The Town Center Innovation District, more streetlights, new neighborhood signs and Arts District improvements feature among the city of Palm Coast's goals for the upcoming year.
City staff gave the City Council an update Jan. 11 on the city's progress across a range of goals summed up in the city's Strategic Action Plan.
Here are some highlights.
MedNexus and the Hack-A-Thon
The Palm Coast Town Center innovation District encompasses the UNF MedNexus health care training campus as well as the city's Arts District.
Palm Coast is trying to create a marketing program to attract medical and technology summits and retreats to the area, and is holding meetings to develop opportunities for Flagler Schools students to train through MedNexus partners for high-paying local healthcare jobs, city Chief Development Officer Jason DeLorenzo told council members at the Jan. 11 workshop.
"We are building a stakeholder group with JU, UNF, Daytona State and Flagler County Schools to find pathways for students into those institutions," he said.
The city co-hosted an Innovation Challenge event earlier this year with MedNexus and Flagler Schools, and the city would like to continue that in future years, said city Chief of Staff Lauren Johnston.
The Arts District
Palm Coast is working on a master plan study for Town Center arts and recreation, Johnston said.
The city plans to develop dedicated funding for the arts district and create a formal “United We Arts” committee while expanding Arts District programs and experiences.
Town Center commercial development
Palm Coast is using software to help identify retail gaps in the city so that city staff can attract those kinds of businesses, and has been holding meetings with local commercial developers to identify their plans for Town Center, DeLorenzo said.
In 2021, the city approved three commercial projects in the Town Center Community Development District; two are under construction.
Business friendliness and customer service
Palm Coast's permitting portal is outdated: It doesn't resize properly for phones and tablets. The city wants to fix that.
It has received quotes for a new program, DeLorenzo said, and also hopes to create a route-planner for inspectors, with a customer-facing portion that customers can use to pinpoint inspection times.
"We are looking forward to making the permit portal more device-friendly," DeLorenzo said.
Business recruitment and communication
Palm Coast attended the International Economic Development Council conference this year to learn about recruiting businesses, DeLorenzo said, and expects to hire more economic development staff this year.
The city plans to certify one of its staff members as an "Entrepreneurship Development Professional," or EDP, through the International Economic Development Council, and will work with the nonprofit Volusia/Flagler SCORE to develop a program to recruit businesses.
Palm Coast is also creating a communications plan for working with businesses. That's led to the creation of a new "builder welcome package" to help builders navigate the city's processes, DeLorenzo said.
Palm Coast Connect and strategic communications
Palm Coast has recently automated 42 processes through the Palm Coast Connect citizen engagement platform, said Cynthia Schweers, the city's director of public engagement.
"We've been able to really go into the [customer] surveys ... and really try to drill down into the service being provided to that resident," Schweers said. "A lot of changes have happened on the citizens portal, where it's a lot easier."
The city is averaging about 1,500 Palm Cast Connect cases a month, she said.
The city is also working on a strategic communications plan to inform locals about initiatives like the city's streetlighting program and business friendly initiative.
An additional strategy for communicating with stakeholders has led the city to reach out to local clubs, homeowners associations and neighborhood watch groups and develop a speakers bureau of staff members who can speak at events.
Palm Coast wants to transform its old blue and white neighborhood signs into something more artistic.
The city is working with partners to create a program to remake the signs as art in public spaces, drawing inspiration from similar programs in Winter Park and Winter Springs.
Last month, the Indiana-based telecommunications company MetroNet announced that it would be investing $50 million to bring high-speed fiber optic internet to Palm Coast.
As a result, city of Palm Coast Director of Information Technology Doug Akins said, there's no need for the city's fiber network, called FiberNET, to sell to commercial customers. Instead, Akins said, FiberNET will continue to provide services for local governments.
The city had investigated extending FiberNET to the University of Florida's Whitney Lab facilities in Marineland, but MetroNet will probably be able to reach that area long before FiberNET would, Akins said.
Palm Coast has selected a fiber management platform to help inventory and maintain the city's fiber assets, Akins said.
Streetlights, cameras and emergency communications
Palm Coast had added more security cameras at City Hall and is adding them at Ralph Carter Park and Central Park, Akins said.
The city is also looking to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security to improve safety.
Aware of locals' concerns about lack of street lighting in some areas, the city is evaluating residential areas for incorporation into the city's street light master plan, said Carl Cote, the city's stormwater and engineering director.
Lights have recently been added on Ravenwood Drive, and design is complete for the addition of lights on Seminole Woods Parkway and Belle Terre Boulevard.
The city also plans to ask FPL to add streetlights on Sesame Boulevard and East Hampton Boulevard.
'Smart city' certification and traffic control
Palm Coast is looking into "smart city" certification, and investigating ways to use technology to improve traffic flow, including signal coordination and timing adjustments.
The city has already worked with the Florida Department of Transportation to modify signal timing on State Road 100, and is analyzing Belle Terre Parkway and Palm Coast Parkway for adjustments, Cote said.
The city evaluates roadway capacity and traffic counts weekly, Cote said.
Electrification of the city's fleet
Palm Coast bought some hybrid vehicles over the last two years, and those have been working well, said city Public Works Director Matt Mancil.
The city is still evaluating where hybrids, or fully electric vehicles, are most functional. Staff have discovered that if its hybrids are not used for at least 1,000 miles per month, it can be hard to maintain the battery charge properly. Fully electric vehicles would potentially avoid that problem, Mancil said.
The city will also going to look into acquiring electric skid steers, street sweepers and other heavy equipment, he said.
"That market is becoming more and more electrified," he said, with Bobca recently releasing a line of electric skid steers.
Stormwater and public works
City staff is creating a master plan for a new stormwater facility and will present it to the City Council in March, Cote said.
The city improved 37.3 miles of swales in the 2021 fiscal year — exceeding its annual goal of 25 miles per year — and cleared 3,394 driveway culverts.
Community Center and Long Creek Nature Preserve
Palm Coast's Community Center doesn't have enough parking for large events.
City staff are conducting surveys to see how the property is used and whether the playground, basketball courts or tree area should be converted into extra parking.
Palm Coast is also looking into working with Flagler Schools flagship trade program students to integrate students into the construction of a new nature center at the Long Creek Nature Preserve.