Build it and they will come: Crestview's housing boom not slowing

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

CRESTVIEW — In and next to Crestview, which already is Okaloosa County's largest and most-populated city, several subdivisions containing a total of more than 2,000 single-family homes are either being built or are in the late planning stages.

Many of the residents of all of those new houses will, of course, add to the traffic congestion on already busy roads such as State Road 85.

While the developers of some of the new subdivisions plan to upgrade streets next to their projects, far greater traffic relief is expected to come via the ongoing southwest Crestview bypass work and the planned widening of a long segment of SR 85.

A heavy machinery operator does site work for a new development going in along East Redstone Avenue in Crestview. City officials said there are about 2,000 single family homes in the works for Crestview over the next five years.

“I think for the first time in a long time we’re planning for the growth,” said Tim Bolduc, who began serving as Crestview’s first city manager in February 2019. “We’re still behind, but with the (ongoing and planned road projects), we’ll continue to see improvement.

“In the last two years, we’ve built really good relationships with the FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) and the county, and we’ll continue to look at what improvements need to be made," Bolduc said. "We’re not going to look at any stopping of development, so we need to be smart about how we pace it.”

Building boom

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New or planned subdivisions in and near Crestview include:

  • Shoal River Landing in Crestview: Construction continues on this subdivision, which could have 341 homes on 193 acres east of Shoal River Middle School and Redstone Avenue and just north of Interstate 10.
  • Patriot Ridge, outside the city limits: Plans call for 676 houses built in phases over several years on more than 400 acres of unincorporated county land east of SR 85 and between Shoal River Drive and Airman’s Memorial Road.
  • Ridgeway Landing in Crestview: The developer is nearing the completion of the infrastructure construction for the first phase of this 146-home subdivision on about 32 acres on the southeast corner of Old Bethel Road and Jones Road and just west of Davidson Middle School.
  • Burleson Springs, outside the city limits: Work has begun on the 85-lot first phase of this 245-home subdivision on about 141 acres southeast of SR 85 and Bradley Road in the unincorporated Garden City area.
  • White Wolf Run, outside the city limits: This planned subdivision could have 332 homes on about 116 acres west of Jones Road and Crestview High School and north of Texas Parkway. The property owner is seeking annexation into the city.

Another subdivision in the works is a currently unnamed one that could contain about 70 homes on almost 30 acres of unincorporated county land on the south side of Lake Silver Road, just east of where the road turns due north. Changes to the project site’s future land use map and zoning designations received the Okaloosa County Commission’s approval in early April.

Room to grow

The Crestview area’s draw to developers comes as no surprise to Bolduc.

The Redstone Commons residential housing development at right is completed as work on a new development begins across Okaloosa Lane in Crestview. City officials said there are about 2,000 single family homes in the works for Crestview over the next five years.

“We have the only available land in Okaloosa County in any amount at all,” said Bolduc, whose previous jobs included serving as Fort Walton Beach’s public works director and Laurel Hill’s city manager. “The only other place with large pieces of land available is Niceville, and they’re working on a planned unit development there.”

Also compared to other areas, Crestview has “the most affordable land,” he said.

While Crestview has a greater stock of more affordable and larger homes on larger lots than areas closer to the Gulf of Mexico, residents of the Hub City have long had to deal with snarled traffic on SR 85 and other roads. Much of the traffic congestion stems from military members traveling to and from Duke Field south of Crestview.

According to the FDOT, SR 85 near Interstate 10 in Crestview “operates at an unacceptable daily level of service.”

Officials from the FDOT state in a report that “peak congestion in the afternoon extends from the SR 85/I-10 interchange four miles south near Special Forces Way, resulting in travel times of 30 minutes or more. The failing level of service will worsen with continued growth in the area.”

Single family homes go up at a residential development along Okaloosa Lane in Crestview recently. City officials said there are about 2,000 single family homes in the works for Crestview over the next five years.

The agency is conducting a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study needed for the proposed widening of an almost 12-mile portion of SR 85.

That stretch, which currently contains four traffic lanes and eventually could be widened to six, extends between the highway’s connection with SR 123, just north of Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, and Mirage Avenue, which leads to Lowe’s in Crestview.

A public hearing will held sometime this summer on the PD&E study, which will be completed in the summer of 2022, FDOT spokeswoman Tanya Branton said.

For funding purposes, the project will be divided into segments for design, right of way acquisition and construction. The segments are SR 123 to Mcwhorter Avenue at Duke Field, Mcwhorter Avenue to PJ Adams Parkway, and PJ Adams Parkway to I-10.

The overall project also could include a new I-10 interchange and upgrades to the intersections of various major roads with SR 85.

At this time, the only portion of the project that is funded within the FDOT’s five-year work program is the design work, which is slated to take place in fiscal year 2022, Branton said.

While an Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization report shows the highway widening work possibly not starting until 2031 or later, local officials hope it will begin sooner.

Much closer to providing anticipated traffic relief are the southwest Crestview bypass and east-west connector road projects, both of which might be completed in 2024.

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On its southern end, the bypass will connect to a new I-10 interchange just east of Addison Place Apartments and north of Antioch Road, and then continue to U.S. Highway 90 at its intersection with Enzor Road for a total of about 3 miles.

The east-west connector will stand about 1.3 miles north of I-10 and extend about 3 miles between the Arena Road section of the bypass and the existing Physicians Drive. Physicians Drive currently is a dead-end road and connects to SR 85 via West Redstone Avenue.

A cement truck rolls down Okaloosa Lane in Crestview, on its way to a new residential subdivision under construction. City officials said there are about 2,000 single family homes in the works for Crestview over the next five years.

District 1 County Commissioner Paul Mixon, whose district includes many of the new and upcoming subdivisions in and near Crestview, said the current housing boom reflects an ongoing demand.

“Not only are more military members moving in, but a lot of folks from the south end of the county are moving to the north end of the county,” Mixon said. “We’re also seeing people move here from out of state.”

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In addition, some of the new homeowners include those who help make up the workforce of expanding businesses, he said.

To help loosen some of the traffic congestion, county officials have been working with Eglin Air Force Base leaders to stagger some of the work shifts of military members, Mixon said.

“These roads can handle traffic, but they can’t handle all the traffic at once,” he said.