Local preservationists are working to survey a historically black neighborhood that’s feeling pressure from developers. The project could help residents protect the area from new construction.
The neighborhood east of FAMU’s campus is dotted with single family homes, bungalows with front porches. The famed football coach Jake Gaither lived here. So did the pioneering educator Aquilina Howell. But after seeing Collegetown and Gaines Street transformed by development, the area’s residents are worried. Nothing is in the works yet, but the area isn't far from the parts of town that would be utterly unrecognizable ten years ago.
“Like so many parts of Tallahassee, it’s under development pressure,” said Melissa Stoller.
Stoller heads the Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation, which is surveying the neighborhood. She says it’s worth protecting.
“So there are a lot of people who lived in the neighborhood who contributed not only to the growth and development of the university, but to the growth and development of our community," She said. "They were activists in education, education reform, Civil Rights movement. So there were a lot people there that we want to make sure that we have a good record.”
Over the next six months, the Trust will document the architecture of the homes, photograph the area and take oral histories of people who lived there. Stoller says residents will then be able to use that data to negotiate with developers.
“We’re trying to create a record of what’s existing now. And hopefully that will be a good tool for the people in the neighborhood, the neighborhood association. And if change is inevitable, then at least we have a good record and good documentation of what’s there,” Stoller said.
Once the survey is complete, the neighborhood can consider pushing for a local ordinance that would curb development in the area. The Gaither and Howell homes are already protected and listed on the local historic registry.