Capital City’s Vibe is Getting Stronger
— and We Have Everyone to Thank for It
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In high school, the cool kids always had the same blasé attitude. For the most part, they earned their stripes the old fashioned way — with a pack of cigarettes smuggled from their older brother’s sock drawer. In lieu of contraband, game-winning touchdowns also did the trick. In city planning though, things get a little more complicated. Cool doesn’t just happen, and you certainly can’t fake it.
Elle Belle Photography
The Edison restaurant at Cascades Park has made an immediate impact on Tallahassee’s cool quotient. Located in a city-owned former power-generating facility, it is a bright light among businesses contributing to Tallahassee’s vitalization efforts.
In this world, cool is made.
“Development touches every sector of our economy, and that’s why we like to see it occurring. … It’s penetrating our economy at every conceivable level. Blue-collar and white-collar workers alike.”
According to Mayor Andrew Gillum, the process of making Tallahassee into a cooler, more desirable destination for visitors and residents alike was a calculated one from the very beginning.
“Very intentional steps have to be taken to create the kind of community that people want to live in,” Gillum said. “It’s been a series of deliberate actions by the local government but also by the private sector, which has seen the vision and has in some cases come in before us to help that vision be realized.”
Over the last decade, Tallahassee’s movers-and-shakers have gotten hands-on. In the early days, Blueprint2000 led the way by allocating much needed funding. For some, though, the Knight Creative Communities Institute, or KCCI, really kicked things off for the city in 2007.
Along with Charlotte and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Tallahassee was chosen by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for a pilot project aimed at enhancing the country’s most up-and-coming cities.
When KCCI landed here with big ideas, they brought a chunk of grant change with them.
“So fast forward to today,” said Betsy Couch, KCCI’s executive director, after giving Blueprint2000 its just deserts, “and along the way, KCCI came in 2007. And that was just another way to further connect people in town. We brought in a diverse group of community volunteers, and instead of just inviting everyone to come and talk about ideas, what was so great and so different about KCCI is that it was action-oriented.”
“I went up to them after,” recalled Jay Revell, now the executive director of the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority, of an ’08 encounter. He was a student at Florida State the first time he was in earshot of KCCI. “And I was just like, ‘This is amazing. How do I get involved?’”