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Millions of taxpayer dollars later, how close are we to an 18-hour Downtown Tallahassee?

Some downtown businesses like Hayward House are seeing success
Downtown Tallahassee
Posted at 5:34 PM, Apr 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-01 17:34:53-04
  • Millions of your taxpayer dollars have gone to or been committed to hundreds of projects over the years to improve downtown Tallahassee.
  • I spoke with the owner of Hayward House about a successful first few months in Downtown, and how they could be a center force in a decades-long effort to make an 18-hour downtown.
  • Watch the video to see where taxpayer money has gone in the last year in downtown—and its impact on making a tangible change towards an 18-hour downtown.


Where’s the money?

I continue to investigate for you how city and county leaders are bringing people to Downtown Tallahassee year-round.

Millions of your taxpayer dollars have gone to or been committed to hundreds of projects over the years.

Now—I’m looking at exactly where the money has gone?

I started at Hayward House, a new restaurant, that just experienced its first few months on the corner of Adam and Jefferson street.

Things around Hayward House are starting to get into a more predictable rhythm as they get into a lighter season post-legislative session in Downtown Tallahassee.

“We have seen a lot of Tallahassee folks come out I think that some people were waiting until the suits are gone and the suits are gone," Ashley Chaney, the owner of Hayward House said.

Hayward House replaced a long-standing restaurant in our neighborhood Andrews.

Now it’s cementing its own legacy.

"It's just been such a thrill," Chaney said. "The response was so overwhelmingly positive. I am so proud of our team, who managed to feed 800 people sometimes a day."

It’s looking to be a center force in a decades-long effort to make an 18-hour downtown.

"Tallahassee downtown is going through a renaissance and we are so thrilled to be a part of it," Chaney said.

When I sat down with Hayward House’s owner Ashley Chaney to ask her what she thinks is a step forward to getting more downtown organically.

And hopefully, stop in her restaurant.

"Would love to see just continuing with the beautification of downtown," Chaney said. "They've done a great job. We've got new planters, we've got some new lights, we've got increased security down here."

Downtown has a few main ways it sees targeted improvements. The Community Redevelopment Agency and the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority.

 The CRA recently approved $134,000 to go toward Hayward House for improvements.

"I think that it's a great use of CRA funds, you know," Chaney said. "Like we are first-floor retail, and we're really glad that it went through, we will look to continue to kind of improve some of our exterior and the patio space at Hayward House."

The primary source of revenue for the Tallahassee CRA is tax increment contributions from the City of Tallahassee and Leon County that allow certain taxes made within a specific border to be used exclusively in that area among other smaller sources.

The CRA funds that go towards downtown are part of the Downtown District Community Redevelopment. It's an area that consists of approximately 440 acres located in downtown Tallahassee. The Downtown District is comprised of five sub-areas.

One of the stated goals of the DCR is to assist in achieving an 18-hour downtown.

The term "18-hour city" represents a category of cities that operate with a vibrant economic and lifestyle pulse from dawn to midnight.

I wanted to know where else has CRA money gone in the last year—and what’s its impact on making tangible change downtown.

I looked through years of data and here’s the topline:

In 2023 :

  • Most went to increasing housing with a $7 million price tag
  • Next business assistance at $2.1 million
  • And then $330,000 on infrastructure

The CRA has given grants, and loans and recruited private dollars for places like Amicus Brewing, the local art studio Lemoyne.

One of its biggest commitments is the 4Fourty North Project.

Its purpose--to bring a workforce housing complex to our neighborhood with 300 units of affordable housing on its top floors and retail space at the bottom.

 I also spent some time talking with Chris Dudley, a TDIA board member and property owner in our neighborhood about progress towards an 18-hour downtown.

He also owns multiple buildings in our neighborhood.
“There's condos, there are rental apartments that have gone up," Dudley said. "There, there's a coffee shop, there's some other retail space going in. So I mean, that's, that's the kind of stuff we're gonna have to see more.”

He says in his time helping direct where taxpayer dollars go some things worked that are now gone.

"So my first year on the board, I think, is when we stopped doing Downtown Get Down, which was kind of a staple, right," Dudley said." Friday nights before the ballgames and we don't do those things because people have other options other than downtown."

While the dollars have been spent, and investments made, its visible impacts on foot track are harder to quantify.

I spoke more with Dudley about how art could be a solution to these empty roads. I’ll have that story as soon as I continue my coverage of the 18-hour downtown goals.