Cascades developer North American Properties fulfills promise to commemorate Tallahassee history
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Aug. 25, 2022 – Cascades developer, North American Properties (NAP), today unveiled two newly installed historical exhibits at the Cascades Historical Plaza, fulfilling a commitment to sharing the stories of the site with the community. The plaza is located at the southeast corner of East Gaines and South Gadsden streets next to the AC Hotel and across from the Old City Waterworks building in downtown Tallahassee.
When NAP first began the $150 million Cascades project in 2017, the company committed to partnering with the community to highlight the untold history of the property. They immediately formed a volunteer team of local educators, preservationists, and activists to uncover the history of the Cascades area and cast a vision for how best to share it with the community. The team, known as the Cascades Historical User Group, conducted historical research, collected input from the community, mapped the stories they wanted to tell and envisioned potential designs for commemorative structures that would be placed in a new outdoor plaza. NAP later enlisted Florida State University’s Master Craftsman Studio to design two historical exhibits and spearhead manufacturing and installation.
“This was a very personal effort for everyone involved because these stories are such a core part of Tallahassee’s history,” said Shawn McIntyre, NAP’s managing partner for Florida. “When I first met and heard from people like Rev. Henry Steele, who, as a young teen, slept on the floor of the county jail that once stood here as he fought for civil rights, I knew we needed to make sure those stories wouldn’t fade with time. Today, despite a global pandemic, material shortages, and a change in ownership, I’m pleased to say we’ve done just that — thanks to the steadfast commitment of local volunteers and our partners. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished together.”
The new Tallahassee Civil Rights Memorial sits on the former site of the Leon County Jail. The jail drew national attention in the 1960s when a group of civil rights activists held a nonviolent “jail-in” to protest segregation. The exhibit honors the courageous men and women who led the jail-in and interprets other key events in Tallahassee’s civil rights history. The structure uses corten steel backed by stainless steel, creating visual contrast between dark rust and silver colors. The custom exhibit stands over eight feet tall at its highest point and spans over 30 feet, nearly the entire width of the plaza. The structure is double-sided and has 14 total panels. The largest panel on the front side commemorates the jail-in, and auxiliary panels include images and text that mark the events leading up to and following the jail-in. The reverse side of the exhibit includes a reproduction of a letter from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sent to Tallahassee activists in 1960 and lists the names of Tallahassee’s civil rights “foot soldiers.”
A second, smaller exhibit in the plaza interprets Tallahassee’s “Four Corners of History,” a reference to the significant Art Moderne architectural heritage present at the intersection of East Gaines and South Gadsden. Constructed of aluminum, the five-foot-tall Four Corners marker interprets several existing historical structures, including the Old City Waterworks, the Caroline Brevard Grammar School (now Bloxham Building), and the former Leon County Health Unit as well as the former jail site. The exhibit uses historical photographs and text to call attention to architectural details and the growing importance of public institutions at the turn of the 19th century.
“When we started this process, the only people who knew the significance of this area were the ones who had lived through it,” said Althemese Barnes, founder of the John G. Riley House and Museum and member of the Cascades Historical User Group. “We wanted to partner with NAP to tell our community’s social and civil rights history and create an opportunity for reflection for many generations to come. We hope it will deepen the personal connection to Tallahassee for everyone who sees and hears these stories.”
Beyond spearheading the planning of the historical exhibits during Phase I of construction, NAP gave considerable attention to acknowledging the history of the Cascades area in other ways. The company refurbished the historic county health unit while preserving and showcasing its original craftsmanship and character. NAP also purchased the Old City Waterworks building in 2019 to preserve it for future use. In July 2022, NAP sold the Waterworks building to local buyers who plan to open a family-friendly craft brewery there in 2023.
