Bond revitalization begins with construction of linear park

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

A few weeks into constructions of a linear park that would connect Bond to the Junction and St. Marks Trail, there is already a sense of revival in the second oldest Black community on Tallahassee’s Southside.

“I like what I see,” said Talethia Edwards, one of the founders of the Greater Bond Neighborhood Association. “I’m ready to see everything come together. I ride by there weekly and take pictures so we can see the progress of how it developed.”

The park is the first phase of a plan to put a little more than $6 million into bringing Bond back to being as close as possible to the neighborhood it was when it was a self-contained community. The linear park is the starting point.

The head of the park that snakes though the neighborhood begins on the west end  of the Speed, Spencer, Stephens Park at Holton Street. So far the path is approaching Keith Street and it will eventually cross over and cut through a few more hundred yards to a holding pond.

Cynthia Barber

At that point concrete culverts will be buried for construction of a bridge that connects the linear park to the Junction at Mill Street, crossing over the St. Marks Trail. Completion of the project could take it into the fall, said Deputy City Manager Cynthia Barber, who has been shepherding the Bond Neighborhood First plan.

When completed, the linear park will have nighttime lighting with benches and landscaping. Edwards said she would also like to see the work of local artists somewhere along the park.

“We want to bring this back to vitality, its exuberance,” Edwards said. “We want to see life happening outside with children playing.”

Getting the park started is essential to what the Bond community will become, said Barber, who has vivid memories of what the 468-acre neighborhood looked like decades ago.

“It reinforces the city’s commitment to Bond and making sure that we play a vital role in helping to revitalize the community,” said Barber. “It shows a commitment to several things in the community like a walking trail and the connectivity that’s been missing so long in the Bond community.

“I hope it will bring a sense of ownership and pride, reinforcing what people working together can achieve. This is the work of the people who live in the community. We see all of this as being connected to be able to create a safer, more vibrant Bond.”

 The initiative began in 2016 when Edwards joined with Rhett Turnquist, Jackie Perkins and Henry Lewis. Out of that group sprung the Southside Development Partners. Within a year, they started to push a plan for revitalization of the neighborhood that has just over 3,000 residents.

The neighborhood’s stakeholders drew up a plan that included beautification, public safety, land use and economic development. In December 2018, the Community Redevelopment Agency voted unanimously to approve $500,000, the first portion of $6.4 million commitment to the revitalization plan.

Meanwhile, Tallahassee Police Department joined forces with the neighborhood, setting up cameras and taking other action to get crime out the area. Barber attributed that success to residents reclaiming ownership of their community.

“I strongly believe that if you look like a neighborhood that is well maintained and the people are engaged and paying attention, then you’re are less likely to be victimized by crime,” she said. “People often settle in neighborhoods and commit crimes in neighborhoods that they feel that the people who live there are not involved, they don’t care or they’re asleep at the wheel.”

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