The Community Redevelopment Agency unanimously approved plans underway to transform the south gate into Frenchtown.
The $ 6.5 million approved Thursday will go to a long-standing three-lot project at the corner of Tennessee and Macomb streets to create two mixed-use development sites with housing, parking lots and commercial space. The total proposed cost for the project is over $ 38 million.
Grant funds are scheduled to be distributed at $ 1 million per year starting in 2023 and ending in 2028, with a final payment of $ 500,000 in fiscal year 2029. Be a grant rather than a loan allows you to look for tax credits that can add millions more dollars to the financing of the project.
Jacksonville developer Tony Brown has tried for years to open a grocery or fresh produce market and provide housing in the area. The project still aims to create a concept of a public market and food court as well as 130 affordable housing units.
The commitment to address both is a priority.
“We’ve worked tirelessly to bring you a grocery store and we will continue to do so,” Brown told the CRA’s board of directors, made up of the city’s five commissioners. “We have a 3 year effort to eliminate a food desert and you have our biggest commitment to do so.”
The unanimous approval is a setback from the May ARC meeting where board members put the project on hiatus and expressed concerns about the nature in which the project had changed, it was the first time that details on affordable housing were presented and the level of community participation.
The project garnered broad public support at Wednesday’s meeting.
Antonio Jefferson, president of the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce, said that by investing in the project, ARC is committed to attracting businesses to the area that may not have considered doing so because it remains relatively undeveloped.
“This project has gone on long enough for us to move forward,” Jefferson said. “By reaching out and creating opportunities like this, we are changing the dynamics of the community. “
Brown is also asking for the transfer of five CRA-owned properties in exchange for $ 10 which include the former Tallahassee homeless shelter site and the Frenchtown Renaissance Community Center. To secure these plots, Brown must also close the sale of the property owned by Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and two others owned by the Sylvester Davis Living Trust.
ARC control on site makes the project attractive to grocers
In an interview with the Democrat after the meeting, Brown said that controlling the site’s development makes the project more attractive to would-be grocers considering relocating there, Brown said.
The deal gives three years to try to find a grocer or, if he’s not interested, work on a business plan for a public market. The nearest grocery stores are all outside of a 2.5 mile radius.
“Now that we know what our development costs are, it’s a better conversation for me with the grocers,” he said. “We now have a credible presentation to say that these are not aspirations. We have put our commitment on the table. The city and this community have done everything to attract a great grocer.
Thursday’s approval is the culmination of six years of working to develop the project to the tastes of not only the CRA but the community.
“It gave us time to work with the owners, it took several years, and then the next step was to produce something that would benefit the people of Frenchtown,” he said. “He’s a good six years old.”
At one point, Brown was working on bringing a medical facility to the area, but this idea is being pursued independently by Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
A new development partner has been recruited, the Miami-based Related Urban Development Group, which will strive to bring affordable housing to the area.
Housing in the area will vary, but Brown said 38% of units are affordable for families earning less than $ 38,000 a year, while 23% will be affordable for those earning less than $ 23,000.
The area is seen as the spearhead of the Frenchtown Gateway Project, which has been touted as an opportunity for the predominantly black neighborhood to revitalize the historic district.
By investing in housing, retail and sustainable food, the region can convince more residents with purchasing power to visit, live and shop, instead of driving or shopping. avoid it altogether.
TLH Arts project approved for tourist taxes
In other cases, the ARC has given final approval to a $ 1.8 million funding agreement for TLH Arts Inc., bringing a project to create a multi-purpose community performing arts center to one. point where it could be completed in the next few years.
In a unanimous vote, the board of directors approved project funding to build a 350-seat performance studio in Railroad Square.
In total, the project is estimated at $ 3.2 million, with TLH Arts pledging to collect the remaining funding. As part of the deal with the ARC, the group must raise the remaining $ 1.4 million before the tourism development tax money is released.
The agreements between TLH Arts and CRA also include a milestone program that keeps an eye on project progress and additional fundraising milestones.
The Leon County commission has given its approval to the project. Now the Municipal Commission must give its approval independently.
Funding for the project ran into a problem earlier this year when the fate of the tax money seemed uncertain as TLH Arts’ original location failed and other arts groups began to fight for funding. .
In February, the CRA voted to divert funds only to LeMoyne Arts and Ashmore’s because TLH Arts got bogged down in a rental problem at another building on Van Buren Street that it wanted for the project.
A building in Railroad Square was donated by owners Adam and Lily Kaye. As part of the agreement with the CRA, the building must become the property of the city.
In March, CRA officials unanimously approved the $ 1 million release already planned for LeMoyne for his project while he asked TLH Arts to revise his project.
The CRA transferred the renovation of the city-owned Ashmore building for a museum in Frenchtown to the City Commission.
CRA looking for a permanent director
The CRA has also put in place a process to hire a permanent manager after more than two years with Deputy City Manager for the City of Tallahassee Wayne Tedder at the interim helm. Tedder was appointed after Roxanne Manning was forced out of her post by city leaders in 2019.
The story of the back:CRA chief Roxanne Manning kicked out by Tallahassee city manager
The board immediately approved the nationwide advertisement with the intention of assembling a pool of candidates within the next 30 days. Applicants will continue to be accepted until a director is appointed.
Members agreed to develop a list of the top five candidates who would then be presented publicly and put through a public interview process before being selected.
Tedder, before leaving the city commission chambers during the discussion, told council members that due to the retirements of other CRA staff this year, a new director is expected to be appointed by this fall.
Contact Karl Etters at [email protected] or @KarlEtters on Twitter.
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