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New funding helping renovate businesses on the Southside

Posted at 7:19 PM, Jul 11, 2023

From much needed upgrades on the outside, to a completely new interior. New money is helping two businesses off South Monroe Street continue to thrive on this side of town.

Orion Wellington has owned Orion Motorsports for 19 years. They've been at this location on the Southside for 13 years, just south of Cascade Park.

Operating out of a building from the 1950's, Wellington has worked to make much needed upgrades. He added a new mural and updated the storefront. New windows and ramps have also been added.

He told me he, "completely cut off the front of our building and modernized it," sais Wellington. "It really helped to give a 3D effect to make it really stand out and draw more folks in."

Money from the city of Tallahassee is making it all possible. The city's Community Redevelopment Agency, or CRA, is offering grants matching up to $50,000 for facade improvements to businesses on the Southside.

"This is something that's been in the planning stages for several years but everything just kind of fell together from getting the right contractor to the CRA grant really helped us get this job done," said Wellington.

It's not just the outside of businesses being upgraded. Just down the street is Earley's Kitchen; a southern soul food staple serving up breakfast and lunch.

Jay Morrell and his wife bought Earley's Kitchen on South Monroe in 2008. For now, they're operating out of another location at the Florida Capitol.

A $213,000 grant from the CRA is helping Morrell do a complete overhaul of the inside and outside of the building.

"Let's be honest, I wouldn't have taken on a project this size at this stage in my career without some help from the city or the community and the support," said Morrell.

Stephen Cox is the Executive Director of the CRA. He said over the past 13 years, they've helped fund nine projects totaling over $350,000. That money helps renovate businesses like Orion Motorsports and Earley's Kitchen on the Southside.

"We definitely believe that the more these businesses are willing to invest in themselves and with a little help from CRA we definitely will see a transformation along many of our major transportation corridors in town," said Cox.

Earley's Kitchen is about three months into the renovation process. Morrell believes it should be completed in two months, then they'll welcome back their regulars for dinner time too.

"We get emails and Facebook messages pretty much everyday that's like 'Hey, what are you guys doing? I miss my breakfast,'" said Morrell.

Wellington said he's excited to see the future of this side of town and continue to be a part of it.

"Really happy to see the Southside of Tallahassee is up and coming and really nice to see step by step all the renovations going on and the betterment," said Wellington.

Cox said the CRA helps fund around seven projects a year. Over the last decade or so, all the upgrades made to businesses from CRA funding have had a total improvement value of $1.4 million for the Southside.