Developers Win Early Approval To Draft Frenchtown Redevelopment Plan

May 25, 2017

Local officials are moving forward with a plan to redesign the site that once held Tallahassee’s old homeless shelter. But there are concerns about whether the area can sustain more retail and private homes.

An preliminary design re-imagining the city block at the corner of Macomb and Tennessee Streets.
Credit Frenchtown Redevelopment Partners, LLC. / http://www.boarddocs.com/fla/talgov/Board.nsf/files/AMAP2C60F6FE/$file/Attachment%202.pdf

The local Community Redevelopment Agency is approving a plan to transform an entire city block at the corner of Macomb and Tennessee Streets. The group called the Frenchtown Redevelopment Partners now has six months to finalize its plan. Early designs show sleek chrome and glass buildings dotted with shops, condos, a clinic, grocery store and bank. But there are concerns the ambitious design might not be economically viable under the current neighborhood conditions.

Dave Dorsey is with GAI Consultants, which ran a market analysis of how the neighborhood might be able to support the proposed plan.

“As I said, some pieces of the program I think work well, but not in total and not done in the near term,” Dorsey said. “It’s being dragged down because of the amount of…large amount of retail space that it’s got in the program, and the office space and the for sale townhomes, which in our opinion are tougher to pull off in the near term environment, but might work in the future.”

But Commissioner Curtis Richardson isn’t discouraged by the somewhat sobering study.

“If they had done a market analysis of Gaines Street ten years ago, they probably would’ve said, ‘Forget it. Don’t waste a dime on that area.’ That’s what market studies do,” Richardson said.

Richardson says the area’s present doesn’t need to handcuff its future.

“But once we begin to address the infrastructure, the roads, the sidewalks, the lighting, the sidewalks, the parks, the crime, economic opportunities, job opportunities. I think in ten years that market analysis would say something very different,” Richardson said.

The plan is in the early stages, and it’s not yet clear how much public funding could be involved. So far the city has invested $2.1 million in the property. The developers say they’ll continue working with local residents and business owners to shape the plan over the next six months.