Officials from several national chain stores and restaurants apparently remain committed but coy about opening their doors to customers in Okaloosa County’s most-populated city.
On Monday, the Crestview City Council received an update on a developer’s proposal to bring about 73,000 square feet of inline retail space plus at least two possible national sit-down restaurant chains to the heart of the city’s State Road 85 business area.
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The overall project site is part of an almost 22-acre area bounded by S.R. 85 to the east, Hospital Drive/old Golden Asian Buffet restaurant to the north, Price-Gregory Way to the west and a swath of vacant land and Mirage Avenue and Chick-fil-A to the south.
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The developer is The Benchmark Group of Amherst, New York.
Its developments include those in the West Melbourne, Viera and Lady Lake parts of central Florida.
Benchmark aims to "move earth" on its property in Crestview starting this third quarter, or July, said Martin DelleBovi, executive vice president, director-real estate for The Benchmark Group.
While not saying what retail stores and restaurants are proposed, DelleBovi said one of the company’s recent central Florida project’s included a Bed Bath & Beyond, Joann Fabric and Craft Store, Petco and Longhorn Steakhouse.
"This kind of shows you what types of projects we’ve been working on in the past 15 years," he told the council.
The Crestview site for the Benchmark Group’s estimated $14 million overall proposed development project mostly is undeveloped land that’s adjacent to S.R. 85 and has steep drop-offs, which DelleBovi said will be filled in with about 140,000 loads of dirt.
The proposed "Crestview Commons," he said, will have a new traffic light at S.R. 85 that will tie in with the future city/county SW Crestview bypass.
DelleBovi envisions his company’s overall retail/restaurant development to include two full-size restaurants and one storefront out front and large department/grocery store spaces and many smaller ones in back.
"They won’t even tell me" what’s proposed, City Manager Tim Bolduc, citing signed nondisclosure agreements, said before the council meeting. "They’re telling me they’ve got several national chains competing for the space."
Crestview officials love local small businesses, he emphasized.
"Tonight we’re offering a grant program," to help small local establishments, said Bolduc, who became Crestview’s first city manager in February 2019. "But we need more shopping opportunities. That’s one of the biggest holes I see and hear about: There’s not a lot of places to shop for clothing here."
The city still needs to approve a development order for the proposed Crestview Commons, Bolduc said.
That approval is almost certain.
"The retailers we’re all talking to are all still going to committee" for further talks of setting up shop, DelleBovi said. "We have a very nice list of retailers for this site."
He added that despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Benchmark has letters of intent from national sit-down restaurant chains for two outparcels at the Crestview site.
"Thank you for bringing this project to Crestview," Councilman Andrew Rencich told DelleBovi. "It’s going to be a great adjustment and enhancement for our community."
"I wish I had 50 acres, because I have enough retailers to fill it," DelleBovi said of the company’s almost 22 acres in Crestview.