The Palm Harbor shopping center was once the heart of Palm Coast, long before Palm Coast was a town. It was its downtown, its post office, its library, its grocery store, and for a long time, its only commercial space. But it’s been dying for several years as tenants and shoppers have drained away, in part because the city’s center of gravity has shifted: Palm Harbor is no longer its heart. It’s merely a limb, but still a defining one: the city has been eager to see it revived to avoid seeing the vast area turn into a dead zone.
Revitalizing the shopping center as Island Walk is what Michael Collard Development, the Winter Park-based developer, is proposing to do. And based on the response from residents, business owners and the local chamber of commerce—not to mention a unanimous vote by the Palm Coast City Council approving a zoning change—the project has broad support despite a few unanswered questions, among them the likelihood that the shopping center will have enough tenants to fill the new space.
“This is a very exciting project as far as I’m concerned,” City Manager Jim Landon said. “It’s very consistent with our economic and development plan, Prosperity 2021. In that plan we really stress the importance of maintaining our existing neighborhoods and our existing commercial districts, and this is a great examples of one of the priorities of city council, where instead of just focusing on new development, trying to make sure our existing areas, our existing commercial areas also maintain a high quality.”
Landon called it one of the most important projects of the past seven years. The reason: when strip malls start declining, halting the decline becomes difficult. Palm Harbor’s decline has been steep and painful on its remaining tenants and neighboring residents. Collard’s project promises to reverse the trend. It’s not exactly a revolutionary change, at least not in the government’s books: “All the development that is here was anticipated early in the 90s, to impact the community, including the traffic,” Michael Chiumento, the developer’s attorney, told the city council when the matter was discussed last week.
The rezoning of the 28.7-acre site was the first step. It’ll be followed by a site plan, then development and building permits.
The shopping center was built in the 1970s and was the site of the ITT development’s post office and a library. As Island Walk, it will grow by some 50,000 square feet of commercial space, to 234,000 square feet. Parking spaces would be increased from 952 to 1,236. Most of those spaces will be located where the central, squarish structure in the shopping center is located now—the one that had the old liquor store, the defunct Japanese restaurant, the current Chinese restaurant, PC Bike, Thai by Thai, the nail shop, and so on. That structure will be demolished.
Enthusiasm for a reinvented shopping center mixes with traffic concerns
Not to worry: the tenants who want to relocate will be moved to a newly constructed area on the property before theirs is torn down. By September 2015, Publix will have made its own move from the existing structure to the new structure, the equivalent of one box store to its west. The new Publix will be 20 percent (or 9,000 square feet) larger than the existing store, making it one of their larger ones.
Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts was concerned about the phasing of the project and the risk of turning the area into a “wasteland,” if the development were to half part of the way through. Chiumento said that will not happen.
The mayor asked a question especially pertinent to the current economic landscape, which suffers from a glut of commercial space, not a dearth of it. “You’re adding additional retail space,” Netts asked Chiuemnto. “Does the developer believe that we’re going to get new customers or we’re simply going to steal customers from existing businesses? In other words, if you put another pizza parlor in, there’s only so many pies sold in Palm Coast per day.”
“Law firms also,” Chiuemento said.
“But do you anticipate something new, something different?” Netts continued.
“We are currently in discussion with multiple tenants that you see at other plazas in the region,” Chiumento said, without citing actual businesses. “So it is intended that many of those that will fill out the new parts of this will be national tenants and will not only be another bike shop, another pizza parlor. Will there be some redundancy? I’m sure there’ll be some. Maybe a new pizza parlor. I know, the existing pizza parlor there wants to stay in that plaza. That’s what we’re trying to accommodate. But as it looks right now we will have a significant amount of new national tenants that want to be in Palm Coast to the point that I was actually shocked, and Mr. Collard is excited about.”
