houses and some of the project’s 256 proposed parking spaces.

The plans for DeLand Commons have changed each time it has come before one of the city’s boards, in part because of reaction to the main apartment building’s design from members of the Planning Board and the Historical Preservation Board. 

The Planning Board Member Don Liska called the building, which would become one of the first new buildings on Downtown DeLand’s south side, “a frightening abomination,” when the Planning Board reviewed it earlier this year. Since then, the edifice has changed a bit. 

The four-story building was shown Dec. 19 with a brick exterior on its first floor and a Hardie Board exterior as it goes up, all topped with a white parapet roof. 

The style of the building is meant to evoke buildings in Downtown DeLand like the balconies on the DeLand Opera House building at the corner of Woodland Boulevard and Rich Avenue. 

Here’s how Jim Wachtel, an architect contracted by the City of DeLand, described it:

“While they didn’t mimic any one particular building that was Downtown, there is no style Downtown. It’s very eclectic, obviously,” he told the City Commission. “I think they’ve picked up elements of the whole streetscape, as you will, and put it into here for a different use, which is multifamily instead of the commercial and retail that you have Downtown.”

The City Commission still wasn’t sold on the design and encouraged the developer to change the Hardie Board to stucco and potentially add more brick throughout the design so DeLand Commons fits in more with the rest of Downtown, specifically historic buildings like the historic Artisan Hotel right next door. 

“It’s too pretty, in essence,” City Commissioner Kevin Reid said. “I know you can’t redesign history, but you can … have an element of differentiation.”

Parking spaces

Like many development projects proposed in Downtown DeLand, the question of parking was a hot-button issue during the Dec. 19 discussion of DeLand Commons.

Rather than pursuing development as a Planned Unit Development, or PD, DeLand Commons developer Atlantic Housing Partners is developing the project within the parameters of the city’s existing zoning. 

PD zoning allows developers to deviate from the existing requirements while also allowing the city to be choosier about what comes into the city. 

Under the existing zoning regulations, DeLand Commons would be required to build 358 parking spaces for its residents and the customers of its businesses. But the developer wants to build 256 motor-vehicle spaces and get a waiver for the remaining 102.

Ask attorney Mark Watts, representing the developer, and he’ll tell you the reduction in spaces could benefit the city and contribute to a more car-less lifestyle.

By making parking spots more difficult to get, he said, you encourage people to use them less.

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN
MAKING HIS CASE — DeLand attorney Mark Watts, representing developer Atlantic Housing Partners, compels the City Commission to approve a site plan for DeLand Commons Dec. 19. Listening are Assistant City Manager Mike Grebosz, front, and DeLand Planning Director Mike Holmes.

“It’s a hard step, but it’s the step you have to take if we’re going to move away from over-parking our Downtown,” Watts said. 

Watts hopes many DeLand Commons residents would live, work and play all within Downtown DeLand, but some on the City Commission identified hiccups in that plan. 

Whether they like it or not, City Commissioner Dan Reed told Watts, the city is still a commuter town. Reed didn’t like the discrepancy between the city’s requirements and what the developer was pitching.

“It’s just an unrealistic number in an already heavily taxed area for parking to now say, ‘Well, there’s going to be 100 cars, potentially, that are going to have to find someplace else to park,’” Reed said.

He continued, “I think we’d be foolish to assume the majority of those residents would work in Downtown DeLand. I think that’s a foolish assumption. We know that DeLand is mostly a commuter town. I would love for them to be Downtown residents and work Downtown, that would be the most ideal situation for everyone, but I don’t think that’s a realistic idea.”

The City Commission did not approve the parking waiver for Atlantic Housing Partners, but instead asked that the company return in the new year with a parking-management plan to ensure that the best layout of spaces is identified.

DeLand Commons is expected to return to the DeLand City Commission in January or February. While the City Commission typically meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month, they will instead meet on the first and third Tuesday of January due to New Years Day and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

All meetings are open to the public and are held in the City Commission Chambers at 120 S. Florida Ave.


 

More apartments on the way outside of Downtown DeLand

While DeLand Commons was the star of the show at the DeLand City Commission meeting Dec. 19, an apartment project in another part of town got the final approval it needed to move forward with site plans. 

Rezoning for Pointe Grand, which was previously denied by the DeLand City Commission due to concerns over density, was approved on second reading Dec. 19. The project will bring 204 units of multifamily apartment housing to North Spring Garden Avenue, south of Clear Lake Drive and next to the Cascades neighborhood. 

The development was approved with stipulations added that will give benefits to any resident who is employed by a medical facility that is within 1 mile from the project.

Pointe Grand was approved by a unanimous vote of the City Commission.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder if there has been any thought to a grocery store in walking distance to the downtown apartments under consideration. I doubt that residents will be “car-less” but if any were to be such it seems that some consideration needs to be given for necessities.

  2. I did appreciate all of the discussion about this project at DeLand’s council meeting. I hope that the end product turns into an asset for the community, however, I do fear what could happen in the future. The developer of this project also developed Taylor Place Apartments in DeLand. When you google Taylor Place Apartments and look at the Google reviews it becomes very concerning.

  3. The mouthpiece, Watts hopes many DeLand Commons residents would live, work and play all within Downtown DeLand. Is he willing to take this “hard step”? Will he give up his automobile(s) and lead by example?

  4. Contrary to Daniel Reed’s comment, I believe That there is likely a significant number of residents in this development, that will be working in downtown DeLand.
    Since the pandemic, it has become commonplace for employees who can access their workplace software, and data on their computers, to work from home. In this instance, home is in downtown, DeLand.

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