Plans to beef up downtown Tallahassee are finally gaining traction.
Tallahassee leaders are talking "big" these days -- biggest hotel, tallest non-governmental building, most upscale condominium -- as pieces of the city's redevelopment effort begin to take shape.
City and county commissioners took a big step in boosting momentum this spring when they forged a feud-ending agreement under which they'll jointly fund and steer the Downtown Community Redevelopment Plan.
On the horizon are two mid-rise condominium buildings expected to break ground by midsummer: The 11-story Tallahassee Center at Kleman Plaza and the 14-story Tennyson on Monroe Street -- the latter expected to be downtown's tops in posh, with a gated entrance and $800,000 price ceiling per unit. Already, more than three-quarters of the Tennyson's 90 units have been sold.
"Everybody had talked about it (downtown residential development) for 10 to 15 years, and no one had made the leap to do it," says Tennyson development partner Sonny Granger, president of Granger Development in Pensacola.
Next year's construction of the 17-story Kleman Towers, with 224 apartments, will give the city its tallest non-governmental structure.
A 325-room Marriott hotel and convention center project also could be launched next year, says Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, a member of the Civic Center Authority, which is directing negotiations for the hotel and will build the meeting facility on the same site. The hotel would be the city's biggest, and the convention center, with at least 20,000 square feet, would provide a larger meeting venue than the city currently offers.
Plans call for the hotel to be built next to the Civic Center, with the Civic Center Authority funding and operating a parking garage underneath the hotel.
In addition, the Cultural Resources Commission is developing blueprints for a performing arts center. The mayor envisions a concert hall, long-desired by Florida State University, also becoming part of this project.
The proximity of the redevelopment district to the Capitol, FSU and Florida A&M also has spurred plans for a new gateway to downtown. Widening and landscaping of the gateway corridor along Madison and Gaines streets could start this summer, says Tallahassee Economic Development Director Michael Parker.
"At a certain point, the benefit starts flowing over to the county" says County Commissioner Tony Grippa, explaining why the agreement he helped craft with the city makes sense county-wide.
"We view downtown redevelopment as a community project, not city or county," agrees Ed Murray, chairman of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County. "We need to create an 18-hour, live, work and entertainment destination."