Redeveloped shopping center to reinvigorate ailing city's economy
By Chris Fish
BREVARD -- When given the task of showing developers that the city of Titusville is committed to economic projects, Holly Woolsey felt nervous.
"My boss, Commissioner Robin Fisher, doesn't have little ideas," said Ms. Woolsey, legislative aide to Commissioner Fisher. "I got a huge knot in my stomach when he said, 'I want you to fill all of the parking spots at the mall and show the developer that, if we build it, we will shop.'"
Closed earlier this year, Miracle City Mall conveyed desperation: businesses dying, one-by-one, plagued with the economic hardships of a suffering city.
Despite these woes, District 1 Commissioner Fisher (R-Titusville) was determined to bring life back to his city by proposing the redevelopment of the mall.
However, first the city needed to show developers within two weeks that residents believed in Titusville.
"He said we needed to show the developer and the national tenants he was talking to that this community believes in this project, and we are committed to stand together," Ms. Woolsey said. "We pulled together a motivated volunteer committee, and the event was set into motion. I don't know anywhere else in the world that could have had 3,000 people show up with two week's notice to make a difference in their community, but that's exactly what happened. It's awe-inspiring."
Now, with Tampa-based developer A.G. Development Group, Inc., and Orlando architect company Cuhaci & Peterson on board, demolition of the old mall is scheduled for this fall, and vertical construction for the new Miracle City Mall will begin in early 2014.
Ms. Woolsey said the project will cost about $60 million and is being developed by private funding between developers and the owners of the mall.
While walking the demolition site with developers, Ms. Woolsey said she passed Dave's Hot Dog Stand, the last store to survive, and she had a realization.
"I was recently in the mall with the developer and a demo crew, while they were doing an estimate," she said. "I wandered around its empty halls, passed Dave's Hot Dog Stand, and I noticed the promotional wording still on one of the store-front windows, which read 'Imagine what's in store.' It took my breath for a moment, as I did begin to imagine."
Plans for the new mall include a town square, a destination with outdoor dining, live music from local artists and school groups, art shows, festivals and cultural performances.
They also include a splash park, an exercise path in the shade of trees and a movie theater with stadium seating.
"I have grown up in and around Titusville," Ms. Woolsey said. "When I look around and see the incredible beauty of the Indian River Lagoon, feel the warm waterfront breeze, the sun on my face, I always take a grateful moment to whisper 'I live here.'"
In the end, Ms. Woolsey said this project is about more than bringing a shopping mall to the city that she loves.
"It's about allowing this community to finally exhale and let out all of the doubt and disappointments from memories of tragedy and economic depression and take a deep, cleansing breath in hope, growth and deep community spirit," she said.