Concern about the removal of trees from the property drew a lawsuit from Dennis McDonald, a frequent critic of the city. The lawsuit has since been dismissed. But the development takes pains to ensure that tree-preservation is part of the plan, with specific trees cited for preservation and the requirement that a certified arborist be on site to supervise all root-pruning activities required in the so-called Tree Protection Zone. The city arborist must also be contacted during construction. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some loss of trees, especially in the area of the shopping center closest to Palm Coast Parkway and Florida Park Drive. There, the developer must make a good-faith effort to preserve trees. “There are some trees that will come down that just don’t fit,” Chiumento said, but he told the council that the tree-preservation plan the project is committed to “exceeds the city standards by a few percentage points.”
The character of the site will be defined in part by its architecture, which will change. It will reflect what developers call the “Florida Vernacular” style, a modest, pastel-colored style that vaguely evokes a retro look of pragmatism aerated by low-slung colonnades and gables.
The amount of space that would not drain the property—in other words, asphalt and concrete instead of soil and grass—would rise to 76 percent, from 61 percent. That’s a considerable increase that could potentially affect drainage issues and provoke more runoff in adjacent areas. But there’s a caveat: the numbers are averages for the entire property.
The traffic study shows no adverse impacts. The entrance will remain the same, but the circulation patterns should make driving around the shopping center easier, because of the elimination of the central structure. Some setbacks are being reduced, some not.
No fewer than 15 people addressed the council on the project last week, most of them strongly favoring the project as a key to re-vitalizing the area—and ending what has become a blight on the neighborhood one resident—Mark Langello—called a “gateway to Florida Park Drive.”
Greg Johnston, a resident who owns several parcels around the Palm Harbor shopping center, said the place was built when just 5,000 people lived in town. “It’s very outdated,” Johnston said. “It’s not for a 90,000-people city, so it has to go. It’s obsolete. I’m all in favor of this project.” He described that area of the city “as depressed as it’s ever been” in four decades, “so we need to hasten this up.” His suggestion was to focus on resolving traffic issues.
Several people, however, criticized the project’s still hazy plans to ensure against traffic issues. “You’d better do a better job than a half-assed plat plan that really you can’t really make in your own mind, the average citizen, what this is going to do to them,” one resident said. “So please, before you make a decision, have the developers give us a model with all the surrounding accesses to it.”
There was also concern about adding commercial space in a town already suffering from empty storefronts.
Shortly before the vote approving the zoning change, Palm Coast City Council member Bill McGuire warned: “I’m not going to vote for a site plan that crams something down our throats that we just can’t live with relative to traffic, we’ve got to find a solution.” But the project looked well on its way to full approval.
WOW, great picture, Flaglerlive.
I think we’d all be really excited about this except for ONE THING……this is a nearly vacant center, as are many others all over Palm Coast. Town Center is a flop. An EMPTY FLOP. Everywhere you look, EMPTY.
Would I like to see this improved? You bet. But the current council and city manager don’t appear to have the best record. We excel at empty, cheap real estate here and discount stores. You can drive 1/2 hour north or south and find successful centers but not here in Palm Coast. We can drive to Saint Augustine and find nicely landscaped centers that fit in with the natural surroundings, but not here in Palm Coast.
How many pizza parlors, drug stores, banks, mattress stores, fast food, Dollar Stores, nail salons, delis can a town build? I am afraid we are about to find out. We don’t end up with blight here, we build it. We can’t even maintain the public library properly!
What was once a beautiful, natural and classic design is about to become massive concrete and expand it’s empty space by another third. Why can’t we fix up the one we’ve got? You can’t even keep it filled, why are we letting you do that on a larger scale? What’s wrong with this picture? At the very least, I think the city needs to get a bond from this developer and Mr. Chuimento. If this center flops like everything else, they pay for it personally. Can we do that? If it flops, can we force them to return it to it’s natural surroundings? You’re doing that with the Discount Tire Store that is pulling out of Palm Coast before construction is even finished.
I’m sorry, Mr. Chuimento, but your record is not very good. And neither is the Manager’s. The people in this town are not very happy with you. You make money off us and move on to your next project. We have been raped by developers here and now you want to steal the character of this town by putting up more concrete. I’d be willing to bet that property values have dropped more under their tenure than at any other time in the history of this town. Instead of providing us with a quality commercial tax base, you are providing us with more empty space and blight.
