CRA approves Bond funding

 Stakeholders ready to begin redevelopment of a once vibrant neighborhood

Talethia Edwards has been one of the driving forces behind the Bond project.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

Henry Lewis

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

A plan to revitalize the Bond Community to the days when it was considered “the heart and soul” of the Southside could get underway as early as next month.

Stakeholders in the initiative took a giant step forward last Thursday when the Community Redevelopment Agency voted unanimously to approve $500,000. The total cost is $6.4 million, which the Greater Bond Association said will be given by the CRA over a three-year period.

CRA director Roxanne Manning expressed support for the plan during the meeting.

“This is going to transform Bond back to where it used to be as a thriving community; particularly for African Americans and African American professionals,” said Henry Lewis, a former FAMU president who is advising the association.

“The Bond subdivision project represents a major transition in what the CRA has been funding,” added Lewis. “In fact, it’s the first time that the CRA makes a major investment in improving a neighborhood such as Bond.”

The plan is four-pronged with emphasis on beautification, public safety, land use and economic development.

As part of the first phase of the development, 50 homes will be selected for a $10,000 façade grants, Lewis said.

A linear park also is part of the early phase of the redevelopment. That will start with upgrades to the Speed-Spencer-Stephen Park at the intersection of Okaloosa and Pasco streets. It will connect to an area known as Tallahassee junction near Mills Street.

Some of the amenities planned for the park include benches, playground and a dog park.

The second phase calls for a street scape — similar to FAMU Way — along five streets in the neighborhood. They include Holton, Saxson, Keith, Pasco and Floral streets.

The third phase will be what’s been called a Western Gateway, connecting Gamble from FAMU Way to Wahnish Way on the university’s campus.

Bond is believed to be Tallahassee’s second oldest Black community that once was a place where businesses flourished. Grocery stores, beauty shops, gas stations and restaurants were all within walking distance for residents of the neighborhood.

Going into the  CRA meeting, backers of the plan didn’t know what to expect because the city commission, which makes up the CRA, has three new members. However, the plan had no opposition after Commission Dianne Williams-Cox motioned to give it the funding.

“We didn’t have words, but there was a lot of smiles and hugging each other,” said Talethia Edwards, one of the founding members of the association. “But we know this is where the hard work begins.

 “We were surprised because we didn’t know what we were going to walk away with. It was a good surprise.”

Throughout the planning for the remake of Bond, assistant City Manager Cynthia Barber was a liaison between the city and the association.

“Without her support at the city level,” Lewis said. “I don’t think it would have happened.”