Death of shuttle is killing Titusville

TITUSVILLE — This city never wanted the space program. Fifty years later, Titusville is getting its wish.

The shuttle is ending, Constellation is canceled, the city is dying, and there is no Buck Rogers from Washington coming to the rescue.

"I don't know what the answer is going to be for Titusville,'' says Dave Curfman.

Dave has been operating his hot-dog kiosk in the Miracle City Mall, for 41 years. When he first opened, the mall was lined with stores and brimming with people.

"We were still going to the moon,'' says Dave. "Everybody had big incomes.''

Miracle City Mall began emptying out when the Apollo program ended.

Now all that remains are J.C. Penney, a GNC, a Prison Book Project collection site and Dave.

Dave is centrally situated in the main corridor. It's like a scene out of "The Twilight Zone." A man wakes to find everyone in the world has vanished. He runs through one empty building after another, and then in the last one he finds Dave, all by himself, quite serene, his hot dogs spinning slowly on the rollers as if nothing had happened.

For his lunch rush one day this week, Dave sold one man two hot dogs. A woman bought nachos.

"Business is slow in general,'' says Dave, who works seven days a week. "But it is particularly slow today.''

Will he survive?

"I raised my family,'' he says. "We have paid off the house and cars. My wife and I are conservative. So we can get by.''

On the outside, Miracle City Mall is a desert of barren concrete. It is on one side of U.S. Highway 1, and the Indian River Lagoon is on the other side. Beauty and the Beast …

Titusville — the gateway to the spectacular Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge — has squandered its scenic setting.

Florida never was known for planning, but Titusville took that shortcoming to an extreme.

The city looks as if it was put together by engineers, using duct tape to join pieces not meant to go together, oblivious to the aesthetic aftermath. Strip shopping centers of all sizes border rows of small brick homes. Neither are aging well.

The best view of the lagoon was blocked by a towering, ugly block condo during the speculation boom.

The highway splits before hitting the town center, enveloping the strip of shops in surround-sound traffic. About 40,000 cars pass through a day.

The Florida Department of Transportation is trying to help with a streetscaping project. It includes 21,000 plants, big palms propped up with wooden braces and a bike path that, to the chagrin of some merchants, has eliminated some street parking.

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