Story and photo by STACY MARTIN
One of many of the unique features of DeFuniak Springs is its historic district surrounding Lake DeFuniak. The district along Baldwin Ave still preserves the historic look and feel and offers boutiques, pharmacies, book stores, bakery, and more. Bringing people to the downtown area contributes to the success of the businesses and services offered in the area. Increasing the residential population to the area not only adds to the economical success of the area but helps address the housing need.
Chelsea Blaich talked about the benefits of additional housing options for the area noting that residential density contributes to the character and feel of the downtown area adding the diversity of age groups. Additional housing helps boost property values when density increases. And with more housing in the downtown area, residents themselves will benefit from walkable ease of access to other goods and services while saving money and decreasing carbon emissions from driving.
Local multi-family developer Kevin Crystal is in the process of creating market-rate apartments called The Blessing at DeFuniak Springs located at the old Gulf Power building on Circle Drive. Crystal says that housing opportunities are a missing component to the revitalization of downtown, and hopes to be part of the solution. The apartments are currently in the architectural and engineering phase, with a concept that Crystal says will fuse contemporary and historical housing design elements.
Local architect Anthony Vallée, who has overseen several historical renovation projects in the area, is working on the design of the building. The concept of the Blessing at DeFuniak Springs is for it to contain 42 apartment units mixed of one, two, and three-bedrooms, with the lower level available for extra storage, office space, and possibly a small retail restaurant or deli. Crystal hopes the project will be completed in late 2022.