South City Residents Want Purpose Built Community

Jul 30, 2019

Hartsfield Elementary School
Credit Blaise Gainey / WFSU-FM

The Leon County School Board and the South City Foundation have entered into an agreement to revitalize the area. The community is one of the most troubled neighborhoods in Tallahassee, with nearly 70% of residents living under the poverty level. The revitalization involves creating mixed-income housing, enhancing the education system, and providing health and wellness programs and facilities to the area. This agreement was one of the final steps for South City to work with Purpose Built Communities.

Residents in South City have been asking for a change for years. Reverend Eddie Franklin, the pastor at Friendship Primitive Baptist Church says they’ve been given the short end of the stick when it comes to new development.

"We are building some nice areas on the north side of town, houses nice two-story, three-story homes nice looking area. Even in the Frenchtown area, we need to do some of them same things over here," said Franklin.

So Franklin and others formed South City Foundation, a group aimed at revitalizing the neighborhood. Their goal is to work with Atlanta-based Purpose Built Communities, a consulting firm, that works with local leaders to rejuvenate underserved neighborhoods like South City. The firm has helped redevelop several communities. 

Christic Henry is a resident of South City and co-chair for the foundation. She believes if South City can get the designation from Purpose Built it’d benefit the area immensely.

"This is where the community comes on deck and we really put a fully executed community engagement and driven process in place," explained Henry. "So that we always keep the soul of the transformation that we’re trying to create over there with the impact being on the neighbor level. The neighborhood is going to blossom and thrive."  

Henry added that the best part of Purpose Built is that they don’t come in and change a communities’ make-up but rather embrace it. She says now that the school board and south city foundation are in agreement the next part is getting the community buy-in.

"Now we get to have the fun. We get to bring the community on deck and we say, 'Okay, this is what we want to see happen but how do you see this coming about," explained Henry. "How do you see us being able to work alongside the Hartsfield school and Its current trajectory to truly be efficiently impactful to the community of south city?"

She says the group expects resources for transforming the struggling neighborhoods to pour in if Purpose Built Communities picks South City. A part of the plan is to redevelop Orange Avenue Apartments. That work is earmarked at $45 million. The project was supposed to begin this summer but is on hold until financing is secured.