The redevelopment of the old Northwood Mall offers tremendous opportunities for community development. ATN believes the city should retain the property for community use and make a master plan with the help of a recognized expert in public-oriented, community development master planning to work with Tallahassee-Leon County planning staff.  ATN’s proposal also offers suggestions for uses on the property. The City of Tallahassee is currently seeking community input regarding the best use of the property. The following is the ATN response.

Alliance of Tallahassee Neighborhoods (ATN)

Northwood Centre Parcels Proposal

February 23, 2022

Introduction

Planning staff responsible for developing the Tallahassee Police Department Headquarters construction and Northwood Master Plan are seeking community input, particularly on the 25 remaining acres on the site following the assignment of approximately four acres for the police headquarters.

This document details ATN’s response to the city’s request.  While our response focuses primarily on the city’s proposed five parcels for the property, we also strongly recommend that the city planning staff contract with a well-qualified master planning firm to consult on this compelling, innovative, and complex effort.

To develop our response, we reviewed the city commission discussions regarding the property, citizen input given at the public meeting at the Senior Center, and at the meeting on the nearby Lake Ella parcel, conducted by Commissioner Porter, and drove the property and neighborhood.  We’ve developed an integrated, holistic perspective that meets needs and desires identified by citizens.

Guiding Planning Considerations

The entire Northwood parcel, approximately 29 acres should remain under city ownership for the benefit of the entire community.

Since Mayor Dailey first introduced the notion of purchasing the property at the end of a city commission meeting on April 10, 2019, the guiding consideration has remained to be to control the destiny of the site, one of the last large tracts of land centrally located in the city, a lesson learned from a commission trip to Greenville, SC.  As Mayor Dailey stated, the site could be “redeveloped as a workforce housing neighborhood that complements an elementary school, a middle school, and Levy Park. . . .  In light of the fact that the city owns the dirt, it gives us the opportunity to control the destiny of the property specifically to what is developed there.”

We must take advantage of this golden opportunity for COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT. 

This is a large parcel, centrally located, and in close proximity to public schools, grocery and retail shops, and parks.  It has been mentioned as a site for not just a police headquarters, but for clearly identified and well-documented community needs: affordable and workforce housing and community services.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to address these needs in creative, effective, and caring ways.  This site is a call to community, not just a call to development.

To realize this opportunity, we need a public-oriented, creative, and guiding master plan.

We cannot let the property develop piecemeal.  With a public-oriented and creative master plan, this property can become an exemplary model of integrated community spaces and services.  We stand to lose this potential synergy by not acting quickly.  Already we have decided on a police headquarters and a performance arts center to be on-site.  In and of themselves, these are worthy projects.  But, we need to be particularly careful going forward to keep the potential for synergy among all the sites, functions, designs, and interconnections to maximize community development.

Additionally, this approach enhances not only onsite entities, but the neighborhoods and businesses around it, thereby offering more opportunities for everyone in the city.  For example, the Northwood Centre is one point of the “Community Services Triangle” concept that includes the Senior Center and current TPD property at Lake Ella.  Planning should not be limited to Northwood site boundaries but include the community-based opportunities and interrelatedness of nearby sites, including schools, grocery and retail stores, hospitals, etc.  For that, we need a comprehensive, integrated, and guiding master plan.

To get the necessary vision-guiding master plan, we need a recognized expert in public-oriented, community development master planning to work with Tallahassee-Leon County planning staff.

We need a master plan whose vision and boldness matches the large size of this unique parcel.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Tallahassee to create a caring, supportive, respectful community development solution that meets clearly defined needs.  We have a clearly competent planning staff.  However, the uniqueness of this project, its complexity and potential call out for the targeted use of outside expertise in this type of community project.  That’s only being fair to our planning staff as well as the community.  This approach is a common one in academic research, business transformations, scientific endeavors, medical innovations, etc.  We should use it.

Our Vision

Overall, we envision the site as a campus-like environment, with landscaped walkways and islands of greenery, fountains, bike racks, and ease of movement from parcel to parcel.  An inviting, exciting place!

Services would be offered by community-based agencies, etc. through partnerships and service agreements.

Staging implementation of these community spaces and services will allow time to identify the roles and responsibilities of appropriate City departments and budget resources to build the structures and buy associated equipment and fund operations, staffing, and maintenance.

As construction may be phased in over time, the future footprints could serve as green spaces in the meantime and provide opportunities for additional activities.  These could include, for example, flower gardens, picnic areas, small acoustic performance areas, walking and exercise trails with exercise stations, community gardens, a dog park, and outdoor Farmer’s and Artist’s market space.

