The pace of housing construction is still slow compared to the boom years in the middle-aughts, but it's starting to pick up, and you can once again imagine a time when more people live on the west side of Interstate 95 than on the east side in Volusia County.
Much of that I-95 west growth is still occurring in just Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach and Port Orange, with DeLand chipping in quite a bit. But, judging by the latest numbers for the U.S. Census Bureau, housing construction seems to have started back up in DeBary and Deltona. Southeast Volusia also is adding to it, but it probably will be years before we see significant growth there.
In June, there were 68 new housing units added with 56 single-family houses, not up much from 65 units with 54 single-family houses in June 2011. But you have to look further into the picture to see what else is happening.
KB Home has faltered in Volusia after selling 138 houses in 2011, according to Volusia County Clerk of Court records. Through July 24, it had only sold 24 houses. Its sales could pick up sharply by the end of the year now that it has started construction on a large townhouse project at LPGA International. It also has bought land at Tuscany Shores, off North Clyde Morris Boulevard in Daytona Beach. In the meantime, D.R. Horton has taken over as lead dog, selling 55 houses as of July 24 after selling just 70 for all of 2011. It may not give up that lead, though, since it is buying up vacant lots at the same pace as KB Home has this year, having just acquired the 143 lots remaining Wellington Woods in DeLand for $1.85 million and bought 30 lots in Port Orange Plantation, just west of Williamson Boulevard.
Other builders also have picked up the pace, including Paytas Homes (selling 19 through July 24 compared to 23 for all of 2011), Adams Homes (selling 18 compared to 32 for all of 2011), Taylor Morrison (selling 17 compared to 20 for all of 2011) and Holiday Builders (selling 10 compared to 11 for all of 2011).
In DeBary, Henin Homes has started construction on three houses and, in Port Orange, Winston-James Development has picked back up the pace at the Villages of Royal Palm.
On the multi-family side, Volusia still lags way behind last year when 511 units were built, including the large Andros Isles complex was built at Interstate 4 and Williamson Boulevard. Only 67 units were built in the first half of 2012, but with four apartment complexes on the drawing board in the county, I'm sure construction will start on one or two this year.
Retail sales picked back up the torrid pace they have been on in 2012, up 5.5 percent in May from May 2011. Auto sales still accounted for the largest part of the increase, but general merchandise (Wal-Mart, Target, dollar stores), and concert and movie admissions also were up sharply.
Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach could get another place for tourists to spend the night besides the new Hampton Inn. The city has received plans for Inn on the Avenue, a bed-and-breakfast proposed for the 102-year-old house at 309 Flagler Ave.
The westward movement in New Smyrna Beach continues with Mullinax Ford submitting plans for a new place at State Road 44 and Colony Park Road. Jack Holcomb also has expressed an interest in moving either the Chevrolet or Chrysler dealerships in New Smyrna out that way.
On the restaurant beat, we saw an unusual occurrence with a restaurant closing on West International Speedway Boulevard near Daytona International Speedway. Uno as closed its restaurant at the Ramada Inn Speedway, but you can bet someone else will grab the restaurant spot rather quickly. In Ormond Beach, another closed restaurant site is getting new life. Tony Abouramani is opening a second Toscana Italian Ristorante in the former La Crepe en Haut spot at Fountain Square on East Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach. Maria Bonita fans can get a little more excited as the business has put up a help wanted sign at its planned Ormond Beach restaurant. Still no date on when it will open, so folks who like the restaurant's interesting mix of Cuban and Mexican cuisine will have to travel to South Daytona.
Sparton Electronics is continuing to rack up the contracts for its underwater radar detection devices. Along with its ERAPSCO joint-venture partner USSI, it got a $25.4 million contract from the U.S. Navy for sonobuoys. Sparton also got foreign contracts worth $11 million. As always, more than half the work will be done at DeLeon Springs.
A final note, International Speedway Corp.'s Daytona Mixed Use Planned Master Development, which incorporates the Daytona Live! project, went before the Daytona Beach Planning Commission recently. Speedway Corp. wants to rezone 188.9 acres north of International Speedway Boulevard and west of Bill France Boulevard. The newly proposed development has some staggering numbers, including 1.42 million square feet for retail sales and service (with restaurants and nightclubs), 750,000 square feet of office space, 660 hotel rooms, 1,350 units of multi-family housing, a 2,500-seat multi-screen cinema and 500,000 square feet of industrial space. Of course, there's no timetable for any of this to start, but it would definitely give Daytona Beach a huge business boost.
Cecil G. Brumley has been tracking Volusia County business news and trends for more than 15 years. He can be reached at Cecilbrumley@ymail.com or follow him on Twitter @cecilbrumley.