CRESTVIEW — The Community Redevelopment Agency has unveiled its 2017 master plan, highlighting opportunities and recommendations to spur downtown revitalization.
The plan is a “long-term vision of possibilities for redevelopment and revitalization with some short-term recommendations,” David Haight, the project manager for its creation, said.
Several key project recommendations highlighted in the master plan include an updated vision for the Crestview Junction, wayfinding signs throughout downtown and gateway enhancements.
The Crestview Junction was originally introduced in the CRA’s 2015 master plan, but a new vision has brought it back into the conversation.
The CRA sees the opportunity to convert several vacant lots on Woodruff Avenue East, Brett Street North and Oakdale Avenue East into a park. This redeveloped area would connect the downtown district with Twin Hills Park. One portion of the park would be built into an outdoor amphitheater available as a public venue for events and gatherings.
Currently, Twin Hills and downtown are not directly connected. Linking the two would help increase the area’s walkability. The ability to walk or bike with ease through downtown is a necessity if mixed-use residential buildings are constructed downtown — a strong recommendation from Haight.
“With new residential development, walkability becomes more necessary for connecting residents within the central business district,” Haight said in his presentation to the CRA board.
The central business district struggles to draw commuters in its present state. A lack of residents reduces demand for retail, dining or other commercial entities in the area, according to Haight. Constructing residential buildings will help revitalize downtown.
“Today, downtown Crestview has been bypassed in many ways,” Haight said. This is the result of community gathering centers — library, farmer’s market, post office, YMCA, grocery stores — leaving downtown to relocate or close down.
The result is that traffic moves past downtown, without the need or reason to stop there.
TRAFFIC BYPASSING DOWNTOWN
The portion of Ferdon Boulevard that borders downtown moves about 38,500 vehicles each day, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Downtown streets, conversely, see 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles daily, depending on the road.
The CRA believes building wayfinding signage is a simple, first tactic to promoting the downtown area to commuters. These signs would feature the city crest and arrows directing people to area points of interest. Similar signs are seen in downtown and historic districts across the country.
Similarly, gateway arches can be constructed to signify the entrance to downtown.
Other recommendations in the plan include developing bike paths, enhancing existing parks, hosting downtown cultural events and enforcement of city regulations.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
The master plan presents no target timelines for projects and lacks detailed plans on how to accomplish its recommendations.
“The next step [for the city] will be identifying what projects it will pursue,” CRA Director Brenda Smith said. However, there is no indication on when such decisions could be made, if at all.
The plan also aims to engage Crestview residents to help spur growth and revitalization in the community.
“The real catalyst for future improvements will be committed groups of citizens willing to jump start these new initiatives,” Haight said. ”All of the physical improvements that development and infrastructure can provide cannot substitute for energy provided by the community.”
The 2017 CRA master plan is the fourth version of the plan — others appeared in 1995, 1998 and 2015.
The latest version expands on options and validates that certain areas need development, according to Smith. She said issues with implementing the plan need to be “cleared up.”