Locals React to Planned Demolition of Old Leon County Jail

Community Reacts to News of Old Leon County Jail's Demolition
Posted at 6:05 PM, May 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 04:34:28-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - The fate of the Old Leon County Jail has been decided.

Tuesday, developers surprised some with plans to demolish it, as they move forward with a large-scale project by Cascades Park.

It's expected to be a significant economic engine for Tallahassee.

"This is one of those times where even pure historians have to say, 'What is the better alternative here?'" said community historian Althemese Barnes, who admitted in an interview Tuesday that she relishes saving old buildings.

But after seven renovations, the Firestone Building -- ineligible to be designated a historic place -- is set to go.

"It's just saddening to know that we're losing so much of the physical history that we're still able to walk up to and walk through and touch," said historical preservationist Delaitre Hollinger.

The Firestone and one of the Bloxham Annex buildings on East Gaines Street will be removed to make way for major development. A historical plaza will lead into Cascades Park and space for apartments and parking will be nearby.

While the project does call for the demolition of the old county jail, right across the street, developers are planning to preserve the old county health unit, saying it's more about the location and size than the history of the other buildings as to why they're being cleared.

"A building also has everything underneath it and everything over top of it," said Shawn McIntyre with North American Properties. "So, with the public parking and the underground parking and then the need to develop an 18-hour downtown community, unfortunately that area of the property needs to be developed."

Despite a plan to visualize the memories of the jail, the development is concerning to the Tallahassee branch of the NAACP.

"When we take history and resort it down to being a bronze plaque, that trivializes, for many of us, that trivializes the sacrifices these people made," said member Dale Landry.

The project has a long way before demolition starts, but for some, it's following what seems to be a national trend.

"We see many of these historical landmarks being torn down, and it's sad, because I think...part of it could've been left to show the history," Landry said.

Developers are set to meet with the community redevelopment agency board tomorrow to present their proposal. A community meeting about the project is set for next month.