The Remarkable Transformation of Riverfront Esplanade Park
Wow-Just-Wow! If you haven't had a chance to check out the renovations of the Riverfront Esplanade Park in Downtown, you need to check it out!
Thanks to the over $31 million donation, vision, and hard work of Hyatt and Cici Brown, it is spectacular, amazing, beautiful, and 100 other positive adjectives! The Browns could have spent their fortune in any number of ways, but their love for this community, especially Downtown Daytona Beach, has led to the creation of this gem that will have a long-lasting benefit- not just for its use as a park but for all the investment in the Downtown area it will instill.
Several years ago, I was the chairman of the "Riverfront Master Plan." It involved the City and Downtown stakeholders. The goal was to devise a plan to take advantage of the riverfront area across from the stores on Beach Street. While it was a beautiful area, it was very passive, and we had no real way to activate it and create synergy with the other side of the street. The plan called for two major components that everyone agreed upon:
1- Widen the sidewalks and narrow Beach Street to make Downtown a destination instead of a thoroughfare.
2- Raise $1.5 million to improve the amenities in the park. Soon after this plan was adopted, the great recession hit, and there was no $$ for the plan.
Many years went by, and then things started to look up when Brown & Brown located their headquarters Downtown. Then, one day, I got a call from Hyatt inviting me to his office for a meeting. I have had the opportunity to get to know Hyatt and Cici over the years. He and my dad grew up here and shared the same deep affection for the Downtown. So I showed up to the meeting and almost peed in my pants when they showed me and a couple of other long-time downtown stakeholders a new version of our plan, with the main difference being a commitment of $17 million (now $31 million) of improvements to the park!
Like anything this ambitious, the Riverfront Esplanade took a lot longer to build and cost a lot more than initially expected. Vision meeting reality is always difficult, and then you add in a pandemic, labor and supply chain issues, and a few hurricanes... But the Browns and their park manager, Joe Yarbrough stayed strong, persevered, and completed this beautiful gift to the community!
This is an amazing legacy that the Browns are leaving to our community. I know I speak for all the Downtown stakeholders, especially those of us who have been around a long time:
THANK YOU, HYATT & CICI, WE ARE FOREVER GRATEFUL!