Even the names of the Millstream apartments and Merestone office building at Cascades pay homage to the past. “Millstream” offers a subtle nod to Tallahassee founder John Lee Williams, who used the term to refer to the creek that ran along present-day Franklin Boulevard and meandered into what is now Cascades Park. The creek eventually became a stormwater conveyance that was ultimately replaced with an underground box culvert in 2013 to help mitigate flooding on Franklin Boulevard. “Merestone” hints at Florida’s Prime Meridian Marker, established in 1824 in present-day Cascades Park. A concrete monument once marked the meridian before being replaced with an inset brass plate during park renovations in 2014.
“It is so meaningful to work with a developer like NAP who shows genuine interest in our community and delivers on their promises,” said City of Tallahassee Commissioner Curtis Richardson. “Their willingness to engage our citizens and work closely with our staff throughout this process has resulted in a successful project that is now a point of pride for our entire community. It continues to fulfill our vision for Cascades, and I am truly grateful for their partnership.”
NAP sold Cascades to Indiana-based Becovic Management Group in May of this year, marking the last of their projects in Tallahassee. The sale included the Millstream apartments, the Merestone office building, and three land parcels slated for future development. McIntyre expressed gratitude and shared his sentiments at a plaza unveiling event today.
“Local government and community members shared a vision for Cascades long before we set foot in Tallahassee in 2012,” he said. “It has been our privilege to work alongside all of you in bringing that vision to life.”
Members of the Cascades Historical User Group include:
- Althemese Barnes
- Tatiana Daguillard
- Atty. John Due
- Gerald Ensley
- Delaitre Hollinger
- Dr. David Jackson
- Dr. Jennifer Koslow
- Rev. Henry Marion Steele
- Melissa Stoller
- Dr. Linda Teague
Their names will be inscribed on a plaque near the Civil Rights Memorial later this fall. For more information, visit CascadesTLH.com.
Cascades is a vibrant live-work-play-stay experience spanning a two-block area on East Gaines Street, across from the 24-acre Cascades Park. In addition to generating more than $350 million in economic impact and creating nearly 700 permanent jobs, this transformative urban development honors the area’s rich history through the preservation of the architecturally significant former County Health Unit, the restoration of the Old City Waterworks building, and the creation of a community-envisioned historical plaza. Additional components include market-rate mid-rise residential, retail, office, restaurant and hotel space built to maximize views of the park and the Capitol building, along with pedestrian-friendly paths connecting the development to downtown, a range of public amenities, event space to support performances at the Capital City Amphitheater, and nearly 800 new parking spaces. The Cascades development team includes local, regional and national partners including Nelson Mullins, DAG Architects, Genesis Engineering, NAI Talcor, The Taproot Agency, and Baker Barrios Architects. For more information visit CascadesTLH.com.
ABOUT NORTH AMERICAN PROPERTIES (NAP)
Founded in 1954, North American Properties (NAP) is a privately held, multi-regional real estate operating company that has acquired, developed and managed 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. With a full-time staff working out of its Tallahassee office, NAP has invested more than $400 million in large- scale, mixed-use developments in Tallahassee since 2013, specifically at Cascades and along the Gaines Street corridor. These projects have collectively created more than 2,000 construction jobs and nearly 300 permanent ongoing jobs, with a total annual economic impact of more than $54 million. For more information visit naproperties.com.
ABOUT BECOVIC MANGEMENT GROUP (BMG)
Becovic Management Group is a private family-owned Indianapolis (U.S.) based real estate development and property management services firm with varied interests in land, commercial property, and residential real estate. Its property management services affiliate manages quality commercial and residential properties located in Indiana, Illinois and Florida. As a family owned business, we believe that growth develops through building quality relationships, knowledge, service and business innovation. Our superior operations are exemplified through consistent implementation of our core values, which include the belief that customer relationships determine our worth, quality service is essential, reputation is our reward and integrity defines us. Our vision is to remain a prominent real estate property management firm by providing the best quality housing, coupled with excellence in customer service. BMG was founded more than 45 years ago by the Becovic family after emigrating to the U.S. For more information about Becovic Management Group, please visit becovicmgmt.com.