CRESTVIEW — As most downtown merchants can attest, there's one thing missing there after 5 p.m.: people.
However, if Crestview attracts a $30,000 Community Planning Technical Assistance Grant from the state Department of Economic Development, empty nighttime sidewalks might echo with downtown residents’ footsteps.
The Crestview City Council at its Monday meeting unanimously approved submitting an application for the grant. The money would fund downtown rezoning, redrawing the city's comprehensive plan, and creating a mixed commercial and residential Future Land Use district.
Currently, downtown residential properties are limited to single-dwelling units for downtown commercial property owners or managers. Consequently, former residential units above most Main Street businesses remain vacant.
Meanwhile, downtown residential opportunities could benefit students and staff at Florida A&M University’s pharmacy school, growth management consultant Jack Dorman said.
"It's our opinion — and this has been proven successfully — if you keep your first-level store fronts and businesses, but allow second- and third-floor residential uses, you then have a population base downtown that live there," Dorman said.
Downtown residents would drive demand for services such as dry cleaners, more restaurants, shopping and entertainment venues. The result could increase the city's tax base and provide more opportunities for all residents, Dorman said.
Any money the city spends on projects under the grant is reimbursable, he said. The city does not have to reimburse the state for the grant.
The city's proposal for a $30,000 Community Planning Technical Assistance Grant from the state Department of Economic Development involves these components:
• Create a zoning district and regulations tailored for downtown
• Create a Future Land Use category in the city's comprehensive plan to be imposed on the downtown district
• Prepare language to include a new vehicle and pedestrian circulation plan in the comprehensive plan.
The grant, if approved, expires May 31, 2014. Then, property owners can decide whether they want to put residential units in their buildings.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.