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Two Lanes of Gaines Street Will Close for Second Phase of Revitalization

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Tallahassee, FL – Starting on Tuesday, the City of Tallahassee will shut down two lanes of Gaines Street to begin the second phase of construction there. As Margie Menzel reports, the announcement comes with the release of an imaginative video of 150 volunteers - including Mayor John Marks - dancing in the intersection of Gaines and Railroad Avenue.

The Flash Mob video premiered for commissioners Wednesday, opening with Marks at a podium in the intersection and moving to an exuberant dance that draws a police cruiser, only to set the officer dancing on the roof of his car. It features most commissioners, City Manager Anita Favors, Fire Chief Cindy Dick and volunteer dancers directed by David Barrow Wiley of Florida A&M University's Essential Theater. Marks said the revitalization will transform the downtown area.

"I'm very proud of the things we've done already in downtown Tallahassee, but Gaines Street - we're beginning," he said. "We've been at this a while now, and now we're beginning to see the fruits of our labors. And within two years, people are going to be so proud, so proud, of what we've done on Gaines Street."

The road that has long connected FAMU and Florida State University will become a pedestrian-friendly attraction with commercial, residential and cultural facilities. Once Gaines is permanently reduced to two lanes, traffic will drop from 36,000 cars daily to about 16,000. Roxanne Manning, program director for the Community Redevelopment Agency, said drivers will find the pace slower as well.

"They'll be able to see the new uses that we hope to build on the side of the roads," she said. "Pedestrians will be able to, very comfortably, use the sidewalks - they'll be buffered from the traffic. And even bicyclists will be able to utilize either the sidewalk or the street, depending on their skill."

Construction will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, from Monroe Street to just east of Railroad Avenue. The city will increase bus service in the area and introduce a park-and-ride location so that motorists can avoid the congestion by riding Star Metro, which will double its service during morning and evening rush hours to every 15 minutes. Manning said the city is working with existing businesses to minimize their difficulties.

"Any time you have this level of change in an urban area, it can be inconvenient and we know that," she said. "And we are doing everything we can both with the businesses and the commuters and the people nearby to try to reduce the level of inconvenience."

The city will bid out similar construction work for the next phase, from Railroad Avenue west to Woodward Avenue, slated for this fall after football season. The project is expected to be complete by December 2011. Marks said the revitalization of Gaines Street is getting interest from businesses and developers as well as the public.

"When they see what we're doing, it's going to be exciting, it's going to be a boost to our economy," said Marks, "and it's going to create jobs - I really mean that - jobs in this community, which is what we want."

The video drew some carping on local radio for its cost, but Assistant City Manager Michelle Bono said expenses were limited to coffee and doughnuts for the volunteers. Now available on Talgov.com and YouTube, the video was made - as it were - for a song.