The Evolution of Railroad Square

Railroad Square
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-17 07:04:11-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- The WTXL Road Trip wraps up its week in Leon County with a look at Tallahassee's Railroad Square.

It's more than just an "art park." Railroad Square has evolved into a hub for creativity and innovation -- and more recently, business.

Black Dog Café opened its second location there in May 2015.

"Our motto here at Black Dog is 'Know thy neighbor,'" said day manager Justice Barnes. "I think Railroad Square is in essence that community. It's a call to action, and out here, we're making it happen. There's a strong entrepreneurial vibe out here. There's such a love for community and such a need for each other to patron each other's businesses."

You'll find interesting sculptures and works of art, but you'll also find businesses tucked into alleys and lining the cul-de-sac. It's an environment that's bringing more and more here -- including Camp Folks, a local outdoor concierge service.

"As it's grown, it's shown a lot of promise -- and the development of what Tallahassee stands for, which is culture and heritage," said owner Aaron Ruddell. "I think over the next three to five years, this area -- being the location that it's in, between FAMU, downtown and Florida State -- is going to be a constant growth for this area."

Railroad Square has become a mecca of sorts for artists. From colored houses to grafitti on storefronts, artists have shown off their work, especially during "First Fridays," which bring in quite the crowd.

"It allows everybody to open up their doors and welcome the community that wants to come down and partake in checking out all the different shops," Ruddell said.

"First Friday is imperative to this community down here," Barnes said. "It's when people who don't know about that this area even exists can come down here and experience -- even if they're just driving by and they see the people flooding in."

With a wave of new retail coming to the area, businesses say they're excited about Railroad Square's future.

"I feel that if we're able to brand it correctly and showcase the incredible art and diversity and heritage that resides here in Railroad Square, it's going to be a wonderful thing -- not just for us as merchants, but for the entire city," Ruddell said.

"I feel like this is the way that cities should be catering to the people of their cities -- is by renovating beautiful industrial -- instead of tearing it all down, you know, give it some life," Barnes said.

Railroad Square is getting ready for its next "First Friday" event, which will be August 5. Food trucks, musicians and other vendors bring in huge crowds every month.