Residents Gather to Oppose Old Leon County Jail Redevelopment

Residents Gather to Oppose Old Leon County Jail Redevelopment
Posted at 5:35 PM, Apr 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-13 14:47:41-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - The Old Leon County Jail by Cascades Park is set for redevelopment but some residents are pushing for its history to be preserved. The Firestone Building is part of a larger project to bring a variety of development downtown.

In the heart of the Capital City sits a building full of history. The Old Leon County Jail, a key site in the Civil Rights Movement.

"This building became the first jail-in in the entire country during the student sit-in movement," said Delaitre Hollinger, who organized the meeting. 

Delaitre Hollinger says a lynching here in the 1930s prompted congress to pass legislation against it.

"Watershed moments in the Civil Rights Movement that occurred here at this building, and that's definitely history that we need to preserve," said Hollinger.

The building is one of several that are being planned for redevelopment. Residents say it's not just the history that sets it apart.

"It really speaks to modernism, which arose in the 1920s and '30s, and it's the only art deco building that we have," said Ron Yrabedra, a concerned citizen.

"This is what makes Tallahassee special -- this whole area of buildings, for example," said Jan DeCosmo, another concerned resident. "None of these should be destroyed."

While the sale of this building is not final, residents are hoping developers hear more of their concerns. They have a few suggestions for redeveloping this property.

"A memorial wall on the inside of the building with the list of names of people who were jailed here, who suffered here, a historical marker here on the outside, and preserving the oak tree," said Hollinger.

"Some cultural kind of purpose or mission would be good, but if not, to just save the facade of the building," said DeCosmo. 

The group will hold a strategy meeting next Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Leroy Collins Library.

The developers, North American Properties, tell WTXL they'll also set up an informational session with the community at a later date.

Here’s the full statement from Shawn McIntyre, a partner with the developers:

"We deeply respect this group’s passion and interest in this issue, as it is an important one. We have done extensive research and understand the history behind all three of the historic structures on this site, and we are in the process of forming a community user group to help determine the best way to honor it – regardless of what we’re able to preserve structurally.

"Right now, we’re continuing to work to understand the economic and logistical considerations that will determine the feasibility of preserving these structures. We’re planning to hold a community information session within the next couple of months to provide everyone with an update on our progress. In the meantime, interested citizens can visit for additional details."