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Tallahassee's 'Overbuilt' Student Housing Could Open Options For Others


Tallahassee may have finally hit its “student housing” peak. But it’s leaving non-students, and others with fewer options for where to live. Now  some city officials say the glut of student housing could lead to a transformation of the city’s housing market.

If you’re not a college student, options are limited when it comes to housing. Something Will Butler, President of the company that developed the College Town business center on Gaines street, acknowledges.

“I think we area overbuilt in the student housing market, especially if you’re located outside of the defined urban core," he said during a live taping of WFSU's Perspectives Show.

Butler and others say a transition in housing is on the horizon. As more students move closer to the universities and to the city center, many of the older complexes and residential neighborhoods they used to occupy, will come open. In the short term—that could mean an increase in occupancy, but it could also mean those properties will open up to non-students. Commissioner Gil Ziffer says, Tallahassee overall, is a city in transition.

“A few years ago, Gaines street was what it was. Cascades Park was just beginning construction...there are an awful lot of things happening in this community that we never thought possible.”

The city is also experimenting with more mixed-use housing, as seen in the plans to re-develop the Tallahassee Mall. When it’s finished, it will include more green space, and housing. Butler sees opportunity in and around Cascades Park on the city’s Southside. He says the park could begin driving a  business and housing revival as more people flock to the area for recreation.

“I think you’re going to see a tremendous housing response in and around Cascades that’s not student-driven," he says. "It’s going to be for the young professional and empty nester. That’s probably not going to be for the family with three-kids necessarily.”

That potential growth could drive redevelopment in the rest of the area. Ziffer says city officials have a new grocer that’s eyeing the old Harvey’s supermarket space—something that could address the areas lack of fresh food options. But in the near term there are definitely some growing pains, as residents hobble over broken sidewalks, become wary about the recent spike in violent crime, and try to find places to live that are safe and affordable.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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