Capturing the spirit of Tallahassee and creating an iconic sense of place in the downtown region.
- Common Questions -
1. Where will the development be located?
The redevelopment project will take place on the Firestone and Bloxham Annex properties – two blocks totaling approximately 5 acres on East Gaines Street between South Calhoun Street and South Meridian Street, to the north of Cascades Park.
Construction will begin in 2019. For road closure information and parking availability during the construction phase, please see this illustrated map.
2. How will this project benefit the community?
This is an unprecedented project in Tallahassee that leverages the public investment in Cascades Park to perpetuate a high quality of life in the downtown region. Key community benefits include:
- Broadening the allure of Cascades Park by offering a vibrant, authentic experience of Tallahassee that appeals to a diverse population and instills a sense of pride in residents and visitors alike
- Generating significant economic impacts, including approximately $1.29 million in new tax revenue (as estimated by the CRA staff) in the first year after the development has been completed, and the creation of more than 700 permanent local jobs
- Strengthening Tallahassee’s appeal among young professionals and the creative class to help reduce the area’s loss of young professionals
- Honoring the area’s rich history through the preservation of the architecturally significant former County Health Unit, the restoration of the Old City Waterworks building, and the creation of a community-envisioned historical plaza.
- Making downtown a more accessible place to live and work by creating pedestrian-friendly pathways that connect the development to downtown and encourage healthy and more environmentally-sustainable modes of transportation.
- Responsibly accommodating our growing population and preserving our natural resources by keeping residential development within the urban core rather than pushing it into outlying areas.
- Revitalizing the space bordering Cascades Park by refurbishing vacant buildings, attracting full-time residents and bringing additional foot traffic to the area, making downtown a more active and vibrant place to enjoy.
- Elevating the Cascades experience for families with the addition of family-friendly dining options, improvements to the fountain (“splash pad”) and new children’s play areas.
- Expanding the capabilities of the Capital City Amphitheater by providing support space for receptions, storage, dressing rooms, catering and other needs that will support existing performances and events and help attract larger and more sophisticated ones.
- Expanded public parking through two partially underground parking garages
3. How will this project impact the local economy?
According to CRA staff, once completed, the new development as currently proposed will generate an estimated $1.29 million in new tax revenue in the first year alone. An economic analysis was commissioned by OEV and conducted by Dr. Julie Harrington, director of Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis at Florida State University. According to the study, the construction impacts of the project will result in nearly $300 million in economic output and more than 2,200 jobs. The study also showed that the project will create nearly 700 permanent jobs and an ongoing annual economic output of more than $64 million, making this one of the region’s largest economic development projects in recent history.
The full study can be viewed here.
4. How will the project be paid for?
Commercial developer, North American Properties (NAP), will invest $132 million in the project, and a hotel partner will invest $18 million for a total private investment of $150 million.
Because the project will incorporate publicly-owned facilities, public parking, enhancements to public infrastructure, and other public benefits as requested by the CRA, public financial participation will also be necessary.
The collective investment will contribute to the creation of a significant community asset that increases the local tax base, spurs additional development in the area, contributes to the goal of an 18-hour downtown, and generates a total economic impact of $353 million and 2,900 jobs.
Specifically, public investments will include the following:
- $2.5 million of Tourist Development funds to purchase city-owned support space for the Capital City Amphitheater, including dressing rooms, a green room, event space, storage space, kitchen and other amenities. This space will help attract popular and more sophisticated performances to Cascades Park.
- $6.9 million in city funds to purchase the requested public parking that will be built as part of the project. These 244 spaces are being provided in addition to the required parking that NAP will build to support the development, which amounts to approximately 1,000 total parking spaces.
- $2.25 million in CRA funds or grants to support the $7.1 million in public improvements that will be made as a result of the project. These include the creation of public gathering spaces and children’s play areas, construction of a Civil Rights Memorial, restoration of the former County Health Unit, the under-grounding of electric utilities, and improvements to sidewalks and the fountain, among other items. NAP will supply the remaining balance of $4.85 million for these efforts.
