Downtown residential development is booming. But it’s unclear what’s next and whether the regional impact downtown development will attract the retail stores originally envisioned.
“There are ways to think about it other than how it was thought about 20 years ago.”
— DAVID ALFIN, Mayor of Palm Coast
In a presentation to City Council at a March 8 workshop, Palm Coast Development Manager DeLorenzo explained by way of example why it is difficult to predict what the future balance of residential uses will look like, commercial and other in the city center.
Opposite a nearby downtown commercial building, he said, is a parcel that could be used for commercial space, office space or residential space. The city does not know what will happen to it.
“How that owner decides to build this and use those rights will be up to them,” he said.
There are a lot of packages like this. DeLorenzo’s presentation was designed to give council members insight into the current state of downtown so they can consider whether they want to change their plans for its future.
Councilman Ed Danko said brick and mortar is essential downtown.
“And unfortunately, in today’s economy, brick and mortar is way too expensive,” Danko said. “So we may not see a lot of development until this economy changes.”
The city could develop incentive programs to attract businesses, he said.
Mayor David Alfin said the city may need to look for unconventional solutions.
“Building an economy based on arts and culture, for example, could be an attraction that would bring additional traffic to the downtown area,” Alfin said. “Just a thought. There could be many other types of savings.”
Alfin said he was recently at the International Conference on Economic Development in Nashville, Tennessee, and noted that this city had a music-based nighttime economy that seemed completely separate from its daytime economy.
“It brought huge revenue, tourists and traffic to the center of the city,” Alfin said. “Now I’m not saying it’s okay for us – I don’t know the answer to that – but it worked. So there are ways of thinking about it other than the way it was thought ago. about 20 years.”
Town Center now offers a variety of housing types – single-family, multi-family, senior independent living, assisted living, memory care – and a variety of educational opportunities, with the Imagine at Town Center charter school offering education K-8 while the University of Jacksonville and the University of North Florida offer graduate-level health professional training programs, DeLorenzo said.
The first cohort of 25 nursing students at UNF is completing its first semester, and both universities hope to increase attendance, he said.
Flagler Palm Coast High School is also nearby, but technically not within the downtown limits.
Plenty of job opportunities are also present, from entry-level to doctoral degrees, DeLorenzo added.
There are several medical practices and AdventHealth Palm Coast is just outside the downtown limits.
Other employers include banks and law firms, tax preparation offices, an animal hospital, UPS and Western Union, hair and nail salons, pharmacies and telecommunications companies, municipal government, an FPL service center, and Publix and Target and all the stores in those malls.
Downtown’s recreational and cultural offerings include approximately 5 miles of connected trails, Central Park and its sculpture garden, a movie theatre, the Palm Coast Arts Festival and, just outside the downtown boundary , Flagler Auditorium, DeLorenzo said.