New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Such beautiful potential
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Independence County, Arkansas for our focus on Economic Development in U.S. Cities
Covering approximately 41 square miles along the east coast of Florida in Volusia County, New Smyrna Beach is rated one of Florida’s top 10 beach towns in USA Today, one of the world’s top 20 surf towns by National Geographic, and one of the 10 best towns in Florida by Huffington Post. This delightful community is a gem of opportunity just waiting to be explored – for business and pleasure.
The city’s location is just one of its outstanding drawcards. Chris Edwards, CRA & Economic Development Director for New Smyrna Beach, notes, “We’re basically located at the mouth of Ponce de Leon inlet to the Atlantic Ocean, and we serve as a gateway to the historic and picturesque Indian River intercoastal waterway, which has about 10 miles of riverfront property and 13 miles of Atlantic coast beach. With easy access to Interstate 95 and Interstate 4, we are only 15 miles south of Daytona Beach, 50 miles east of Orlando, 60 miles north of Kennedy Space Center, and 89 miles south of the Jacksonville port of entry.
New Smyrna Beach is a well regarded as a cultural center for the performing & visual arts, with venues like the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Hub on Canal, and a plethora of art galleries. Edwards boasts, “The Atlantic Center for the Arts is a great community partner, adding to that arts and culture theme of New Smyrna Beach quality of life. They have been instrumental in placing artwork and murals throughout the city.”
New Smyrna Beach is an ideal place to walk and visit the shops and restaurants. The city is unique in that it has two historic downtown centers. The Canal Street Historic District is considered the mainland downtown and then there is Flagler Avenue, which leads out to the beaches. “It’s a wonderful quality of life that we offer here,” Edwards says. “We have a lot of outdoor recreational opportunities with golfing, fishing, boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, and cycling. We have one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in North America– more than 400 species of birds, dolphins, manatees, alligators, turtles, and more.”
Education-wise, New Smyrna Beach has much to offer with five excellent public schools, one charter school, and three private schools. They are also surrounded by great high education institutions, including a campus of Daytona State College, and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. The city also has its own flight school at New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport. Epic Flight Academy provides aircraft maintenance and aviation training there – the type of job skills that are in high demand right now. The total economic output for this busy general aviation airport, based on recent Florida Department of Transportation numbers, was $171,903,000 with total employment of 1281.
“We are trying to fulfill a need for hangar space at the moment,” Edwards reports. “The airport currently has over 100 names on a waiting list for corporate hangars. We also have an industrial park at the airport that is home to a variety of thriving companies including Advanced Machining, River’s Edge Composites, American Aero, and the FBO is Air Gate Aviation. In addition to that, the city purchased a property north of the airport from Baker Aviation and that company is staying on as a tenant. The airport is positioned at this stage for more economic growth, with some properties that are still undeveloped. We are currently exploring opportunities to bring in some office space in addition to aviation use, but we’re also looking at encouraging future developments at the airport to promote job creation.
To accommodate a growing population, New Smyrna Beach has several residential projects coming online – new subdivisions and new phases to existing subdivisions. There is a combination of single family residential, also multi-family spread throughout the community, as well as short-term rentals such as condos along the beach. As in many communities across the country, affordable housing is a key issue that the city is now trying to address. Edwards admits, “It’s an ongoing problem in the State of Florida… as we continue to grow, property values are going up. Because of that, we partner with the New Smyrna Beach Housing Authority which is a quasi-governmental entity that receives funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Habitat for Humanity is also a strong partner for us in that area. They submitted a proposal to acquire some deeded single family properties owned by the city and they will be building affordable housing on those lots.”
New Smyrna Beach has a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) district that encompasses a certain defined geographic area. As property values in that district go up, that increment, the percentage at which it grows, goes into a trust fund and those dollars are then reinvested in that special district to promote commercial and residential redevelopment.
According to Edwards, “We’re partnering with the Housing Authority on a $20+ million project that’s under construction right now. Called Greenlawn Manor, it is a three-storey development with 80 units of affordable housing for seniors. We also just approved a phase 2 local commitment for the city’s 2023 fiscal year and we’ll be making an application to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation that provides low-income housing tax credits. That’s how we were able to initiate the current project by contributing $425,625 to help with infrastructure costs. It was only two percent of the final project cost but it was a local contribution that helped them to be more competitive and get that credit from the state.”
Phase 2 of the project will be a wide selection of workforce housing for a range of ages, including young families. “That will be another 80 units of affordable housing,” Edwards adds. “It’s a great opportunity for us to meet a substantial need here in our community and our state.”
Over the years, several properties were transformed in the historic downtown Canal and Flagler Avenue areas in the previous CRA district through grant assistance for commercial façade and property improvements. A prime example: Coronado Realty took an old shell of a building and beautifully transformed it.
In the current CRA district, there is an adaptive reuse opportunity grant in place, which was beneficial in the transformation of a dilapidated former gas station at the corner of Washington and Dixie Freeway. The property was purchased by The Rumble House 2 in Edgewater (an electric bike retailer). The business owner took advantage of that grant program, demolished the gas station, and is building a brand-new two-storey facility for his business in the New Smyrna Beach location. That same Washington area will be undergoing a major street improvement project as well in the next year, so it’s perfect timing.
Looking three to five years down the road, Edwards confides, “I certainly want to see an active landscape of good, strong redevelopment projects that are increasing property values in the community. Not just monetary value but quality of life value. We have over 30 various stage developments under construction in the city now but understanding that New Smyrna Beach is a special community – in that they love growth but they also want to embrace the city’s natural beauty and character.
“My vision, from an economic development standpoint for this community, is being strategic about what type of growth takes place. Definitely, revitalization and redevelopment of underutilized properties is number one because it speaks to the character of your community. Also, creating quality jobs that retain good talent here in New Smyrna Beach. We have some great students coming through our school system and we don’t want them to think they have to move somewhere else to find an above average wage. We want them to find that here, so they can stay and raise a family and enjoy this desirable beachside community. We’re marketing New Smyrna Beach as a destination where you can do business just as well as recreating in the surf; a combination of new business and industry, along with supporting our existing small business community that is so valuable to New Smyrna Beach.”
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AT A GLANCE
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
What: A historic, picturesque coastal city; population 29,000+
Where: Volusia County, Florida
Atlantic Center for the Arts – www.atlanticcenterforthearts.org
Atlantic Center for the Arts is an international nonprofit artists-in-residence community founded in 1977. Located on 68 acres of ecological preserve, its studio complex has won nine architectural awards. It supports working artists during residencies, through its gallery Arts on Douglas, community programs and IMAGES: A Festival of the Arts.