Dilapidated downtown Crestview building gets date with wrecking ball

Tony Judnich
Crestview News Bulletin

CRESTVIEW — Local businessman Alex Barthe says he is “wide open” when it comes to the type of business that could fill his soon-to-be empty commercial space downtown.

“I would love to see a business that is family-orientated come in,” Barthe said Tuesday. “I do not have the definitive answer on what’s going in there. What we really want is something to benefit the community, to make people want to go downtown.”

The Crestview City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to use $28,500 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to pay for the demolition of Barthe's two-story concrete block building at 109 N. Main St.

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This long-vacant building at 109 N. Main Street in Crestview could be demolished in about the next 30 to 45 days to make way for a new business.

Barthe anticipates the work will occur in the next 30 to 45 days. Considering that it is 75 years old, the building probably contains asbestos, he said.

The removal of the long vacant, 3,250-square-foot building will be the inaugural project of the city’s Nuisance Abatement Program, which aims to reduce the number of blighted and deteriorating properties. 

Barthe purchased the property in March for $35,000, according to Okaloosa County Property Appraiser’s Office records.

The building that will be razed stands between two one-story brick buildings: The one to the south houses the Coney Island restaurant and the one to the north houses H.E.R.O.E.S. Express, which provides care to people with developmental disabilities.

The city has contracted with R&D Development of Niceville and Baker’s Land Clearing & Construction Services of Crestview to demolish Barthe’s building and remove the debris.

The two-story, concrete block commercial building at 109 N. Main St. in Crestview was built in 1946.

Tim Bolduc, who began working as Crestview’s first-ever city manager in February 2019, joked with Councilman Joe Blocker at Monday’s council meeting about the planned demolition.

“Mr. Blocker, you’re going to be super-disappointed that this is the building next to Coney Island,” Bolduc said.

“Lord help us,” Blocker replied.

Bolduc then recalled that Blocker had asked him during his job interview what he was going to do about the two-story eyesore.

Mayor JB Whitten also looks forward to the building coming down.

He said at Monday’s meeting that the structure “has been the bane of my existence.”

Damage to the long vacant, two-story commercial structure at 109 N. Main St. in Crestview can be seen through this south-facing window.

On Tuesday, Barthe told the Daily News that the building’s previous owner had no use for the structure and had been trying to sell it for several years. Barthe, who was unsure how long the building has been empty, said it reportedly housed a brothel long ago.

More recently, the building’s second floor collapsed onto its first floor, he said.

“It’s a dangerous situation that needs to be cleaned up,” Barthe added. 

Early last year, Barthe completed the conversion of the historic structure at 114 E. Cedar Ave., next to the Okaloosa County Courthouse on Main Street into Courthouse Suites.

Located in the former SEAS Engineering building, Courthouse Suites houses 16 office suites and two retail spaces.

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Bolduc told the council Monday that Barthe did a great job with the extensive overhaul of that building, and he thanked him for continuing to invest in downtown. 

“The downtown area is changing in a good way through the leadership of the city manager and the council,” Barthe said Tuesday.

Julia Phillips, owner and manager of Coney Island, said she is concerned about the dust and debris that will come from the upcoming demolition. 

The long vacant, two-story concrete block building at 109 N. Main St., next to Coney Island, is expected to be demolished soon.

She said that from 1947 until 1970, Coney Island operated on the first floor of the building that is now up for demolition. The restaurant moved into its current building when it was built in 1970, Phillips said.

“The buildings are so close together,” said Phillips, who added she’ll likely have to close her restaurant when demolition work begins.

On the other hand, she said she’s excited about the potential new business coming to Main Street.