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The transformation of Deland: Part One

From Deadland to Deland of Opportunity


Small towns near big cities have been my lifelong passion.

I grew up in Fairport, New York, on the Erie or Barge Canal near Rochester. One summer, my mom cajoled my family into building a float of George Washington crossing the Delaware. My sisters grudgingly carried the float while I marched, playing Yankee Doodle on Piccolo. I was terrified I would fall through the spaces in the bridge metalwork while walking over the canal in the blighted downtown.

By the 1980s, it had been a hundred years since goods were transported on the canal, and the manufacturing plant built near the railroad was a shell of its original self.

When I returned decades later to Fairport for high school reunions, I was amazed at the revitalized waterfront filled with shopping and dining opportunities. My father and his band even played in one of the nightclubs. Downtown Fairport had a magnificent rebirth, and everyone was enjoying the new spaces and opportunities.

For college, I chose to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I loved taking the bus from North Campus to downtown Ann Arbor, where I could purchase coffee and bagels, visit a bookstore, or even purchase clothing in a little boutique. Everyone walked even though there were many days when the temperature was below zero. Life was fun and exciting in the downtown. GO BLUE!

When I moved to Florida to study flute with a world-renowned instructor who had also taken a position as the orchestra director at Stetson University in Deland, I chose to live in Orlando rather than Deland. Why? My classmates, while living in Deland, regularly complained about the dead town; in fact, they referred to it as “Deadland”.

Never could I have imagined what Deland looks like today after beginning their revitalization in 1985.

We have all watched numerous towns around us rebrand, grow, and prosper. Some 30 years later, as a school board member, county commissioner, and lover of small cities, I have been on a mission to help areas in my district prosper and revitalize. I visit other “Main Streets” such as Ocala, Winter Garden, Winter Park, Kissimmee, St. Cloud, Stuart, and, of course, Deland. Exploring these towns inspired me to attend a Florida Main Street Conference. This July, I will be attending the Main Street Conference in Tallahassee for their 200th Anniversary.

Orange County Commissioner District 2 Christine Moore
Orange County Commissioner District 2 Christine Moore

Many of you have read my columns sharing various tidbits.

Finally, I convinced Mayor Demings' staff to start a Main Street program in Orange County. I hope and pray that after I leave the commission in 2026, the county’s new Main Street program will propel Lockhart and other unincorporated cities on an upward trajectory. Small towns should be delightful places to live, work, and play.

To read part two, go here.

Deland, Main Street, Orange County Commissioner Christine Moore, What can Apopka learn from the transformation of Deland?


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