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What started with a community vision and a desire to rekindle a memory has come to reality with the opening of the Riverfront Esplanade. Reimagined into existence by local leaders J. Hyatt and Cici Brown, with the help of the city and the community, the final opening of the Esplanade was celebrated i nearly October with downtown merchants, community leaders and the public in a series of opening events marking the official opening of the southern portion.
“The future of downtown Daytona Beach is bright and much to my delight, the future is here,” said Mayor Derrick L. Henry at the opening. “Thanks to Hyatt and Cici Brown’s vision and extraordinary financial contribution, the Riverfront Esplanade is an absolute treasure for residents and visitors. Completion of this long-awaited project was worth the wait.”
Extending from Main Street to Orange Avenue, the Riverfront Esplanade is now completely open and offers a sensory experience, whether you want to just relax and enjoy your surroundings or get some exercise in the beauty of this 22.5-acre manicured space along the Halifax River. Children can safely play in the splash pad, swings, slides and run in the open spaces. Furry friends can romp in the small and large areas of Brownie’s Dog Park. (Dog owners must register and obtain an annual permit for entrance to the dog park.) Traveling the length of the river is a blue, cushioned trail ideal for runners and walkers. A sweeping event lawn with knolls and large oak trees has transformed the once-flat landscape. Swings for adults and children and benches allow for riverfront views, while sculpted ponds with color-change fountains are peppered throughout the area.
The Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Plaza at the intersection of MMB and Beach Street is a nod to the area and legacy of the great leader in a place that designers hope will bring inspiration. A Kress-building inspired restroom sits on what is now Manatee Plaza, which serves as a gateway to Manatee Island. There is a Ranger Station, and this area features an Osprey Tower and the Veterans monument with palm trees and color-changing fountains on each side. Behind the News-Journal Center, the Halifax River Overlook includes an ADA-compliant spiraling walkway and bench swings.
The overlook has been raised 10 feet and visitors to this area can enjoy enhanced views as they are elevated 15 feet above sea level. The walkway is also bordered by large coquina boulders, knitting it into the water’s edge.
The southern portion is from International Speedway Boulevard to Orange Avenue and includes an elaborate splash pad, restroom facility, a rose garden with other themed botanical gardens, a water feature, a venue lawn and walking paths. Dozens of security cameras are located throughout the park, and the state-of-the-art system is monitored through a collaboration between park security personnel and local law enforcement.
The transformation of the area was overseen by the Brown Riverfront Esplanade Foundation, which was established by the Browns in 2017, with the mission to restore the riverfront to its previous glory and facilitate the restoration, operation and revitalization of the Riverfront Esplanade.
Inspired by memories of his childhood spent along the riverfront, Chairman Hyatt Brown, along with the Foundation’s Board, is committed to delivering a spectacular space where future generations can go to experience the charm of downtown Daytona Beach. To date, the Brown Riverfront Esplanade Foundation has invested more than $37 million on the transformation of the park. The annual operating budget is $2.2 million.
A full schedule of activities is planned for the Esplanade including live music, festivals, family and fitness activities as well as private and business events. The Riverfront Market is 8 to 11 a.m. on the last Sunday of each month featuring local vendors, music and a Wellness Walk at 8 a.m.
For more information, follow the Riverfront Esplanade on Facebook and Instagram or visit their website.