SEBRING — As Sebring’s Community Redevelopment Agency looks toward the future, the emphasis is likely to be on promoting the residential section on the business district, CRA board members and Sebring City Council members indicated during a special meeting.
But that may be a challenge because some people feel that the downtown is an undesirable place in which to live.
Even the board’s chairwoman, Kelly Cosgrave, said that while she would have no problem in living in downtown, her husband is less interested.
The City Council and the CRA agreed to form a committee to develop a proposal on how the CRA can move forward getting that goal accomplished.
They said they believe that a lot of people have a wrong perception about what it’s like to live downtown.
Lora Todd, a CRA board member, said a man lives above her downtown business and enjoys living in that area.
“I really think that part of the problem is a public relations problem,” said Lorrie Smith, a CRA board member.
The CRA board members discussed the possibility that vacant lots owned by the CRA could be offered at no cost to a developer.
Part of the problem, some said, is that Realtors appear to put more focus on homes in other areas. They said they want to meet with Realtors to discuss that.
Mark Gose, a CRA board member, said now may be the time to be focusing on plans to support building residences in the downtown.
Gose said there has been a trend of increasing development on the coasts of Florida. He predicted that within 18 months, some of that will come to Highlands County.
“Now is not too early to get prepared for that,” he said.
Sebring Mayor John Shoop said that besides residential development, the CRA should consider looking at dealing with blight.
For example, he said, the former Bank of America building is a major source of blight for people to see when they head into the downtown .
Recently, the building was put up for auction and the high bidder wants to use it as a university. Should that not be finalized, Shoop suggested that the CRA may one day consider buying the building and then demolishing it with the hope someone will construct a new building on the land.