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Community members push back on proposed Frenchtown student housing

Posted at 6:38 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 18:38:45-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — New student housing could be coming to Tennessee Street if developers get their way, but not without a bit of push back from the Frenchtown community.

Success Cuts barbershop owner Miles Evora has worked in Frenchtown for nearly 30 years.

"I've been here since '89," Evora said.

As such, Preserving the neighborhood's history is a cause close to heart.

"It is a historically black neighborhood, but most of the African American businesses have been pushed out," Evora added.

From his shop window, he can see some of the student housing that's already changed the landscape of Frenchtown, and part of the lot Peerless Development wants to buy to add even more student housing to the Frenchtown community.

"I think students are Tallahassee's greatest commodity," Evora explained. "Definitely they bring in a stimulus of economics. But I also think that, if you're gonna have a historically black neighborhood, African American neighborhood, then that's exactly what it should be."

Pastor Lee Johnson organized the Frenchtown Southside Political Action Coalition and said he'd rather see development more specifically geared towards empowering community members who already live in Frenchtown.

"While I have nothing against student housing, I think that the city should do more in terms of helping people in Frenchtown to have some economic drivers in that community," Johnson said.

Tallahassee City Commissioners voted 3-2 to move forward with negotiating the sale of the last lot Peerless Development needs to complete their vision, but not without some community-centered conversations.

"We want them to be good community partners," Seat 5 Tallahassee City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox said. "And if they do those things, and they look at the possibility of including some affordable housing or some solutions for homelessness, which we have a lot of in our city, then we would look at what it would take to sell those properties to them, negotiate a price, and then take whatever the property sells for and reinvest that money back into Frenchtown on some city-owned lots for affordable housing."

ABC 27 did reach out to Peerless Development for comment but have not heard back.

According to city documents, they plan to build about 15,000 square feet of retail shops on a ground floor with 300 dwelling units on the upper floors.

Commissioners will consider the next steps in 2022.