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Tallahassee Launches Southside Revival Plan

City Commissioner Curtis Richardson announces new plans for the Southside.
Tom Flanigan

The City of Tallahassee is gearing up a multi-pronged effort to make life better for its Southside residents.  That effort was announced Monday at the Walker-Ford Community Center on Pasco Street.

City Commissioner Curtis Richardson lives right up the street from the center.  He said this isn’t the first time someone has promised to “do something” about this economically challenged and sometimes violent part of town.

“I’ve been in this community for 40 years and I’ve heard time after time reports about ‘Southside revitalization’ and ‘southern strategy’ and 40 years later we’ll still talking about ‘Southside revitalization’ and ‘southern strategy’,” he told his city colleagues and members of the media during an event at the neighborhood’s community center.  That was where the City  kicked off yet another Southside initiative, but Richardson said this project is unlike its predecessors, in that it is not a top-down approach focused on what local government leaders think should be done.

“During our community meeting at Bethel AME Church recently moderated by the Village Square, we got lots of good input from the residents of the Southside of town as to the things that they wanted to see their government do to improve the quality of life,” he said.

Earlier this year, the City Commission set aside $100,000 for programs to help the Southside.  Mayor Andrew Gillum said one of the most critical needs is jobs, especially for the area’s young people.

“The City Commission as one of the planks of the work that we would do to show our deep investment in South City and the Southside and throughout this community, we obligated resources to employ 100 youth this summer.”

Gillum added the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and Career Source Florida are also partners in this endeavor, not only for youth but also for the community’s grownups.  Commissioner Gil Ziffer cited the need to make more fresh, healthy foods available to a part of town where that’s hard to find.

“And we’re working with the folks who do the Northwood Centre Farmer’s Market where the city is putting seed money in to actually buy fresh fruits and vegetables and bring them down to the community centers on the Southside.”

Other facets of the city-coordinated effort include improvements to area education and infrastructure, enhanced crime prevention and better health outcomes.  But City Commissioner Nancy Miller insisted the only hope for success is getting and keeping the community involved.

“We don’t have the answers,” she said.  “We try.  We work hard to talk to people and we try to find them.  But the people who really have the answers to the problems that are in any neighborhood in Tallahassee are the people who are in those neighborhoods.”

Those people include Marie Bryant with the South City Revitalization Council.  She was urging her neighbors – especially her younger neighbors – to become part of the solution to their neighborhood problems.

“Young people, don’t take this for granted!  Because if it took me 50 years, don’t allow it for you to take 50 years.  You take this opportunity and you run with it, babies, and don’t look back!”

Bryant’s words were addressed directly to members of the Tallahassee Future Leaders Academy who also took part in Monday’s program kickoff.