ULI Suggests Changes for South City Community
By Navael Fontus
South City revitalization plans headed by the Urban Land Institute wrapped up last Wednesday at City Hall. The two-day research and study tour of South City, a Tallahassee community overwhelmed by problems of high crime, unemployment and other issues, was conducted by a team of experts from ULI’s North Florida Council.
The team from ULI presented a list of recommendations the city should take to improve South City. Those recommendations represented short-, medium- and long-term steps that could better improve living conditions, lower crime and raise the economy in the south side.
ULI is a research and education organization specializing in conducting research on the use of land and implementing ways to best live in a healthy, thriving community. The nonprofit organization has worked with real estate and commercial developers all over the world and also served as a consultant for city government and land developers after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
“South City has statistics that are very concerning in terms of child mortality rates, education levels and the level of public housing,” ULI’s Tom Murphy said. “We believe you can change this trajectory. You need to do that by having a strategic plan.”
Last Thursday, the advisory panel – comprised of experts and city leaders such as Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum and Tallahassee city manager Anita Favors Thompson as well as city commissioners – discussed the research outcomes of the 273-acre study area located in southern Leon County near Florida A&M University.
Recommendations included improving pedestrian facilities by adding sidewalks, wherever appropriate; increasing police presence in the community; adding special foot patrols; improving roadways by upgrading lighting and intersections; reducing overgrown vegetation, which is a major issue in the community; and forming partnerships to create more economic opportunities with the three major colleges in Tallahassee, just to name a few.
Recommendations also involved physical changes that need to be made in the community as well as healthier living solutions that can be made by residents. ULI recommended many healthy green initiatives, such as a new greenways trail from Brighton Road to FAMU with green spaces along the trail and establishing safe pedestrian connectors from the Bond Community Health Center area to FAMU, and an east-west connector for Putnam drive.
City leaders listened to each recommendation and discussed ways the plans could affect the city economically and asked whatever questions they had about the long-term plans.
“We believe strongly that you all have the resources to change the trajectory of South City,” Murphy said.
A final report for the city commissioners to review will be sent in six weeks by ULI. Dale Brill, part of the ULI team and a resident of Tallahassee, explained short-term steps that could be taken for a better South City.
“One of the last questions asked in the panel was: ‘What can we do about jobs?’ What we can do in the short term is we need to train and provide transportation,” Brill said.
The plans will not be completed overnight and residents of South City shouldn’t expect to see these plans come into fruition for quite some time but attendees said it is encouraging for residents to see bricks being laid for the foundation of a better community in their South City.
“I feel like we’re going somewhere,” said Maria Bryant, a South City resident of 54 years. “I think the walls are starting to tear down a lot of the barriers. I know it’s going to take some time, but I hope in my generation I’ll be able to see (changes). But I know the change is coming. Everyone is getting a vision.”