Gateway District could mean more enhancements for Tallahassee's SW side

By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 14, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Big changes could be on the way for Tallahassee's southwest side, as local planners seek approval for the "Gateway District."

The Gateway District originally started out as a Blueprint 2000 project called the Airport Gateway, which targeted Springhill Road and Lake Bradford Road to create an innovative path from the Tallahassee International Airport. However, Florida State University is now on board, expanding the scope of the project and aligning its plans for infrastructure improvements with the city-county agency.

Plans for the project include improvements for both Springhill and Lake Bradford Road including sidewalks, street lights, landscaping and bike paths.

"All of the enhancements to the roads, they will enhance bike, pedestrian and vehicular safety," said Autumn Calder with Blueprint 2000.

That portion of the project is slated to cost about $59 million and will be funded through the penny sales tax. All of this has been approved through the Airport Gateway project.

Some residents and business owners along the roads are on board with the improvements.

"The sidewalks are definitely needed because a lot of people go up and down Springhill Road and I've even seen a child be hit before," said Steven Hunter, who's lived on Springhill Road for about 40 years.

Currently, in front of his house is merely a dirt path made by residents walking along the grass.

Down the road, Kip Rogonoa, who works as a mechanic at Kip's Auto Garage, noted the prominent people who drive along Springhill, traveling from the airport into town.

"I've seen Dick Cheney go by here, I've seen FSU, FAMU. So I've seen
all the prominent people go by here," he said. "The first appearance they see should be a beautiful road, even if it's small."

He also noted the improvements have long been over due.

As for the proposed FSU expansion, which still requires final approval to be added to the Blueprint project, plans include creating a new road through campus. The road would be built off of Orange Avenue and run through areas near the Seminole Golf Course and Innovation Park. Ultimately, it would provide better connectivity to the areas near the Stadium and FAMU Way.

"(It'll) provide better access to Innovation Park, which of course will open up the economic opportunities," said Calder.

Funds for that portion of the project would be provided by Florida State University as well as the Florida Department of Transportation.

Calder said linking the two projects creates a more holistic approach and allows for more input from the local community.

"Regardless of whatever route you choose to come or leave from the airport it'll be a really beautiful route to take," she said.

Blueprint has already held three public hearing, collecting comments from the community. It'll hold two more on Wednesday. One, for business owners at the Tallahassee International Airport at 3 p.m. and a second at Pineview Elementary School at 6 p.m. for residents. All are open to the public.

Then, on Thursday the agency will hold its first of two required public hearings on the project at City Hall, with the meeting starting at 4:30 p.m.

The second and final public hearing is set for the agency's December 5 meeting which starts at 3 p .m., also at City Hall.

Although many residents seem to be on board with the project, others are against it citing more congestion and foot traffic if the improvements are made.

Hunter even cited fears of losing his land to provide space for the sidewalks. However, he said the innovation is necessary.

"We're living in the 21 century. YOu got to realize that expansion is ineveitable," he said.

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