"Happy Motoring" Project In High Gear

May 10, 2016

The rebirth of an old Tallahassee gas station is racing ahead. The grand reopening of the station as a hip and happening meeting place is on track for this coming fall.

A recent crowd gathering at the "Happy Motoring" site.

One of the partners in the project is Micah Widen. He’s also the prime mover behind the DOMI Station incubator a few blocks away near Railroad Square.

“Probably about a year ago Jake approached me and said, ‘Have you seen the Esso station there at the corner of Adams Street and FAMU Way?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I’ve been looking at it for a little bit as well,’ Widen recalled. “And he’s like, ‘What do you feel about doing something down there?’ And since then we’ve put a little partnership together; Jake and I and Luke Lindsey.”

“Jake” is Jake Kiker. Besides being a prominent Tallahassee attorney, he’s also involved in a wide range of community enhancement activities through organizations like the Knight Creative Communities Institute, Sustainable Tallahassee and a bunch more. He noted there’s already been plenty of new construction in the Collegetown District. He and his partners are taking a more preservationist approach.

“It’s important to us to kind of maintain what we think is more of that old neighborhood feel in terms of the mix of people,” Kiker said.

Partner Micah Widen said it’s critical the project have buy-in from both its neighbors and the people who will be using the facility. He cites a survey taken during a recent gathering at the old station.

“And the common theme was, we want a place to collaborate, we want a place to come in. We don’t want to minimize the businesses that are down there, we want more opportunity. And I think this is a great way, it being multi-purpose. We’re going to bring a lot of different folks down there throughout the day. It’s going to be a morning-to-afternoon-to-late-evening spot for people to hang out and then take advantage of FAMU Way and the new developments and the pedestrian bridge leading over into Cascades Park.”

Jake Kiker said there will be plenty of reasons for people to hang out at Happy Motoring.

“The usage will be multi-purpose. We’re going to have several different folks there; two anchors on the inside of the building. All we can say right now is those are going to be food, drink and coffee-centric, along with some common seating, which will be heated and cooled. Of course brand new bathrooms, both indoor and outdoor seating components and a large recreational area on the outside.”

And, pending an upcoming get together with the Community Redevelopment Agency - or CRA - Kiker said the project is moving ahead right on schedule.

“The interior for the two tenants there, that build out will be happening right now,” he explained. “The exterior improvements, which is what we’re waiting on for the CRA meeting, those will be getting going pretty quickly. I actually met with our banker this morning just to update them on where we’re at, but certainly the plan has always been to be up and running by the fall.”

It will be a new and exciting role for a place that put a “Tiger in the Tank” of so many Tallahassee drivers all those years ago.