Parcel by Parcel Descriptions

Parcel 1 (Tharpe and MLK)

Community Youth Activities Center (South approximately half of parcel)
Parcel 1, across from Raa Middle School and Reudiger Elementary, is an ideal location for a community activities center oriented to children and youth.  This center could function similar to the Sue McCullum Community Center, which hosts an afterschool program but uses the space at other times for other groups and activities.  Like the Senior Center, rooms and spaces could be designed to serve multiple purposes, as shown below.

ActivitiesSpaces
Sports and recreation;
study hall;
tutoring and classes;
computer lab;
game rooms;
arts and crafts rooms;
music, dance and yoga, and theater rooms;
quiet space; reading nooks
Garden space
Digital Information Library satellite
Gymnasium
Room with mirrored wall Room with soundproofing
Kitchen/ drink and snack room
Rooms wired for many computers
Classroom size spaces
Small meeting room size spaces
Storage rooms
Garden space   Walking/Running Track around Building
Drop off/ Pick Up Zone
Green Space Activities 
Playing Fields – Different sports and games
Gardening
 

Affordable Housing (north approximately half of parcel)

Tallahassee has a desperate need for workforce and affordable housing.  Mayor Dailey introduced the idea of buying the Northwood property by saying what a great place it would be for teachers and city employees to live, close to schools, groceries, a park, and buses. A housing development should be an appealing, affordable place to live, built to green standards and integrated with the campus environment.


Parcel 2
(MLK and North Monroe)

Affordable Housing (South approximately half of parcel)

Continued appealing, affordable place to live, built to green standards and integrated with the campus environment.

Community Programs and Resources Center (North approximately half of parcel)

We envision this parcel offering access to many community resources and services that would meet both current and future needs and improve lives. Many of these resources could be provided by community partners. Hooters currently leases a small space at the northeast edge and the design could include later alteration of the property to act as a catalyst to upgrade the commercial corridor between Northwood and the Centre.   

Activities Spaces
Restorative/Mediated Community Justice/Conflict Resolution
Legal Aid
Notary Service
Career Education and Counseling Services and Referrals
Life Skills
GED Prep
Job Search and Placement Services and Referrals
Volunteer Opportunities and Placement Services
Non-Profit Forums and Community Outreach
Private Sector Forums and Community Outreach
Mental Health Counseling Services and Referrals Social Work Services and Referrals
Basic Health Screenings and Referrals Public Library Mini-Branch online Services
Daycare Training on Site  
Computer Lab/Internet Access
Resource/Library Room
Quiet reading and Study Area
Multi-Purpose Classrooms
Meeting rooms
Rooms for small groups or 1-on-1’s
Kitchen/ drink and snack room
Storage Rooms  
Model Daycare Center for Program Participants; toddler playground
Green Space ActivitiesGreen Spaces
Sports and games
Gardening
Playing fields
Park benches
Picnic areas

Parcel 3: Performing Arts Center including Parking

The Center for the Performing Arts and parking will also benefit from the beautiful campus environment, giving patrons ample space to linger outside or walk the campus before the show.  The theater does not need to be directly across from the schools like the activity center does.  Parking on this site can also be used by the Resources and Programs building on Parcel 2.  Fronting the theater on Monroe makes more sense for ingress and egress and access to the many restaurants on Monroe and in the Midtown area.

Parcel 4: Community Conference Center
To integrate the four-story police department, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the green pond area, we recommend a two-story conference center that easily fits its environment, much as the city’s Parks and Recreation Headquarters does.  It would allow individual meetings and conference-type meetings for community-based organizations and the private sector.  Being part of the campus environment, with an observation area facing the pond, it would embody the best of Tallahassee for small-scale gatherings. The pond should remain a natural wildlife observation and drainage area.

The road that runs at this point of the property is drafted to continue to Monticello, which is already a difficult intersection to navigate.  To prevent the road from becoming a raceway/thoroughfare through the campus and impacting the already congested Monticello Drive, it could terminate in a cul-de-sac at the conference center.

Parcel 5: Transit Pavilion for Buses, Trolley, Drop Off and Pick Up

Looking at the Community Services Triangle and Midtown as a whole, we believe it’s time to try again with a circulating trolley that allows neighbors to walk and ride and residents who live farther away to drive or bike and ride to many destinations throughout Midtown, including the Senior Center, the Senior public apartments next to the Senior Center, the merchants of Midtown, the Grove, Lafayette Park, and Lake Ella/current TPD property. To that end, we recommend using parcel 5 to include some car parking (lot already shown in the draft of the property) and a pavilion for trolley and bus riders.  This could also include pickup/drop off space for parents and for Uber and Lyft.  We note that the city property is currently being used by Raa parents to pick up and drop off their kids for school.

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