City leaders say they hope to reinvigorate the Frenchtown community. The planned relocation of the city’s main homeless refuge to West Pensacola Street could be their chance to bring Frenchtown back.
The city is planning to tear down the site of The Shelter on Tennessee Street. What will take its place on the edge of Tallahassee’s historic Frenchtown district depends in part on what the community most wants, says City Commissioner Curtis Richardson.
“We want to make sure the homeowners’ association is involved,” Richardson says. “The Frenchtown Merchants’ Association plays a critical role because they’ve been there for decades.”
Richardson says he believes businesses have been hesitant to invest in the community partly due to the large homeless population that passes through Tennessee Street for services at The Shelter. He says the shelter’s move could help spur growth in Frenchtown.
“I think that with the relocation of The Shelter we’re going to start to a more expedited process of revitalization of that area,” Richardson says.
Richardson and Mayor Andrew Gillum say preserving the community’s history would be good for the entire city. Frenchtown was once the hub for black business in Tallahassee. Frenchtown was also home to much of the city’s freed black population following the abolition of slavery.
“I think it tells a lot about a community when you see that kind of reinvestment and revitalization. It says we value our community and the people in it,” he says.
Gillum says the city is also obligated to help Frenchtown’s economy thrive.
“What’s important to me is that we show that community the respect that is due by trying to get some business development opportunities happening there,” Gillum says.
The city commissioned a study to determine the best type of new businesses for that part of Tennessee Street. City leaders say they hope other land owners cooperate with plans to improve the district. The city’s homeless population will be housed at the Comprehensive Emergency Services Center on West Pensacola Street, which opens in April.