CRESTVIEW—Vacant buildings are a common sight when traveling through the city’s downtown area.

There are 104 vacant property parcels within the Community Redevelopment Agency’s boundaries that encompass downtown, Twin Hills Park and a stretch of Martin Luther King Boulevard. A majority of these properties are zoned for commercial use, with a few zoned residential.

The CRA’s 2017 master plan views these sites as opportunities to consolidate and redevelop for sale and use. However, they pose a potential warning sign to investors and could discourage growth before any such consolidation takes place.

“Vacant parcels that are unkempt and overgrown become a further detriment to progress toward revitalization,” CRA Master Plan Project Manager David Haight said during a presentation to city officials.

Some of these issues can be resolved with effective and efficient code enforcement, Haight added. However, even a well manicured vacant building is still just that—vacant.

“Vacancy rate is an indicator buildings in the area are not being utilized,” CRA Director Brenda Smith said. “They can become neglected or discourage people from going to the area.”

Nearly a dozen of these vacant properties are located along Main Street, the city’s business district hub.

The master plan shows an increase in vacancy rates in recent years, indicating a shift away from the downtown area. This can give the impression of business hardship or decreasing customer flow in the area, which can be a deterrent to investors and developers.

Companies scope the success of other businesses in an area before deciding to expand there, Joe Strauss of Retail Strategies told officials during a City Council meeting in March. Retail Strategies has been conducting assessment studies of Crestview since October to lure new businesses into the area.

Large numbers of vacant buildings, on an inclining trend, could be a major red flag to some of these businesses. Although, others might view them as an opportunity to purchase an already constructed building for renovation rather than a full build-out on a new property.

Either way, Crestview’s issue of vacant property isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. The construction of new Walmart and Publix shopping centers along Ferdon Boulevard North and near the existing Publix along the south portion of the road indicate growth is happening but downtown is being left out.

“With less draw, there’s less people in the area,” Smith said.

Less people in downtown will be a certain hurdle for redevelopment and the prosperity of the area.