With shovels full of dirt held by passionate city leaders, dignitaries and developers, plus light bites from Central Florida businesses, the City of DeBary broke ground on its new Main Street Wednesday morning.
First incorporated as a city in 1993, DeBary has experienced uneven growth, causing leaders to think proactively about how to forge a sustainable future with a high quality of life for residents and visitors. The result is a transit-oriented development (TOD) district comprising a high-density downtown with apartments, townhomes and retail space on 52 acres, plus new parks nearby.
“We had this area here that was going to be a liability because we had varying lot sizes and configurations. We were destined for a lot of inconsistent development that DeBary residents wouldn’t be happy with,” said City Manager Carmen Rosamonda of the area just north of the SunRail station. “We decided to take a proactive approach, turning a liability into an asset our community is so dearly lacking, a downtown.”
In cementing DeBary’s future, the city is partnering with two developers: the Boca Raton-based Falcone Group, which will build about 290 townhomes and 36 live-work units with retail or office space on the first floor, plus 25,000 square feet of retail space, and St. Petersburg-based Mosaic Development, which will construct 407 luxury apartments in two phases and more than 35,000 square feet of retail space to attract mostly local businesses, not chains.
In the next five years, as phases of this project are completed, the Volusia County city anticipates its population could grow from its current number of about 22,000 residents to around 30,000.
“We’ve been working with Mosaic to have a large community plaza for our folks to gather, a small central park, restaurants flowing into the sidewalk, specialty shops and breweries all in a paver road setting,” Rosamonda said. “No other downtown will have 624 acres of parks within one mile. There will be a plethora of ecotourism activities that include walking, biking, hiking, fishing, boating, camping, canoeing, kayaking and so much more.”
The new development will sit about a mile away from 170-acre Alexander Island, which DeBary purchased last year intending to open a park on the St. Johns River. Rosamonda said he hopes the park will be accessible to the public by the end of this calendar year.
“If you live here, you’ll have all of the amenities of a more urban kind of environment. Within half a mile or a mile, you can be in the middle of the wilderness,” said DeBary Mayor Karen Chasez. “This project will benefit both our existing and new residents while enticing visitors to explore and appreciate our businesses and natural assets.”
Chasez noted that the apartments will have balconies overlooking Main Street, enticing residents down to the street level to support restaurants and shops.
Though some longtime DeBary residents have been resistant to this type of development, which is zoned for 32 units per acre within the TOD district, city leaders see this approach as the best way to help the area grow while bringing amenities that visitors and locals alike can enjoy.
“We have a group of small businesses who are waiting and wanting to be among the first in line to be a part of Main Street,” Chasez said.
In the next year, the City of DeBary has infrastructure projects planned to support its growth, including adding a fire station on Fort Florida Road, rebuilding the road with a 10-foot trail, taking over maintenance of the SunRail station from Volusia County in exchange for 98 acres across the street (which will be home to a new Central Park) and rebuilding Benson Junction Road. The Florida Department of Transportation has a surfacing and rescoping project planned for U.S. 17-92 in fiscal year 2026.
Rosamonda, who served on DeBary’s first council and then became mayor in 2000, began his work for the city with strategic initiatives that included building a downtown.
“Growing up in DeLand, I realized having a downtown to foster gathering places was one of the contributing factors to having a high-quality, close-knit community,” he said. “Twenty-four years later, we’re here today, and we finally met one of my long-range goals for this community. In my heart, a downtown DeBary was one of the last pieces for this community to make us whole. This project completes us.”