Greed is killing Palm Coast. And our elected officials are allowing it to happen.
Diana L says
Wow, what are your positive ideas? What exactly should the city manager, the mayor, etc. be doing differently?
@ Diana: Maybe stop overdeveloping? Take care of what we have? Work more closely with the community as a whole to make sure everybody is happy, that the impact on the community is not more negative?
To the average citizen here, it’s quite obvious the developers run this town and not our elected officials.
And what they have done has not been good. Why is that, Diana?
Pioneer Man says
Yes, Town Center is a flop now and will become a ghost town once the city moves out to the newest Taj Mahal in Palm Coast. ,BTW, the new City Hall is being built near a building owned by a prominent attorney., which building is mostly vacant/
Wolley Segap says
we’re also excelling at crime.
We have plenty of empty commercial space available that shows the pathetic economic status and high unemployment rate of this city and county. Why are we building more? Why don’t the Palm Harbor owner lowers the rent and makes it realistic with the current pathetic economy, so those vacant shops will rent?
My greatest concern is the loss of green space, beautiful tree canopy and the potential that occurs too often around Palm Coast and this County of a half finished product leaving us with the waste land or empty parcel naked by the uprooted tree canopy and ornamental shrubbery…besides the loss of our usual places to gather, eat or shop now, that are fewer in Palm Harbor but at least we have some…otherwise look what we got from Centex and their failed promises; a bunch of presumptuous condos an boxed parking garage that stick like a sore finger to our faces while the gorgeous tree canopy, the exotic tropical ornamentals our beloved Palm Coast Resort place that provided 300 plus jobs to serve the amenities often used by the surrounding community are now gone forever….
I can see in this proposal meeting some of the same individuals from back then with Centex pushing and rooting and presenting us with a nice mirage of lies that we, the residents never swallowed in spite was shoved down our throats. Our residents convenience and homes values are a stake here again.
Also we have serious issues with drainage in this area given our old decaying system never upgraded because they spend “illegally” the reserves for other projects other that the intended one’s. Now they will pave over much more that what is paved now…and drainage will be affected, no matter what they promise.
Same thing was done with Town Center ….after finished now the school ample parking and surrounding areas of the FPCH along Boulder Rock gets flooded. Then we go and use unintended reserves to resolve it, if so. Meanwhile the decaying culvers underneath our properties are not replaced or repaired…because there are no funds! The same special interest pushers again…I really wish that time will prove me wrong.
Going to these meetings has become a waste of time plus exposure to pay back too, using our own taxes. Ask citizen Denis McDonald…More reason to get out and vote on elections time.
Completely disagree with the previous post. I live in the “F” section and welcome the new center. The old one is UGLY, completely run down and frankly makes the nicest part of PC look like Bunnell. The reason property is SOOO vacant, is in large part because of its condition. As the center fell into despair, the owners did not keep up with maintenance, tenants moved. This developer is not stupid, he’s surly lined up potential commitments from larger tenants that can float the smaller unit vacancy. That being said, once you have the larger tenants, you’ll have smaller ones. Palm Coast is smack in the middle of two larger cities and lacks quite a bit in stores and places to go eat, shop, etc… this is a great chance for some of those stores to come into a suitable space. Though I have to agree that our city council may not have the best record, but this was a no brainer and they did it right. Move this project forward quickly, offer some rental subsidies to national chains interested in opening a store/restaurant in the new center. All this will bring some jobs, and places for the rest of us to spend some money locally. What is so bad about this????
@ Mike: I’ve lived in Palm Coast for 15 years and in that time have never seen any updates, nothing done to this shopping center, not even a paint job.
I’m not going to question this developers intelligence, but was present to hear Mr. Chuimento state that he had no commitments, other than the current tenants who will be signing leases. The barbershop is refusing to sign a lease and will not be moved to a new location.
You might ask Beall’s why it moved out of that location.
