CRESTVIEW — A group of out-of-town investors toured the city’s historic Main Street district and saw potential.

Impressions and ideas were varied during the Community Redevelopment Agency’s July 22 Investor Assessment event, “But they all agree on one thing,” CRA project leader Brenda Smith said. “Crestview is going to have to take the lead.”

PHOTOS: View photos of the downtown Investors Assessment>>

And that, partners of West Palm Beach-based Commercial Funding and Asset Acquisitions, said, requires “skin in the game.”

“Let the city buy the (vacant) assets, then rent it out at a reduced rate,” Mark Pascua said. “We’d back it up with a loan.”

As empty stores — there are currently 16 vacancies on Main Street — become occupied, the city could slowly increase the rent until it recoups its investment.

Then it can sell the buildings to investors and bank the profit, Pascua and his partner, Brian Woods, said.

But city buy-in is crucial.

“The city needs ownership in its downtown,” Pascua said. “If the city doesn’t want to invest in its future, then nobody else does.”

DOWNTOWN TOUR
Smith said many of the invited investors, developers and business owners arrived in Crestview a day early and toured downtown.

“They walked up and down the street and were out until 11 p.m.; then they stayed up to 3 a.m. discussing what they saw,” Smith said. “They said to do what needs to be done will take about $6 million.”

Some of the things the investors saw raised questions.

“We noticed all the business is outside of downtown at night,” Pascua said. “Why would we want to invest in that?”

Ciro Mendoza, another CFAA partner, said the city took a positive step when it rezoned downtown to allow a residential component. When people live in the area, the demand for evening activities will rise, he said.

“Sometimes the act of trying until you start something is what it takes,” Mendoza said. “You’ve got to try something. You can’t sit and wait for things to happen, for other people to do something.”

THE CITY’S IDENTITY

“Main Street really creates the identity of a city, and it should be a center for business as well as a recreational destination,” Mayor David Cadle said. “We are dedicated to fast-track permitting of any new development in this area of our city.”

Making downtown attractive to young entrepreneurs is another important step the city should take, Mendoza said.

Smith said advice she and her team from the CRA’s marketing consultants, the Petermann Agency, received from the visitors will be integral to preparing a master plan for the district’s development.

“This is seeding the garden,” Smith said. “We are planting the seeds but we don’t know what’s going to grow from it yet.”

“We hope to benefit from your input on creating downtown development all the while maintaining our small-town charm in this very family-friendly city,” Cadle told the investors.

CULTURE ON DISPLAY

After appetizers at the Spy Chest, dinner and entertainment awaited at Fred Astaire Dance Studio’s North Main Street event venue.

There the guests also received a sampling of Crestview’s cultural opportunities.

Regional opera singer Kelly Glyptis and Crestview pianist Ryan Mabry presented a “Puccini and Broadway” show while local artists, including wood artisan Dannis Young, displayed their works and discussed the city’s cultural life with the guests.

The CFAA partners said such a balance of culture and commercial space availability is attractive for investors — if the city participates.

“Someone has to lead the way and take some of the risk,” Brian Woods said. “You have to incentivize people to come here.”

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CRESTVIEW BY THE NUMBERS

Attendees at the downtown Investors Assessment were provided with Crestview statistics, including this data:

●24,533: city population

●17: percentage growth since 2010

●31.19: median city age

●9,989: dwellings in Crestview

●62: percentage of homeowners

●$54,713: median household income

●44.7: percentage of households earning more than the national average

●$50,918: average household annual expenditures

Source: Community Redevelopment Agency

CRESTVIEW WORKERS

Crestview workforce data shared with visiting investors includes:

●11,346: labor force

●2.25: percentage job growth rate in 2015

●33: percentage blue collar jobs

●66: percentage white collar jobs

●90: percentage employment

●1,209: Crestview businesses

●65.18: percentage of business with 1-4 workers

●20.8: percentage of workers with college degree

Source: Community Redevelopment Agency