- $15.7 million of the projected new tax revenue that will be generated by the project through 2034. This amount represents a tax refunding agreement between the Tallahassee CRA and NAP, whereby NAP will pay its full property tax bill on the development following its completion and receive a 90% reimbursement each year through 2034. The CRA will retain $1.7 million of the tax increment over that timeframe, and the county will retain $8.6 million. Since the property is currently generating zero tax revenue, these amounts represent new funds that will be made available for public use. It is important to understand that with tax refunding, no funds are advanced to the developer. Rather, the funds come from a percentage of the new property taxes generated by the development.
5. What is the project timeline?
Note: The following timeline is subject to change. NAP remains committed to working with local government to keep the community informed over the duration of the project.
January-March 2017 – Negotiation of Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA):
On Jan. 26, 2017, following a public procurement process, the CRA board voted to negotiate a Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) with NAP for the redevelopment of the Firestone and Bloxham Annex parcels. On March 23, 2017, the CRA board approved the terms of the PSA and agreed to sell the parcels to NAP at a price of $4.28 million.
April-November 2017 – Investigation Period:
NAP invested in extensive studies to develop a more detailed and accurate understanding of the cost and marketability of the proposed development. Tasks to completed during this investigative period included:
Physical, Design and Cost Review:
- ALTA (American Land Title Association) survey
- Complete soils investigation including over 68 soil borings to a depth of 40 – 50 feet to design the foundations and subterranean garages
- Phase One ESA (Environmental Site Assessment), including lead paint and asbestos
- Phase Two ESA
- Structural analysis of the existing buildings including the Firestone and Bloxham Annex Buildings
- Tree survey of each tree and procurement of an arborist’s opinion of each large live oak
- Complete impact fee analysis including transportation, utility and schools
- Concurrency evaluation including traffic studies and utility analysis
- Energy audit including gas and electric
- Stormwater analysis including a basin study of the Cascades Park facility
- Interlocal agreement for parking facilities with the State of Florida
- Civil engineering design and opinion of cost
- Architectural schematic designs including opinion of cost
- Negotiations with the City of Tallahassee for the Amphitheater support facilities as required by the original Request for Proposals (RFP)
- Title review, including the quiet title action
- PUD (Planned Unit Development) guideline review and preparation of the PUD document
- Parking analysis for the inclusion of public parking
- Offsite improvement plan including sidewalks, intersections and utilities
- Negotiations with the Office of Economic Vitality
- Investigation into applicable New Market Tax credit programs
- Feasibility study including occupancy and average daily rate projects for the hotel component
- Market analysis for the residential component including unit mix, required amenities and rental rates
- Office market rate and occupancy study
- Retail restaurant negotiations
- Amenity negotiations including public open space
November 2017-December 2018 – Permitting and Closing Period:
With all parties having agreed to proceed following the Investigation Period, NAP and the CRA will work together during this phase to obtain development approvals for the project, including approval of a Planned Unit Development (PUD), issuance of an environmental management permit, a proposed CRA development agreement and a proposed development agreement with the City of Tallahassee. Each of these components will require public approval from their respective governing bodies. Following these approvals, NAP will complete its purchase of the property and then pursue permits that allow for construction to begin.
Per agreements with the CRA, site clearing will occur in the spring of 2018 to reduce the impact of construction on activities at Cascades Park during the summer months. Restoration of the historical former county health unit will also begin at that time.
Early 2019 – New Construction Begins:
Activity on the site will pick up in early 2019, starting with utilities improvements and the assembly of a precast parking garage. Site work will occur primarily on weekdays between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and will not conflict with ticketed events held at Cascades Park.
The following streets will be closed beginning Tuesday, January 22, 2019:
- Bloxham Street, between S. Calhoun and Gadsden Streets (limited access provided for ticketed events held at Cascades Park)
- Gadsden Street, between Bloxham and Gaines Streets
Sidewalks around the construction site will remain open to ensure continued pedestrian access to the park.
Please also note that the small parking lot at the corner of Gadsden and Bloxham across from the splash pad will be inaccessible as of January 22, 2019. Please use this illustration to find nearby parking options while we work to build additional parking capacity within the new development (see question 14 for information about future parking availability).
Please subscribe for email updates at the bottom of the page to receive notifications as the project progresses.
