Residents along FAMU Way brace for neighborhood changes
By Ashia Glover
While heavy construction equipment have been plowing through a path for the next phase of extending FAMU Way, some residents in the area are a little anxious over whether they’ll be displaced.
But there is no need for the handful of residents in the area to fear, said an engineer with the inter-governmental agency Blueprint 2000. Not every home in the area on Mills and Miles streets will be taken down, said Alisha Wetherell, a City of Tallahassee program engineer.
“While majority of the homes were vacant, those that were not, we looked forward to working with them,” Wetherell said. “I think that there is this idea that the government just comes in and takes the property and that is by no means the way that we intend to work.”
The current phase of the project will connect FAMU Way to the head of the St. Marks Trail at Gamble Street. The final phase will go from there to Lake Bradford. The project is being funded by city and county government and money raised from a Blueprint 2000 penny tax.
When completed, it will create a path from Franklin Boulevard that covers four miles most of the way. The previous phase was opened last June.
Construction is currently underway on a stretch from Pinellas Street, crossing Gamble Street to Lake Bradford. The homes in question are located between Gamble Street and Lake Bradford.
Each of the homes has been appraised for the highest value, Wetherell said. She also said that each resident will be asked to save memorabilia, which will be assessed by FAMU’s history department.
One of the first historic landmarks demolished was Shingles Chicken Shack, which was the gathering place for countless celebrities. It was also a popular lunch spot for FAMU students and employees.
Part of the redesign of FAMU Way calls for the history of the building along the new FAMU Way to be displayed in kiosks with written history, said Autumn Calder, a planning manager with Blueprint 2000, at the time of the demolition of Shingles.
“Several colleagues of the FAMU history program spent time with a lot of the historic residents of the neighborhood collecting stories; things that they remembered about the neighborhood,” Wetherell said. “We have done everything that we could to work in information about that.”
Meanwhile, residents and business owners in the area are coping with affects of the construction.
“I don’t mind the concept of the project but I do think the construction is slowing my business down a lot,” said John Copeland, owner of John Boy Garage on the corner of Mills Street. “New customers won’t know that my shop is here because the detour will take them all the way around the street instead of directly to my shop.”
However, Copeland said he appreciates access that the new roadway will create.
“Once the construction is over and everything goes back to normal then I will be alright,” he said. “I am excited about the new traffic FAMU Way will bring my way which brings in more clients and money.”