By: Mariel Carbone
April 20, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – It’s the topic of the week in Tallahassee: redevelopment.
On Monday, residents held a protest against the rezoning and development of commercial property on Kerry Forest Parkway. Tuesday, residents in the Myers Park neighborhood met for a visioning workshop for redevelopment in that area. Wednesday, city and county staff held a community meeting to discuss a project in Frenchtown. And Thursday, residents met to talk about preserving the Firestone Building, which will be the site of redevelopment in the coming future.
“I think we’re at a very unique point in the history of Tallahassee,” said Ben Pingree, Director of PLACE. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen the alignment that we see today in terms of private sector investment and growth, and quality infrastructure and a great environment, dynamic research and cogent local planning.”
Planning staff for both the city and county attribute the boom in redevelopment to several factors, including a stronger economy.
Looking at single family detached homes in specific, the City approved more permits in 2016 than it has in any of the past eight years, dating back to the start of the recession.
Other factors include the City investing in itself, which in turn bring private investment to nearby areas. For example, Cascades Park and infrastructure improvements along Gaines Street. Both projects brought development, or an interest in development, around them.
The City is now seeing more higher density properties developed, like the type of projects coming to Frenchtown and Downtown, which will both house hundreds of people. City planners said these types of development are good for the community. Housing more people in a smaller area means even more development as shops, grocery stores and drug stores will need to be built to serve those people.
Some residents welcome the changes.
"Cities have to grow in a logical way and sometimes you have to grow up rather than out, because sometimes infrastructure won't allow you to grow out. And making better space of the interior of your cities is a good thing as long as you're taking into account traffic patterns and those sorts of things,” said John Phillips, a Tallahassee resident.
But, the boom hasn’t come without issues – resistance from residents who want a say in what’s happening in their backyards.
“At its core, Tallahassee is a vibrant community that is going through the normal growing pains of a healthy growing area that has high demand, where people want to live and work and the good news for us is we have processes in place that can help guide those productive conversations towards a good outcome,” said Pingree.
Pingree said the community meetings, large crowds showing up to planning and commission meetings, and even the protests are a healthy, normal and necessary part of the process; and allow input from all aspects of the community.