Association lays out plan to revitalize Bond Neighborhood
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
When Rhett Turnquest left town to take a job in West Palm Beach, change for the worse was already taking place in the neighborhood where he grew up near FAMU campus.
Thirty-three years later when he returned home to be with his ailing mother, Turnquest was astonished at what the Bond Neighborhood had become.
“It was just so disheartening to see all of the open drug sale, prostitution and the blight on the community,” Turnquest said.
The neighborhood that Turnquest grew up in once was a thriving self-contained Black community that is believed to be the second oldest in Tallahassee. Businesses did well throughout the 468-acres area that’s nestled between Wahnish Way on the east and Lake Bradford on the west.
Grocery stores, beauty shops, gas stations and restaurants were sprinkled throughout the neighborhood. Most were owned by families who resided in the area.
The Greater Bond Neighborhood Association wants to restore the community and has put a plan in place to do so. Talethia Edwards was the initial driving force in the attempt to bring change to Bond, bringing together people who grew up in the area or had vested interest.
“We want to bring the livelihood back to the neighborhood,” said Edwards, a Bond resident for eight years. “This was an all-access point community, which is interesting because it’s zoned for all six land uses.”
Getting the wheels in motion for reviving the neighborhood was slow go at first, but several other advocacy groups that include the Southside Development Partners eventually joined the push. Their efforts led to Tallahassee Police Department installing cameras on several streets, reducing drug dealings and prostitution in the area. They also were instrumental in getting a farmers market in the neighborhood earlier this year.
The group has drawn up a draft of a more intensive plan for reviving the community. Eventually, the group wants to improve landmarks like the Speed-Spencer-Stephen Park. Sidewalk improvements and modern street lighting also are in the plans.
Clean up of vacant lots and enforcement of no dumping laws are in the plans for beautifying the neighborhood.
Some of the other details outlined the makeup of Bond, which had a population of 3,147 as of 2017, include making Floral Street the commercial hub that it once was.
It also looked at demographics, listing the average age of residents as being just over 25 and the unemployment rate among residents is 18.9 percent, much higher than the state average.
The group is scheduled to present its plan to Tallahassee’s Community Redevelopment Agency at a Dec. 13 meeting. However, that took some doing.
This past summer, Turnquest hand-delivered a request to the CRA without getting a response, said Jackie Perkins,” a retired criminal justice administrator who heads up public safety for the group.
They regrouped and put together the detailed plan of action that it will present to the CRA for funding consideration. In the process, they’ve been able to meet with assistant city manager Cynthia Barber and other city officials. Those meetings have been productive, Perkins said.
The entire projects will cost just over $6 million, said Turnqest, a developer who is building student housing along Gamble Street.
The plan is four-pronged with emphasis on beautification, public safety, land use and economic development. Each phase is headed up by individuals with ties to Bond that go back decades when the neighborhood flourished.
“It was a village type of community where everybody knew everybody,” said Perkins. “Kids played in the streets and rode bikes.
“There was a sense of pride and we’ve got to bring our neighborhood back.”