Pioneer Man says
Mike, will you still like the project once traffic increases. Residents on Florida Park Drive are constantly complaining about traffic on that road.
It honestly makes me laugh when people in PC complain about traffic. I moved here from Miami… now that’s traffic. Also, in regards to this center. They are widening PC Parkway to 3 lanes each way and on the books there is also a project to widen Old Kings Road. Traffic flow will be fine. Many here also Bach the city leadership, I’ve not been here long enough to speak intelligently to the subject, however I’ll say this… considering the massive hit PC took when the bubble burst, I’m surprised that the city even tries to clean the streets and mow common areas. Stop complaining, every municipality has its problems. PC for the most part is still clean, nice, inviting and overall pleasant.
As to your reference to Bunnell it is a very nice city to live in, You may want to compare the city of the old Palm Coast BEFORE it became a city. It was a great place to live 20 yrs. ago.
I don’t live in Palm Coast and I am somewhat confused about this situation.
Heading homeward every weekday westward, I find myself watching two complete traffic signal cycles to get thru Old Kings Road. Where exactly is this action supposed to be placed? Anything at all that increases vehicular traffic around that area (PCP) needs to be thoroughly hashed out before allowing MORE traffic onto an already way overcrowded street/highway/whatever you want to call it.
I think that it is WAY past time for Palm Coast to realize that the clock is ticking. You city ‘(planners)’ heh need to understand that you are looking at “GRIDLOCK” in the very near future!
Even though I don’t LIVE in Palm Coast, I SHOP in Palm Coast. But those nasty goddam cameras make me do my real money shopping in either Daytona, Palatka or Saint Augustine. Take it for what it’s worth.
Orphan, I live in Palm Coast and have started doing my shopping out of town as well. The Publix at Halifax Plantation is a little longer of a ride but I don’t have to pass a single red light camera to get there.
Mary Cannady says
We also live in the “F” section and eagerly wait for the finished product. we were upset at first thinking we would lose the beautiful hammock of trees which provide much needed shade on the black top. But if the builder follows through with his promises then we are supportive. I too wish we had a Cobblestone Village like St. Augustine’s. It sure would save us a lot of gas money and another bonus, our spending money will stay here in town.
THE MAYOR, CITY COUNCIL AND THE CITY MANAGER HAVE NEVER MET A DEVELOPER THAT THEY DID NOT LOVE. IT HAS BEEN EVER THUS.
It all sounds great, but who selected the name? “Island Walk”? We’re not on an island.
Diana L says
The Developer selected the name. Guess if they are spending the money they can name it what they want. And perhaps the reason why they want it Island Walk will be in the design.
Nor is Palm Coast on the coast BUT……
Nicole G. says
Actually it is on the coast… Intercoastal and also the ocean coast is part of palm coast
Nicole G. says
My great grand mother was one of the 70’s property owner in Palm Coast. I came down to visit every year up to 3-4 times. BELIEVE me when I say I seen Palm Coast grow. I was actually one that watched Publix center get built. Before that building people had to got to Flagler to get mail and food. No 05 over pass either (imagine that going all out your way to get around Palm Coast) AND believe it or not ITT used to screen people, no kids was aloud to live in PC (it was strictly a retirement place) it was only 3 kids that came here me and two other kids every summer to visit their grands and stay (because some came with family and left with their family we stayed and then got picked back up or flown in and out of Daytona little airport). I was in the news paper half the time (I think it was a joy to see grands with their grand kids). LOL also they did background checks and a LOT more thing no one realized what was done back then for people to EVEN MOVE in Palm Coast.. They had a wire crossing to get across the intercostal instead of the Hammock Bridge.. And I can go on… So yes I seen a lot of changes EVEN when I permanently moved down in 91.. Keep it moving Palm Coast you have all this property (but not to much)
@Nicole G. :
1972: ‘..An Approach to a New City: Palm Coast ‘.
