Area between schools gets revamped, will benefit all

Crews from Tallahassee’s Electric Utility have been at work repositioning electrical lines and poles off the Gaines Street right-of-way. The work to revamp Tallahassee’s Gaines Street strip has been in progress for several months.

The crews are also in the process of moving and enhancing underground sewer and water lines.  The guidelines for the Gaines Street Development project state that the renovations should be completed by the end of this year.

This preliminary work is the first step in revitalizing the Gaines Street corridor into a destination hotspot.  Roxanne Manning,  program director for the Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency, said Gaines is intended to link downtown Tallahassee with Florida A&M University and Florida State University.

“One of the things that we want to do is build a place where people can gather everyday,” Manning said. “The area will be popular with students and other young professionals.”

The construction will transform Gaines Street from an automobile transit quarter into a pedestrian-friendly area. The area was identified in 1996 as being in need of redevelopment.

“You can go hang out there. You can be comfortable meeting new friends there,” Manning said.

In conjunction with the work on the underground utilities, the street itself will also undergo a makeover of sorts.

“What we’re doing is rebuilding the road itself, turning it from a four lane roadway, to a two lane roadway,” Manning said.

Manning said the city put together a citizens group called the Gaines Street Vitalization Committee. The group worked for two to three years putting the plan together.  

Barring unexpected circumstances, construction is done weekdays between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. All four lanes are closed during overnight hours. 

The construction has impacted residents and businesses around Gaines Street.
Erica Stokes, front desk supervisor at the Residence Inn Hotel located on Gaines Street, said that the construction is an issue with guests.

“We get an awful lot of complaints,” Stokes said. “At checkout time, guests say that there was a difficulty sleeping because of the noise. “

Stokes said guests complained that the area around the hotel was not appealing, therefore, the revitalization should address that issue.

“I feel that the [temporary setbacks] will be eventually worth it,” Stokes said.
Manning said because of the slumping economy, two development contracts were lost; but city officials remain optimistic.

“We think when things pick up, we’ll be able to attract new development fairly easy,” Manning said.  “Upon its completion, the Gaines Street district will be a mixed-use urban neighborhood with shops, restaurants and residential uses.”

The project’s aim is to create a central location between Florida A&M and Florida State.

“We’re creating a new nexus: a new meeting point between the two universities,” Manning said. “The complete project may not be finished for at least 10 years, depending on the state of the economy. If the economy doesn’t get on a good footing, it could take as long as 20 [years],” Manning said