Housing proposal threatens art district

Art district theory project
photo credit: Art District

Built in 1970, the art district in Tallahassee is now in jeopardy due to the newest housing proposal. Affordable housing has been proposed for the Railroad Square area that would replace the location of some of the local businesses in the district that is nestled into a cozy space between Florida A&M and Florida State universities.

The newest housing proposal will build 200 affordable housing units and 165 public parking spots and target families that make no more than $45,000 a year and single-person housing for people who make no more than $36,000 a year.

Previous proposals from The Residence Halls LLC sought to build luxury apartments for residents 55 and older. The real estate broker for the Railroad Square District has said that they plan on building affordable housing using low-income housing tax credits, which will require them to have income-restricted and rent-controlled housing.

If the project advances further, many local businesses in the unique, art-oriented area will be required to relocate. The art district has said they would give the local businesses notice months in advance if the proposal moves to a stage where the housing plan is approved.

Some employees of the local shops who asked to remain anonymous said they were genuinely concerned about the livelihood of some of the businesses and the impact this project will have on the culture of Tallahassee.

“A lot of the businesses are up in the air, some of the shops here have no idea what they are going to do. Some are planning on leaving,” one of the employees at a shops in the art district said.

The project will remove 16 of the warehouse spaces. The housing proposal intends to place homes on top of businesses, leaving small businesses at the ground level.

Connie Betterley, owner of Color Cloth Art, voiced her concern about the future of the art district. “While I support more affordable housing in Tallahassee, I just wonder why the arts have to be targeted,” she said. Betterley added that she believes having an art district in Tallahassee is important. “People should have a place where they can see the variety of handmade goods and not manufactured goods,” she said.

If the project receives public support, the Art District has said it will likely take 18 months for funding applications, design and permitting, and then at least another 18-24 months of construction before residents are actually able to move in to the new housing.