Challenges To Growth
What the South side community needs and what the challenges are.
Resources, retention are issues
By Jason Dehart
Looking around his neighborhood, Bethel AME Church Pastor John Green said he knows what his community needs and what the challenges are.
“I think that the south side certainly is in need of resources – economic resources – but I certainly have seen a lot of progress in the last 10 years since coming here, and I see a lot of new construction and new business locating in the south side,” he said. “I think all of that has certainly contributed to the vast improvement of the south side, and I think that while much progress has been made, there is much room for improvement. We need to be able to mirror the kind of economic development seen on the north side of town.”
Uneven growth is just one of the challenges facing Tallahassee. Brad Day, director of the Tallahassee/Leon County Economic Development Council, said another major issue is retention of recent college graduates in the area.
“Half of them are from South Florida, and half of them are from a 150- to 200-mile radius,” Day said. “So we’re never going to keep everybody who comes here, because half of them see South Florida as their home. But we do want to keep more of them.”
While he didn’t specify a plan to do just that, many technology and engineering companies, such as Turbocor, are being drawn to Tallahassee because “Tallahassee can provide a steady labor supply,” Day said.
“That’s what attracted Turbocor in the first place,” he said. “They looked at the Tallahassee Community College program, at the FSU program and the FAMU program, and they liked what they saw. They see the advantages of locating in Florida’s most educated city.”
For Leon County School Board member Sheila Costigan, there are other challenges.
“Our challenge is work-force housing, how we have affordable housing for teachers,” she said.
“We also have to work with the city and county and be careful of the zoning impacts. One of the challenges we have is to sit down together and get interlocal agreements so we don’t build more housing without the infrastructure to sustain it.”
Lucas Hewett is director of GVA Advantis’ Tallahassee operations. (GVA Advantis is a commercial real estate company with offices throughout the Southeast.) According to Hewett, one particular challenge for Tallahassee will be to improve the aesthetics of the south side of town in order to create a more powerful transportation corridor that readily reflects Tallahassee’s status as the education and power broker of the state.
One goal, he said, must be to improve the airport-to-downtown corridors, such as Lake Bradford Road. And “that’s being done,” he pointed out.
“I see a real effort by people wanting to make this drive into town (via Lake Bradford Road) an attractive drive,” Hewett said. “And we see it. We work with the Economic Development Council, and sometimes we’ll go on tours with them and show spaces to people who are looking to move their businesses to Tallahassee, and we have to make a concerted effort to show them what’s nice about Tallahassee, coming in from the airport.
“But think about what Gaines Street will look like when it’s redeveloped,” Hewett said. “What a beautiful corridor coming into town. That’s why it’s important for selling Tallahassee. But I think the south side has its own potential, because infrastructure is coming. That’s the only way the land can go, which has led to a push for infill redevelopment – expansion of the Urban Service Area.”