Community Group to Honor Local History in Future Public Plaza
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – May 23, 2017 – The vision for the major new development surrounding Cascades Park came one step closer to reality today as North American Properties (NAP) shared a mid-point update on their plans for the project. Since the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Board approved a Purchase and Sale Agreement for the property in March, NAP has been working to determine how to best address the CRA’s goal to create a vibrant downtown destination that incorporates public spaces and serves as an economic asset and source of pride for the entire community. NAP will continue to refine the site plan through the end of September, when the final version will go before the CRA Board for approval.
The updated plan continues with the original theme of a mixed-use project featuring a hotel, office space, retail and restaurants, and a new arrangement of apartment-style homes with both for-lease and for-sale product options. A wellness center fronting the park has also been incorporated. In addition, the plans feature a concealed but easily accessible parking garage with two full floors designated for public parking, and a large public plaza that will pay tribute to the local Civil Rights Movement and other events of historical significance.
Regarding the three vacant historic structures on the site, NAP will retain and reuse the Bloxham Annex building in its entirety. Built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1940, the building served as the Leon County Health Unit and was the first of its kind in the state, where interracial staff provided vital medical care, including vaccinations, prenatal training, and other services for local residents. These included many residents of the nearby Smokey Hollow neighborhood, one of the city’s most important African-American neighborhoods. In addition to symbolizing a new progressive influence on public health, the building’s architecture reflects the Art Moderne style, which is nearly extinct from the fabric of Tallahassee.
The Bloxham Annex building’s location on the corner of the development site helps make its preservation possible. The same is not true for the second Bloxham building and the Firestone building, which are positioned closer to the middle of the site and whose physical structures cannot be preserved. After careful evaluation, NAP determined that the location of these two buildings within the site significantly limits their ability to create an economically viable, urban mixed-use destination. In addition, research showed the Firestone Building has been stripped of its physical history over the years due to extensive renovations to turn it into state office space. A previous application to include the building on the National Register of Historic Places was rejected. The important history of these two structures will be honored and incorporated into the public plaza.
The recently formed Community Historical User Group – comprised of educators, preservationists, civil rights activists and community leaders – is currently working alongside NAP’s design and development team to pay respect to the heroes of the past.
“As historians, we’d love to preserve everything,” said Althemese Barnes, member of the Community Historical User Group and founder of the John G. Riley Center and Museum. “At the same time, we understand we must find a balance between preserving and honoring the history and also building a project that will benefit the community. The North American Properties team has been straightforward and diligent in working with us to discover ways to tell these stories within a public plaza where they can be remembered by future generations.”
According to NAP’s local design team, the public plaza will present visitors with abounding green spaces and breezeways, complete with public amenities such as historic displays, fountains and gathering spaces for local events, all surrounded by picturesque views of the park and Capitol Building.
“Members of the Community Historical User Group told us that people have lived in this city for decades without knowing the history behind this site,” said Shawn McIntyre, NAP Florida Partner. “Having heard these stories from people who actually lived them, I am personally committed to working with the community to make this history known in moving and tangible ways.”
NAP and the Community Historical User Group have invited the public to share their ideas for how to honor the history of the site within the public plaza. Citizens can provide suggestions by emailing [email protected] or by attending a community listening session on June 15 at 6 p.m., at the Meridian Point Building near Cascades Park, located at the corner of E. Bloxham and S. Gadsden Streets. Residents interested in attending should RSVP by visiting CascadesProject.com, although reservations are not required.
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. The CRA has requested NAP include public amenities in the project plans including public parking, potential support space for the Cascades amphitheater, public gathering spaces, streetscapes, sidewalks and recognition of local history. 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.
For more information, visit CascadesProject.com.
ABOUT NORTH AMERICAN PROPERTIES
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.