Nicole G. says
This is great reading. My grandmother even though she moved here in 1976 enlightened me on what everyone went through just like visiting a timeshare watching a video and taking a tour. I miss the welcome center and I had a membership at the first pool on club house drive. She said Palm Coast was go become a city one day and that she might not see it. She died @100 years old in 94. She loved it here.
Again thank you for the great article.
@ PalmCoastPioneers: Neat! Thanks very much for sharing.
Do you know if there are any plans to save anything from the shopping center that might have historical value?
That fountain comes to mind. Wouldn’t it be beautiful to restore it to its original condition to beautify the new shopping center? It would also make a fabulous place to put an historical marker.
Steven Nobile says
I agree with the concerns regarding the traffic. This area is a mess. I live in the R section and I have a shop on Old Kings road N and I dread coming over the bridge in the middle of the day. I make sure I get to the shop early and leave late. This absolutely needs to be addressed regardless of any new or existing construction.
I must say though, we need to grow, we need to expand and we need to maintain and keep up. This can only be done by bringing new industry into the county. We can’t support all these retail shops with a majority of public employees working for those retail outlets. We need industry that brings money into Palm Coast from outside the city and jobs with higher salaries. To answer someones earlier question, that is what the city council and mayor need to work on.
I really wish our Chamber of Commerce would bring a CostCo store to Flagler County. Besides outstanding quality at reasonable prices, it would generate lots of business and save me a monthly trip to Jacksonville.
That would be a good thing to have in Flagler.
Hey blonde, Yes we are. It’s called Gilligan’s Island.
@ Nicole G:
Perhaps you would like to see our efforts:
13 Clark Lane – Palms Coasts Heritage and History :
Turn it into Palm Coast Amusement Park. Build a Roller Coaster, and a Sky Train Monorail that takes you thru the woods down across Gram Swamp area….
Roy Ostapko says
Great Comments, glad to see the article by Flagler Live. This platform they provide can be very beneficial.
Obviously there are not enough businesses to fill space all over Palm Coast, and sadly it has been 7 YEARS since the bottom fell out in Palm Coast.
Here’s an idea: Let the grocery store expand and BUILD A PARK for the people. Amazing how the people were served well by their leaders in years past…Central Park NYC, Savannah GA parks throughout the city.
This solves 1. the preservation of those BEAUTIFUL AND WONDERFUL trees, 2. solves the concern (warranted) of traffic, 3. GREATLY would enhance the community of Palm Coast to those who come off the interstate (believe me: that will make visitors STRONGLY consider such a beautiful town that would welcome with a wonderful park, 4. REDUCES the empty space in the area…helping other properties be occupied…VISION is what leaders lack…and they are TOO INVOLVED in the “progress” of business and money. I can SEE so many other benefits to UNCOMMERCIALIZE…especially with 7 YEARS of suffering.
I do hope many of you will ponder this “contrarian” idea.
There are plenty of parks in Palm Coast. What we need is solid retail with big name stores: ie Bed Bath and beyond, Ulta, Pier 1, Cobellas, We ARE now a destination location and in order to “keep up with the Jones” this is what we must do.
EyeonFlagler: Didn’t the council tell us that all those stores were going in at Town Center about 10 years ago? That is where all the major retail development was going in, supposedly.
We’ve been waiting 10 years and still nothing.
Keep up with the Jones? We can’t even keep stores from closing and moving out around here.
What would really do this city some good is real incentives for businesses. For example, I work for a division of a massive Fortune 500. We have offices in a city 40 miles away. Our facility has 800 employees, many of whom are entry level. Recently our company started searching for new digs (and we’re willing to build) because we’ve out grown our current facilities. The city that we’re in, offered the company millions in incentives to stay and build here. Certainly if PC was willing to gift land, offer major tax breaks and/or grants of some kind, companies such as mine, which give a ton to the surrounding community and provide good jobs at all levels, would be encouraged to come and build offices. THAT I do think our government is missing the mark on.
@ Roy Ostapko: I LOVE your idea! TREES are why people live here. Why can’t we have a beautiful mix of both? Because nobody can make a profit off the trees.
