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Palm Coast Tuesday, Mar. 8, 2022 3 months ago

What's next for Town Center? City Council considers options

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Incentives for businesses and a focus on arts and culture might help bring visitors, council members said at a March 8 workshop.
by: Jonathan Simmons Senior Editor

Residential development in Town Center has been booming. But it's unclear what comes next and whether the Town Center Development of Regional Impact will attract the retail shops originally envisioned. 

"There are ways to think about this other than the way it was thought about 20 years ago."

 

— DAVID ALFIN, Palm Coast mayor

In a presentation before the City Council at a March 8 workshop, Palm Coast Chief Development Officer DeLorenzo explained by way of example why it's hard to predict what the future balance of residential, retail and other commercial uses will look like in Town Center. 

Across the street from a nearby commercial building in Town Center, he said, is a parcel that could be used for commercial space, office space, or residential space. The city doesn't know what will happen with it.

"How that property owner decides to build that and utilize those entitlements will be up to them," he said. 

The University of North Florida MedNexus program site in Town Center, as shown in a city staff presentation at a March 8 City Council workshop.

There are a lot of parcels like that. DeLorenzo's presentation was designed to give council members an overview of the current condition of Town Center so that they could determine if they want to tweak plans for its future.

Councilman Ed Danko said brick-and-mortar is vital to Town Center.

"And unfortunately, in today's economy, brick and mortar is way overpriced," Danko said. "So we may not see much development until this economy changes."

The city could develop incentive programs to attract businesses, he said. 

Mayor David Alfin said the city might need to look into unconventional solutions. 

Residential developments in Town Center, as shown in a city staff presentation at a March 8 City Council workshop.

"Building an economy based on arts and culture, for example, may be an attraction that would bring additional traffic to the Town Center area," Alfin said. "Just one thought. There could be many other different types of economies."

Alfin said he was recently at the International Economic Development Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, and noted that that city had a nighttime, music-based economy that seemed completely separate from its daytime economy.

"It brought tremendous revenue and tourists and traffic to the center of the city," Alfin said. "Now, I'm not suggesting that that's correct for us — I don't know the answer to that — but it's been successful. So there are ways to think about this other than the way it was thought about 20 years ago."

Jacksonville University's site in Town Center, as shown in a city staff presentation at a March 8 City Council workshop.

Town Center now has a variety of housing types — single-family, multifamily, senior independent living, assisted living, memory care — and a variety of educational opportunities, with the Imagine at Town Center charter school providing K-8 education while Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida offer healthcare professional training programs at the university level, DeLorenzo said. 

UNF's first cohort of 25 nursing students is wrapping up its first semester, and both universities are hoping to grow their attendance, he said.

Flagler Palm Coast High School is also nearby, though not technically within Town Center's boundaries. 

Recreational opportunities in Town Center, as shown in a city staff presentation at a March 8 City Council workshop.

Plenty of employment opportunities are also present, from entry level to doctoral level, DeLorenzo added. 

There are several medical offices, and AdventHealth Palm Coast is just outside Town Center's boundaries. 

Other employers include banks and attorney's offices, tax preparation offices, an animal hospital, UPS and Western Union, hair and nail salons, pharmacies and telecommunications companies, the city government, an FPL service center, and Publix and Target and all of the shops in those shopping centers.

Town Center's recreational and cultural offerings include about 5 miles of connected trails, Central Park and its sculpture garden, a movie theater, the Palm Coast Arts Festival, and, just outside the Town Center boundaries, the Flagler Auditorium, DeLorenzo said.

 

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