The Southern Strategy Section of the Comprehensive Plan (Goal 11) encourages a shift in quality land development and redevelopment toward the southern part of Tallahassee to increase population and economic growth in that area. How well do you feel this goal is being implemented?
Follow-up questions that may have been asked to get more detail:
Some people feel our focus on the northeast has hindered public and private development in the south. What’s your opinion?
Tallahassee zip code 32304 is one of the poorest in Florida. What specific steps would you take to eliminate economic inequity in Tallahassee/Leon County?
I live on the southside of town, where I want to see an improved quality of life. Southside neighborhoods have been neglected over the years. The City has talked about a southern strategy and it has never come to fruition and the investment was never made. Focus on the southside has long been neglected. I advocate for these things, but it takes time. There is a lack of infrastructure such as water, sewer, transportation, sidewalks, streetscape etc. I have pushed for sidewalks in South City. The City is starting to address the flooding in areas such as Jake Gaither Park. $19M worth of projects committed to the south side of town are in the works or planned for the future. Blueprint committed funding to the southside of town. A Star Metro transit center will be built on the corners of South Meridian and Orange Avenue. The Orange Avenue apartments, through the funding from the CRA, will be transformed into a mixed-use development as well as replacement of the existing housing units. The City should encourage economic development like grocery stores. However, gentrification should not mean forcing out the indigenous population.
As a Commissioner, I have advocated for increased investment in the southside of town. The new fire station on Lake Bradford and FAMU Way are signature projects. More CRA funding to the neighborhoods can create more affordable housing and market rate housing, which will bring more private investment. Gaines Street is a great example, with infrastructure in place, the private developers came in to build. The new VA clinic, the ER facility of TMH, the new school on Tram Road are examples of investment. The St Joe Company is looking at development on Tram Road. The City needs to build infrastructure, encourage housing development, and improve schools. Then, the development will come. The Commission is committed to changing that.
The City has used CRA money ineffectively. Let’s use the money for the right thing. There hasn’t been a serious focus on the south. In election years, it gets mentioned a lot, yet nothing has been revitalized. It starts with neighborhoods, but the City needs to involve not-for-profit organizations too that have plenty of advocates. Fund them to give them what they need to get the job done or make significant progress, at least. Holding a City meeting doesn’t get anything done. Set priorities and fund them adequately. Tallahassee has the seeds in the local not-for-profits that are engaged in revitalizing the southern part of Tallahassee. They just need money – the water and fertilizer – to grow so they can have a significant impact.
Here’s the reality of a comp plan. When a hurricane comes through town, you can throw all those plans away. When a virus comes through, same thing. The city should write five-year plans, not 20-25 years plans. The City is growing faster than our planning. Look at where we are as a city, set priorities, and get things done. Tallahassee doesn’t and it’s embarrassing. No streetlights, roads in disrepair, homes that are mold-filled, 3,000 people on a waiting list for low income housing assistance.
For the next four years, forget about Blueprint, comp plan, etc., and focus on things like the issues in 32304 and the rest of the southside; get grocery stores in there. It’s embarrassing that people go 15 miles on a bus to get to a dentist or doctor. The City says we have $6.5 million for Bond . . . when will it get put to work? Incentivize what is needed in that zip code, not downtown for big developers. People in the neighborhoods of 32304 want to help. There are various not-for-profits that can help too. Fund them! Taxpayers should not have to fund a special tax for a children’s council. The money is already in the City budget. Tallahassee just needs to reallocate it right. Tallahassee hasn’t spent the money it needs to spend and what it’s spent hasn’t been the right things. About the only significant thing done in 32304 is the building of the Planned Parenthood center.
Group 1 – At Large
I have studied these disparities. The first step is to recognize that there is a problem. I think the Board generally recognizes that there is a problem. The second step is to decide what to do. No one commissioner has all the answers. We need to see what we can do to direct more quality development on the southside, especially if it results in a higher socio-economic status for residents. People need to make a living wage because $17,000 dollars is inadequate for a family of four. We need to attract business and industry, while protecting the environment. Assembly line workers can make $40,000 to $50,000 a year. These are jobs for people without a college degree. Not everyone has the desire to go to college, but we need to empower them to earn a living wage for their family.
I absolutely think that is a problem. I see the frustration over the lack of affordable housing. There is no motivation for developers to provide it. We have a divide. I was talking to a woman who said she had never been south of Gaines Street because it is too dangerous. People are conditioned to see things a certain way. We need to manage growth, but the emphasis should be on the people who are already here. The two issues for me are, (1) protect the environment, and (2) meeting the needs of those who need the most. The answers to these issues are political. “32304” is what I call a “popcorn” issue. It is a great idea to do something about 32304 but what we need is a comprehensive, collective strategy. We must change systems, such as the criminal justice system.
Historically, a limited amount of planning was done. Now, in public money, two dollars are spent south of Tennessee Street for every one dollar spent north of Tennessee Street. That has been true for the last 15 years. Spending money is not sufficient. You cannot force people to move where they don’t want to move. Cascades Park was an attempt to bring quality land development to southern Tallahassee, in this case the Myers Park area. However, even in that case, some people did not want the park built. Frenchtown is a good example of changing an area.
Some people feel our focus on the northeast has hindered public and private development in the south, but this is a myth that money is not going to the southside. Most of the private money has been going to the northeast but two to one, the public money is going to the southside.
We cannot just spend money where it’s collected – that’s a losing proposition. Some districts are donor districts and provide funds to other districts. Growth has often been unchecked, as the growth in the northeast, where there was no plan. Welaunee will be the first chance to plan out the transportation, stormwater, and infrastructure for the next 30 years.
I support further implementation of the Southern Strategy goal. I feel that the current Superintendent of Schools has invested wisely in school infrastructure with renovations at Fairview Middle School and Rickards High School. These investments will bear fruit on where we want developments to occur.
I read ATN’s white paper on Welaunee. ATN made valid points that before any more commitments to spending money on the north side of town, we should make sure Urban Services are extended to folks in other parts of town that don’t have them. Everyone should have adequate infrastructure. The city and county must now follow-through on the southern part of town.
It is true that our focus on the northeast has hindered public and private development in the south. Developers want to sell houses where they can make the most money and make the most profit and the NE is where this is taking place. I don’t see how the Bannerman corridor will work with the existing construction taking place. The other parts of town, southside and west side, do not get as much attention from developers and the role of government is to be as equitable and sensible about where they encourage growth.
Tallahassee is under growth pressure. Developers just look for space on the map and what can they build there without considering the existing neighborhoods and other needs of the communities. There is “right” and there is “what is right.” Sometimes, a commissioner must use the platform to make a point or make a statement. My role is to listen and create a dialogue.
There is a big economic inequality problem in Tallahassee/Leon County. This is the tale of two Tallahassees. I feel that the Children Services Council (CSC) is a good thing and I support it. My opponent, Mr. Desloge, flipped on his support, initially being against it and then for it. We must work with the non-profits to fill the funding gaps which the CSC will do. The city TEMPO program, working with faith-based programs, is a good helper in changing outcomes. Career and technical training is needed – college is not the route for everyone. We must grow jobs and have educational pathways. With all the educational channels in Tallahassee working together we should see a reduction in economic inequality.