Maybe if they’d left a few up in Town Center, it might not be EMPTY of all development except a certain law firm?
Diana L says
So corporate welfare is the answer? Give corporations free land, free rent, tax abatements-for 10 years or so, with a promise of x number of jobs, which many times they never hire that many or they don’t invest as much as they say, then when you hold them to their promises they move someplace else and make the same promises that they will not fulfill. They don’t care what it costs to move, tax write offs and you can be sure their CEOs will make millions while their employees many times lose their jobs, pensions, the community has an empty building with not much to show, if anything, for their diminished tax roles. Until we start punishing these corporate thiefs by not purchasing their products and until we stop buying this corporate welfare falicy, we the taxpayers will continue getting shafted.
Ummmm… In PC damn right. There are NO jobs here worth anything. Honestly, do you want PC to be a retirement community, a Ghetto, a combination of the two, or do you want it to grow (with the issues that come with that of course) but hopefully grow into a city that is actually desirable, has great real estate value, ect…? For that, since we’re not close enough to any major city, you have to bring in business. To bring in business you need to provide subsidy (or how you so eloquently put it… “corporate welfare”). Yes let’s not provide the job creators with benefits, let’s just hand out a bunch of Section 8 vouchers and free food and make the whole damn city look like R sections. What’s wrong with you? Yes you need to attract business, yes you need to give that business a reason to be here, and yes, you need to give them handouts because they’re certainly not breaking down our doors to build offices and hire our workforce (or lack there of).
To create success you have to give a little. As the companies start coming in they will not only create entry level jobs for our existing population, but will create higher pay, higher level jobs and bring in new talent and quite frankly a better contingent of people potentially. As that happens, more business will come to town, more professionals will move to town and all of a sudden you have a thriving city. It takes time, it takes sacrifice, but PC has that potential if and only if people with your opinions don’t have a say in its future, because you my friend are obviously either living in a bubble and have no clue as to how the world works, have been so jaded by something that you’re not willing to see the right direction or of course you’re just set in your ways, resist change with every bone in your body and are frankly terrified of PC becoming something better.
My 2 Cents to what I believe to be the most ignorant comment so far on this subject.
Have a nice day!
Diana L says
Using the word ignorant, many times, is what bullies say when they want to silence people that have a different opinion than they do. I don’t know you so I won’t go that far but perhaps that statement says more about you than it does about me???
I get it that people are concerned about traffic, but we have to move on from the retirement community mentality and start bringing in fresh businesses and fresh people to fill the shops and homes in this community. There are enough back roads around this area that if you live here you should know the quickest way to get somewhere and avoid the traffic on the main roads during high traffic times. But to deny economic growth because of traffic is ridiculous and short minded thinking. Consider the younger crowd and future of the city.
YAY!!!! Somebody gets it!
Justin – Bulls-eye!
yeah like the 6 or 7 other empty strip malls around town , greed with rents nobody in this economy can afford , these brainless city counsel members will take a quick buck for any project , knowing full well it will fail ,cause people don`t want to come to this police state of a town, where there are camera`s on every corner hoping to rip you off for money you don t have , they know their days are numbered , they will be voted out soon for bribe taking , light rigging , stealing utility funds , just wish when we vote them out their next stop is prison
Mike, Diana L is actually spot on. Communities need revenue to provide services. The revenue must come from a mix of residential, commercial, agriculture and industrial tax base balanced by controlling growth through preserving open space for active and passive recreation, scenic vistas, wildlife habitat and wetland protection for flood protection and watershed protection. The average residential development does not and cannot realistically produce enough in taxes to support the town services needed especially when funding education through property taxes. If we use tax waivers and offer free land to attract businesses the revenue stream needed by these businesses will have been negotiated away and all that will remain will be the workers with their families living in town demanding services that their taxes can’t cover. Then what? Once the tax incentives for businesses end and some neighboring town waives a new offer in front of the CEO of the company who has enjoyed 20 years of tax abatements, they will pull up roots and move to the next best offer. It is a viscious circle.