The recent sale of Frenchtown land to a real estate developer may open the neighborhood to greater development, raising fears of gentrification.
I’m standing on a plot of land less than an acre in size near Carolina and Macomb Streets. Cars are driving past as the occasional leaf blows in the wind. But in the near future, this will be the site of a five-story luxury student housing complex called the Standard. Due to Florida State University’s continued expansion, local real estate broker Terence Hinson says the demand for student housing will only grow.
"Florida State is not shrinking in size, it’s getting larger," Hinson says. "There are going to be more students that are coming this way. So there’s going to be a greater demand for housing.”
And city commissioner Curtis Richardson sees the project as a chance to usher in a fresh start for the neighborhood.
“I think we have an opportunity now to encourage that kind of commercial development with all of the other residential development that we’re seeing begin to happen in the Frenchtown area," Richardson says.
The city estimates the development by Landmark Properties will create over 800 jobs and generate just over $100 million dollars in goods and services. But opponents of the sale fear Frenchtown’s historic identity will be lost to gentrification. Delaitre Hollanger of the National Association for the Preservation of African American History and Culture is one of them.
“Frenchtown has been ravaged by encroachment and gentrification, ripe with an incorrect notion that sustainable growth and positive development and redevelopment of the area had or has to come with destruction," Hollanger says.
The deal follows a protracted battle between residents and the developer. Landmark Properties has offered concessions, agreeing to develop a community plaza and to provide space for local businesses. But Hinson says developers will keep showing interest in Frenchtown, given the success of Landmark Properties and the area’s proximity to FSU and Florida A&M.