Businesses pushed out as state agency leases space at the Centre of Tallahassee

By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 20, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Changes are on the way for the Centre of Tallahassee as local businesses are being pushed out.

Store owners inside the mall portion of the complex said they received calls last week informing them they needed to leave within the next few months, as construction to make way for office space will begin. The Department of Children and Families will move in at the end of 2019.

"We were listening to her tell us over the phone in the car, and I could just feel my mouth drop a little bit," said Brittany Roche, Manager at Stone Age.

Roche said they knew the time would come eventually, but were shocked when it finally happened. The store, which sells crystals, stones and handmade jewelry, is now looking to relocate and is holding major sales as it looks to move. Roche said the impact will certainly be felt among the local shops that are currently open at the mall.

"Local businesses really make our local economy. So when we have to move suddenly, it really puts a hardship on all the families that are working in a local business," she said.

"It's actually very expensive to relocate the store. There's a lot of electrical work required to set up all the video game consoles,"said Gamescape owner Benjamin Bloodworth.

Gamescape has operated in the mall since 2011, moving to its current location on the second floor four years ago. The store offers gamers a place to plug in play. It also holds regional competitions.

"Just finding spaces above 3,000 square feet in Tallahassee is not that easy. No matter what your budget is,"said Bloodworth.

Bloodworth said he heard rumors that state offices were coming into the space months ago, and found a new space to operate in at Railroad Square. He plans to transition completely to that location over the next few months.

But, not all shops are so lucky.

"We are going to look, we're driving around, we're taking pictures of signs," said Carly Sinnadurai, Executive Director of the Sharing Tree.

The non-profit is a reusable resource center and offers office and school supplies. It also hosts kids classes and has a creative space for children to play.

Sinnadurai said the they've only been in their current storefront for about two months, after moving around within the mall because of electrical issues. Her shop still doesn't have air conditioning. Much of the space, she created with her own two hands, like murals that cover the walls.

She said there's been chatter between the various stores as each owner tries to figure out their next steps.

"They're sad, they're scared. Because as a business owner or a non-profit to find something in that amount of time is a real challenge. We will hopefully all win in the end. Hopefully it will be bigger and better than it was here," she said.

The Sharing Tree is still searching for a new location and is asking for community support.

"All of this moving is not good for a non-profit organization. We are sick of surviving, and we need to thrive in a new location," she said.

WCTV has reached out to the developer, Blackwater Resources, but has not heard back.

However, DCF confirmed its plans to move in.

In a statement, DCF Press Secretary DaMonica Smith said, "DCF’s current contract is set to expire in December 2019. The department issued an Intent to Negotiate for office space and received six responses. Of those responses, the Centre of Tallahassee’s proposal was rated the highest by evaluators.

The department was notified of an intent to protest the award by a respondent. However, the protest was never formally filed. At this time, the terms of the contract are being finalized and there are ongoing discussions regarding the space that will house DCF Headquarters Offices."

The state agency will take over all interior mall space, except for Belk and AMC Theaters, which will remain open. Out parcel shops, including the food venues, will also remain unaffected.

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