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Community representatives invited to explore the history behind Cascades redevelopment site

from Press Release

Group will help cast vision for how to honor local history as part of new development

Cascades Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — May 5, 2017 — Plans to create a vibrant destination near Cascades Park are continuing to unfold as North American Properties (NAP) today announced the formation of a Community Historical User Group. The group will work with the development team to explore the historical and architectural significance of the three vacant buildings on the site and help cast a vision for how to best honor their history.

“Our goal with this project is to capture the spirit of Tallahassee and create a vibrant destination that serves as a source of pride for everyone,” said Shawn McIntyre, NAP Florida partner. “We believe that community engagement is a key step toward that end. This site is steeped in history, and we’re excited that this distinguished group of volunteers has committed to helping us determine how to best capture that history so that it will be remembered by generations to come.”

The user group – comprised of educators, preservationists, civil rights activists and community leaders – held its first meeting today at Cascades Park. Group members include:

  • Althemese Barnes
  • John Due
  • Gerald Ensley
  • Delaitre Hollinger
  • Dr. David Jackson
  • Dr. Jennifer Koslow
  • John Lawrence
  • Alissa Slade Lotane
  • James McAllister
  • Rev. Henry Marion Steele • Dr. Melissa Stoller
  • Dr. Linda Teague

Following the meeting, the group toured the historical buildings on the project site to better understand their current condition and to see firsthand the results of the extensive renovations that took place over the years to transform the structures into office space for the State of Florida.

All three of the buildings display architectural features of the Art Moderne style. Sometimes called “Streamline Moderne” for the frequent use of speed line accents on the exterior of buildings, Art Moderne architecture is a late variant of Art Deco architecture that emerged during the 1930s. The style’s simple, clean lines reflected both the economic realities of the Great Depression, as well as influences from industrial design to “streamline” buildings with aerodynamic curves.

The following offers a brief historical overview of each building on the project site according to local historian, Jonathan Lammers.

Firestone Building (Former Leon County Jail)

  • Address: 409 E. Gaines Street
  • Year Built: 1937
  • Historical Significance: The Leon County Jail is significantly associated with the Civil Rights Movement in Tallahassee. Primarily, this association stems from various Civil Rights protests during the early 1960s, when peaceful African-American demonstrators, including FAMU students, were arrested and held in the jail.
  • Structural Modifications: Since serving as the county jail in the early 1960’s, the Firestone building has undergone extensive remodeling efforts that have significantly eroded its historic integrity. These include the complete removal of interior features, as well as exterior alterations, including the replacement of all windows.

Bloxham Annex (Former Leon County Health Unit)

  • Address: 325 E. Gaines Street
  • Year Built: 1940
  • Historical Significance: Jointly funded by Leon County, the City of Tallahassee and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), this building served as the first permanent home for the Leon County Health Unit, which was the oldest in the state. The Health Unit was staffed by interracial nurses and provided prenatal treatment for pregnant women, childhood vaccinations for smallpox, diphtheria and typhoid, dental examinations and treatment for common ailments such as hookworm. The building’s modern exterior was meant to reflect efficient technical and scientific medical work, and was described The Daily Democrat in July 1940 as “a great monument of progress of Floridians over disease, ill health, poor sanitation, and poverty.”
  • Structural Modifications: The building is a clear and well-preserved example of Streamline Moderne design carried out under the aegis of the Public Works Administration. The building retains excellent exterior integrity. The only notable exterior alteration is the replacement of the original multi-light steel sash casement windows. The interior has been completely remodeled and no longer conveys clear association with its use as a health unit.

Bloxham Annex A / DNR Douglas Building (Former WPA District Offices)

  • Address: 319 E. Gaines Street
  • Year Built: 1939
  • Historical Significance: This building was originally constructed as the Works Projects Administration (WPA) District Offices. The WPA was created in 1935 as the largest and most ambitious of the New Deal programs designed to provide jobs and improve infrastructure during the Great Depression. It worked in tandem with similar federal programs, including the Public Works Administration (PWA). In Tallahassee, the WPA or PWA funded numerous civic projects, including the Leon County Jail, Leon High School, the Leon County Health Unit, the Leon County Armory, an addition to the old Florida Capitol and the Dining Hall at Florida State University.
  • Structural Modifications: As with the former Leon County Health Unit, of which it is a semi-twin, the building is a clear and well-preserved example of Streamline Moderne design. The only notable exterior alteration is the replacement of the original windows, and potentially the alteration of a wall at the basement level on the east facade. The interior has been completely remodeled and no longer conveys clear association with its original use.

North American Properties first became involved in the redevelopment project following an August 2016 Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the Tallahassee CRA. NAP and its local partners were selected to bring forth plans for a vibrant mixed-use destination adjacent to Cascades Park. NAP is a national company with a local office in Tallahassee, and a history of quality investment in the city as demonstrated by the more than $150 million invested primarily in the Gaines Street Corridor.

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Founded in 1954, North American Properties (NAP) is a privately-held, multi-regional real estate operating company that has acquired, developed and managed a variety of retail, multifamily, mixed-use and office properties across the U.S. The company also holds extensive experience developing successful mixed-use projects surrounding public parks, including the Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta and Centennial Park in Nashville. Locally, NAP has invested more than $150 million in quality, mixed-use developments in Tallahassee since 2013, specifically in the Gaines Street District. These projects have collectively created more than 800 construction jobs and nearly 200 permanent ongoing jobs, with a total annual economic impact of more than $17 million. Most recently, the company relocated Tallahassee-based J.H. Dowling Construction Materials from their office on Madison Street to a more efficient facility on Jackson Bluff Road through adaptive reuse of two vacant buildings. The relocation enabled the 70-year-old, family-owned company to remain in business and expand its local presence.

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