Downtown Tallahassee and Frenchtown/Southside areas are the focus of potential revitalization’s plan

Tallahassee’s Frenchtown was once a self-sufficient black community with jewelers, dry cleaners, tailors, restaurants and other establishments. Drugs and violence deteriorated the Tallahassee community and now the city is seeking to revitalize the area.

The Frenchtown area is a predominantly black area and 53 percent of the population is below the poverty level. According to in 1996 the city commission approved a revitalization strategy designed to rebuild the homeownership and economic base of the Frenchtown community. This strategy focused on increased public safety, access to neighborhood services, improving the community’s residential viability and increased employment and commercial opportunities. In April 2005 the Frenchtown Renaissance Center designed to reestablish the area’s commercial viability was completed, but how has this helped Frenchtown?

It seems more money went into building the center than helping Frenchtown. Julianne Hare’s book Historic Frenchtown mentions that most of the funding planned for rebuilding was spent on demolition. Hare’s book also stated that the only thing difficult about revitalization is trying to keep track of all the players.

Sherri Baker, an employee of the Economic and Community Development office stated there were two areas the city was trying to redevelop—the downtown area and the Frenchtown/Southside area. The people responsible for the revitalization project are a redevelopment agency governed by a board consisting of the mayor, city commissioners, and four county commissioners. Baker said this new plan has been going on for about two years and the city hoped to finish by Dec. 31, but completion has been pushed back to March 2010.

Hopefully the product of this plan will feature more than a building and will include programs that help attract new and former business owners into the area.