Elegance or Diversity?
Two Visions of What Lies Ahead
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Talleon Planner’s Log WKO 487
My Projections Terminal seemed to be out of tune, giving me a very unlikely looking future projection for the Talleon-Oyster Belt economy interface on which I was working. To see what was wrong with the machine, I decided to test it by running projections of old Tallahassee, starting back in the early 1980s. I entered the base variables and adjusted the set, then sat back to watch an amazing future-past unfold on the screen.
Tallahassee, Florida, 1997 — We’ve been lucky and successful in “eating our cake and having it too.” The heading of a 1980 brochure of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce read “The Elegant Tallahassee,” and it has become a pleasant reality, despite a growing population.
The heritage of the past has been preserved. Old houses, mansions and some historic buildings have been saved, tastefully restored and put to good use. The Capitol Complex presents a serenity and style hardly matched by other state capitals, let alone other cities in Florida. The live oaks, Spanish moss and canopy roads still dominate the landscape.
Downtown has regained its full vitality. Store offices and parks are pleasant and attractive and different enough to remind residents and visitors that this is not just any Main Street, U.S.A., but a unique and distinct place, Tallahassee.
Even the surrounding countryside retains its charm. The new suburbs are scarcely visible to the casual observer from the roads or from the air. The drainage problems that plagued many parts of Leon and Wakulla counties have been solved, and the marine ecosystem, the fishing, shrimping and oystering industries, and the numerous recreation facilities along the coast, lakes and rivers are doing well and not disturbing each other.
The economy is stable and continuing a steady but controlled growth. There is a sizeable base of clean industry. Education is doing well, and the quality of teaching and research is the hallmark of both universities.
Consolidated, Competent Government
How was this possible? Many things contributed, not the least of which was the recession in the early 1980s, which may have been a blessing in disguise. For a while, it slowed things down enough to give people time to carefully think through the next steps toward their future. This coincided with the consolidation of city and county governments. From luck or inspired foresight, the structure of the new government and its ways of keeping a continuous dialogue with residents and interest groups were based on the most advanced findings of political science, planning theory, governmental policy and management information systems. This ensured that competence, efficiency, transparency, honesty and performance became the continuing standards of the new government.
Bird’s eye view looking south along S. Adams Street toward the Capitol building, 1995.
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Growth of ‘Clean’ Industries
When overall economic conditions began to improve, Tallahassee was ready. A number of prestigious, advanced and “clean” industrial research companies were attracted to settle here, giving the local economy still more stability. This injected money into the economy without too much population growth. The research and development institutes needed to bring only a few people from elsewhere and soon reached a stimulating symbiosis with the universities and state government. This kept to a manageable level the growth of the suburbs and the demand on housing and municipal services.