POINCIANA – A group working to promote economic development in Poinciana is moving a step closer to getting the first Salvation Army office in the community, while also making a push to attract a shuttle van service there.
The Poinciana Economic Development Alliance has as its central goal to bring more businesses and social service agencies to the community of 80,000 residents that still has the feel of a bedroom community, with plenty of homes but jobs, businesses and services located elsewhere.
PEDA hopes to change that, and believes more businesses can be lured into the community of 10 villages now that a series of major construction projects – including the first hospital being built there, and a station for the SunRail commuter rail line – are expected to start up next year.
In the meantime, PEDA is working to bring a Salvation Army office to the community. Nestor R. Nuesch and Nick Murdock, two community activists who live in the Solivita development and are members of PEDA, have made it a top priority to bring a Salvation Army service center for family services to Poinciana, one that could offer everything from counseling services to day care programs and music.
Nuesch said they’ve spoken to Avatar, the main developer in Poinciana, about this project.
“Nick and I have met with Avatar about this, targeting the best location to have a basic Salvation Army service center,” he said, adding that there’s a clear understanding that it would probably need to be a fairly good-sized property, since it would almost certainly attract large numbers of people.
“The problem we’ll have is too many people will come to it, but that’s okay,” Nuesch said.
“We’ve got two major facilities planned,” Murdock said. “One would be a thrift store. The other would be a full ministry operation that would have a day care center and a performing arts center. We’re negotiating with Avatar to either provide space or donate land, about five acres.”
So far, he added, the developer has been ready to help PEDA on these projects.
“Avatar is really trying to get on board and really help,” Murdock said.
Nuesch said that since the Salvation Army is a non-profit, PEDA would need to raise money to help them get into the community and start operations. But if they can turn to the community to help finance this project, it would definitely be worth it, Nuesch said.
“We’d have to raise money for this,” he said. “It’s a big project, a huge vision, and it will be a lot of work.”
But it’s a worthy goal, he added.
“Poinciana does not have one social service agency,” he said. “Kissimmee has about 50, so everyone goes there.”
Annette Brown, another member of PEDA, noted that she’s had times in her past when she’s had to turn to the Salvation Army for assistance – and they came through for her.
“I just want to say the Salvation Army saved my life,” she said.
Another project that PEDA is working on is the possibility of getting a shuttle van service that could take residents around the community, from one shop to another.
“In Puerto Rico, they have a system of vans that are following the path of the buses,” said PEDA member Darhlene Zeanwick. It’s a convenient way to get around the community, she added, and a private business operating the van system could find a lot of local residents to transport.
“It might also be an opportunity for the counties to make a little extra money by licensing those vans,” Zeanwick said. “It’s a win-win.”
Brown agreed, saying that with Poinciana’s large population, “Everyone will jump on those vans because it’s easier than the bus.”
Wendy Farrell, who serves on the PEDA board and is also the chairman of the Poinciana Area Council – a group of business owners who meet once a month and operate under the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce – said the community’s retail shops should band together to lobby for this project.
“One specific goal I have is to have more retail representation on PAC, and bring them together,” she said. “That’s something we don’t have now, retail representation on PAC.”
PEDA member Letha Vanderhei said they should also consider doing market research on the community, to show the population growth, median income levels and other factors that would encourage a shuttle van service to set up shop here.
“What we need to do is get a positive research study on the area,” she said. “That’s the only way we’ll get people in here, by getting some positive spin on the area.”
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