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A public performing arts space is closer to a home at Northwood. Affordable housing may follow

A bulldozer tears into an exterior wall of an old mall
City of Tallahassee
The Northwood mall has been demolished to make room for redevelopment and a new TPD headquarters (8/10/2021)

The Tallahassee City Commission has given formal backing for a performing arts facility at the Northwood Center. It would be part of a broader redevelopment effort of the site which includes a new space for the Tallahassee Police Department and now, possibly some sort of affordable housing.

Supporters of the PAC hope after nearly 19 years of discussions and failed and false starts, the city might actually see something happen.

The latest effort, led by the TLH Arts group, folded earlier this yeararound the same time the Sheridan Foundation approached the city with a plan to build a smaller version of a performing arts center—and promised to do it with their own money.

Wednesday, the city commission approved a site of about four acres in the Northwood Center. The approval came after some discussion about how many acres the facility will need. Judy Sheridan, half of the foundation’s namesake, says the facility will likely have 850 seats when fully built out and it will need room to grow.

“I don’t want to be landlocked," Sheridan told the commission. "We were also looking at 700 seats because at some point in time, the TSO [Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra] and other large non-profits are going to need to leave FSU. FSU needs the space.”

The build is estimated to cost about $12 million and the Sheridan’s are using private money, including their own, to fund it. Prior efforts to build a PAC involved public money.

The Northwood site may also eventually be used for affordable housing. City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow raised the suggestion a day after commissioners rejected the ideaof creating a dedicated trust fund for low-income housing during a conversation with local residents concerned about gun violence and housing costs.

Curtis Richardson backed Matlow’s idea. Richardson sits on the board of the Tallahassee Lenders Consortium. He said during a recent board meeting, other members floated the idea of building more affordable housing in South City.

“I took exception to that because it concerned me that we’re continuing to congregate low-income and affordable housing in that South City area," he said.

"I feel very strongly that shouldn’t happen and it should be equitably distributed through the area.”

Mayor John Dailey also cosigned the idea of adding affordable housing to Northwood.

The complex is more than 30 acres, and citizens have been offering their input on how to build it out as work continues to pave the way for new development. Those suggestions are still on the table and the city is awaiting a market analysis before deciding what else should go into Northwood.

The next immediate step is for the Sheridan Foundation to start negotiating with the city on details such as a lease for the land, and figuring out how many parking spots will be dedicated to the PAC.

Follow @HatterLynn

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. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.