DAYTONA BEACH - Just over a year after Brown & Brown Inc. announced plans to build a new headquarters on North Beach Street, site work has finally begun on the office tower.
"Everything is going according to game plan," said Chairman J. Hyatt Brown in a phone interview.
And the headquarters now is going to be bigger than first envisioned.
New site plans filed with the city for the project now indicate the tower will be 11 stories, up from the originally proposed 10, and as much as 225,000 square feet in size.
"Call it 10½ floors," said David Lotz, chief corporate counsel for Brown & Brown. "We want some sort of rooftop amenity like a deck or outdoor space as well as some sort of inside space."
The decision to add the extra floor was made to take full advantage of the spectacular views from the top of the building which the company verified through the use of an aerial drone.
"You'll be able to see the river as well as the ocean," Lotz said.
Brown in a phone interview acknowledged it took longer than expected to start construction because of delays in obtaining the necessary permits.
That process included a voluntary environmental cleanup of the former car dealership sites, which was deemed to be essentially completed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in a letter issued in July.
Lotz said the development site had some soil problems and is requiring extra fill dirt to be trucked in.
"We're going to raise the site some," he said. "We're going to bring in fill to protect it from potential flooding."
The fill dirt will be brought in by the project's yet-to-be-chosen general contractor, he said.
Plans for the corporate campus also call for the planting of more than 200 trees and extensive landscaping, as well as storm water retention ponds and other features designed to lessen the potential for flooding, not only of the company's property, but also the surrounding area, Lotz confirmed.
The office tower will be built in the southeast section of the campus, with room for a potential second tower to be added immediately north of it.
The west portion of the campus will primarily be used for surface parking, which will be broken up with "islands" of landscaping and trees, Lotz said.
"We're building a campus for our teammates. We don't want a nice building and a vapid parking lot," he said. "We want a nice campus for the city."
The planned office tower is seen by local observers as a key to revitalizing the city's historic downtown business district.
The new headquarters is expected to bring at least 625 white-collar workers to the area in addition to the more than 300 already employed at the national insurance agency's current leased headquarters offices at 220 S. Ridgewood Ave.
The new jobs are expected to pay an average of at least $41,300 a year, well above the current average annual wage for workers in Volusia County.
Brown said the anticipated move-in date for the new headquarters will be Oct. 1, 2020.
Brown & Brown currently employs more than 300 workers at its longtime leased-headquarters building roughly a mile away on the west edge of downtown Daytona Beach.
The new headquarters campus will take up nearly two city blocks on the west side of North Beach Street, bordered by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard on the south.
The 14-acre site on the north end of downtown was previously home to a couple of car dealerships that vacated a decade ago. The former dealership buildings were demolished six years ago.
On Monday morning, construction workers with P&S Paving could be seen clearing land on the fenced-in development site.
Brown said site work began roughly two weeks ago.
The company plans to continue occupying its current 75,000-square-foot five-story building on Ridgewood Avenue in addition to moving workers to its new headquarters.
The completed office tower will have an estimated value of $37.2 million, according to a letter to the city from Cobb Cole attorney Rob Merrell, who is representing Brown & Brown.
Lotz said the actual construction cost won't be known until a general contractor is selected, which should happen soon. At present, he said the estimated cost, including site work, is expected to be at least between $30 million and $35 million.
Vertical construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2019, he said.
J. Hyatt Brown at a January gathering of the Volusia County Association for Responsible Development (VCARD) said the company's plans for its future headquarters included relocating some of its "profit center" employees from the Boston, Massachusetts, and Detroit, Michigan area, as well as making new hires.
The influx of those relocated and newly hired workers are expected to boost business for downtown restaurants and shops as well as increase the need for nearby housing.
"Not only does it bring jobs, but also the offshoots: more restaurants and retail," said local observer Jack White, co-owner of the Jack White Land Co. in downtown Daytona Beach.
Downtown merchant Jan Sayers, owner of Bill Green Jewelers at 108 W. International Speedway Blvd., echoed those comments.
"I'm very excited about it," Sayers said. "It's a revitalization for the whole area."
Daytona Beach-based Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co. is one of the companies seeking to respond to the anticipated need for more businesses and multifamily housing.
Consolidated-Tomoka earlier this year acquired most of the downtown block bordered by Ridgewood on the west, International Speedway Boulevard on the south, Bay Street on the north and Palmetto Avenue on the east, with the goal of teaming up with a developer to created a mixed-use development that would include apartments or condominiums, as well as possibly street-level shops or restaurants.
The block is roughly a half-mile south and west of the future Brown & Brown headquarters.
Consolidated-Tomoka has begun demolishing some of the buildings on that block, including the former First United Methodist church on the corner of Bay and Palmetto as well as the former restaurant building on the corner of Ridgewood and Bay.
"There's a lot of demolitions going on downtown," said Beach Street merchant Sheryl Cook, one of the owners of the family-run Tom Cook Jeweler at 150 S. Beach St.
"A lot more people are going to be working downtown," she said.
Both sites had been abandoned for years and had become "eyesores," said Cook, vice chair of the Downtown Development Authority and a member of the city's Downtown Redevelopment board. "Now they're getting ready to bring new life."
Cook said she was also thrilled by the $15 million personal donation recently made by J. Hyatt Brown and his wife Cici for improvements to the city's Riverfront Park across the street from the future Brown & Brown headquarters.
Cook described the Brown & Brown project and Consolidated-Tomoka's preliminary plans for downtown as a "win-win" for Daytona Beach.
"As a gateway building to downtown Daytona Beach, the Brown & Brown headquarters will serve as a catalyst for the continued growth and prosperity of the City of Daytona Beach," Merrell wrote in a Sept. 7 letter to city Planning Director Dennis Mrozek.
"The redevelopment proposed in this planned development reflects the culmination of continuing efforts by Brown & Brown to develop a signature property to identify the city as the headquarters, and more importantly the home, of Brown & Brown," Merrell wrote.
Brown & Brown in recent months has also been acquiring properties near its future headquarters, including some older single-family homes to the west and an old single-story commercial building two doors north of the future corporate campus.
J. Hyatt Brown said the company has yet to decide its plans for the commercial building that currently serves as home to Brigit's Custom Works motorcycle shop. Lotz said the properties west of the campus likely will be used for storm water mitigation, but could include a storage building of some sort.
Brown & Brown unsuccessfully bid to acquire the former Carl's Speed Shop located between its future headquarters campus and the building where Brigit's is located. The Canadian investors that outbid Brown & Brown have already put the former Carl's property back on the market for an asking price of $2.4 million, roughly three times what they paid for it.
Brown said his company has no interest at this time in submitting a new bid for the property.
By Clayton Park