“Failure is not an option at this point,” Hector Lizasuain said, just days after Target announced it would be closing the store on U.S. 192 early next year.
Target recently announced that it would close its superstore on West Vine Street in Kissimmee on Feb. 2. The store has been a fixture on that spot since 1992, and it marks another business closing for a corridor that has struggled since the recession set in.
Lizasuain said this latest closing, though, will not significantly weaken the county’s efforts to bring new economic life and vitality to that tourism corridor.
“It’s a bump in the road, but as a community and a corridor, we’re still moving forward,” Lizasuain said.
Osceola County has made a major effort in the past year to jump start the economy on the U.S. 192 corridor, which stretches from the Four Corners area down past Celebration to the cities of Kissimmee and St. Cloud. Commissioners even appointed a West 192 Redevelopment Council, w has been hosting Redevelopment Plan Community meetings to convince area residents and businesses operating on the highway to become involved in future plans to improve U.S. 192.
Some sections of the highway are doing better than others, including the area around Four Corners, which is continuing to attract new businesses. The sections closer to Kissimmee and St. Cloud are plagued by a high number of vacant, abandoned properties that have become eyesores to the rest of the corridor’s business community. The closing of the Target superstore will only add to those woes.
The question now is whether the county and city of Kissimmee can avoid a situation where new businesses feel too discouraged to relocate there.
As Lizasuain noted, the city of Kissimmee has designated the area around the Target store as a Community Redevelopment Area as a method for boosting economic development there.
A CRA is a public entity created by a city or county, to target areas considered to be in “slum” condition that need rehabilitation and redevelopment efforts. The CRA the board prepares and adopts a redevelopment plan for that area.
As the City of Kissimmee notes on its Web site, its CRA is “one of the fastest growing areas in Central Florida. From cattle ranches and bass lakes to the Historic downtown district, Kissimmee is a unique treasure for residents and tourists alike.’’
“We are working closely with the city on their redevelopment efforts,” Lizasuain said. ‘’Their CRA has been approved, and they are already moving forward and those kind of issues will be addressed.’’
It’s important to keep in mind, Lizasuain said, that the problems confronting U.S. 192 didn’t happen overnight, and improvements won’t occur instantly, either.
’’The decline we have on 192 in general is like a giant oil tanker at sea,’’ he said. “You can stop it, but it will coast for a while. What you see now is that kind of coasting. That tanker is still kind of coasting a little bit before we can turn it around.’’
Lizasuain and Osceola County commissioners are taking aim at properties in distress and blighted from neglect, either working with the owners to rehabilitate them, or perhaps tearing them down so the land can be used for other purposes.
“I look at it as a clean canvas,“ Lizasuain said. “Some businesses have outlived their usefulness and you have to tear that down and bring new businesses in. Most of those properties are atcually worth more without the structure on them. It may be an eyesore today, but it has incredible potential in the future. Some of these structures, they don’t meet any codes, and were designed 20 years ago. They can’t even compete in today’s market the way they are. The land is worth more with the building off of it.’’
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