Late 2020 – Phase I Opens:
Phase I of the project – located closest to the Capital City Amphitheater and consisting of the AC Hotel by Marriott, event space, offices, an array of dining options, and the historical plaza – will open in late 2020. Expanded public parking will also open at that time.
Spring 2021 – Phase II Opens:
Phase II of the project – comprising townhomes, multi-family apartments and the refurbished former county health unit – will open in the spring of 2021.
NAP will work closely with the City of Tallahassee to keep residents informed as construction moves forward. Please subscribe for updates below, and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.
6. How will the development honor the historical significance of the site?
Situated within a budding historic district, The Cascades Project will pay homage to the area’s rich history. NAP will preserve and restore the architecturally and culturally significant Leon County Health Unit, as well as the Old City Waterworks building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. NAP will also create a community-envisioned historical plaza where the former Leon County Jail once stood, which served as the site of the nation’s first nonviolent jail-in during the Civil Rights Movement.
Preservation and Restoration of Former Leon County Health Unit
Built by the WPA in 1940, the Health Unit was the first of its kind in the state, where interracial staff provided services for residents, including many residents of the nearby Smokey Hollow neighborhood, one of the city’s most important African American enclaves. Beyond symbolizing a new progressive influence on public health, the building’s architecture reflects the Art Moderne style, a style that is nearly extinct from the fabric of Tallahassee.
Preservation and Restoration of Old City Waterworks
Established in 1890 by Philadelphia-based American Pipe and Manufacturing Company, the Waterworks building served as the city’s first municipally owned water system. According to its National Register nomination, the building is “significant as the remnant of ‘modern’ civil engineering improvements implemented in Tallahassee during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It is a visible symbol of the concern and sense of civic responsibility exhibited by many municipal governments of that period.”
The restoration of this structure will complete Tallahassee’s Four Corners of History, which meet at the intersection of East Gaines and South Gadsden Streets and include the Waterworks building, the Historic Caroline Brevard Grammar School, the former County Health Unit and a future community-envisioned historical plaza commemorating the important events of the Civil Rights Movement.
New Historical Plaza and Civil Rights Memorial
In acknowledgement of the area’s historical significance, NAP formed a Community Historical User Group comprised of educators, preservationists, civil rights activists and community leaders to explore the history of the site and cast a vision for honoring the stories and events that occurred there. The group invited the public to participate in a community brainstorming session to discuss possibilities for outdoor memorials, monuments and educational exhibits that could be placed within a new historical plaza. The group also collected ideas from local residents via email throughout the summer of 2017.
As a result, the Community Historical User Group and NAP prepared a narrative design criteria specifying what should be displayed in the public plaza. This document will serve as a guide for the designers that ultimately bring the plaza to life.
The group’s top priority is to commemorate the site of the nation’s first nonviolent jail-in at the former Leon County Jail during the Civil Rights Movement. Prominent Civil Rights leader Patricia Stephens Due and other activists were held at the jail for a time following their involvement at the Woolworth sit-ins. It was during her incarceration that Due penned the famous “Letter from a Leon County Jail” that inspired a personal response from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The jail, which previously occupied the development site, later underwent extensive modifications by the state to turn it into an office building. Because these and other renovations essentially stripped the structure of its physical history, the building was removed. However a Civil Rights Memorial will be constructed to ensure that its stories will live on in perpetuity.
7. What makes this location a good choice for this development?
This smart-growth project represents the next step in a deliberate, decades-long plan to create an invaluable public amenity in Cascades Park that would attract private development to the surrounding areas, thereby encouraging urban infill, spurring economic development, and accommodating our growing population. An early concept drawing completed in 2008 by the City of Tallahassee can be viewed here.
Urban infill efforts like this one offer a responsible way for cities to protect more of their natural resources while accommodating a growing population without pushing development further out in the suburbs or other outlying areas. According to the city’s planning department, if this 5-acre development were built in a more suburban area, it would impact roughly 195 acres of greenspace.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports this approach, writing in a 2014 report:
“Smart growth development projects are compact and walkable, offer a mix of uses, and create a sense of place. Such projects on infill sites have environmental benefits because they can reduce development pressure on outlying areas, helping to safeguard lands that serve important ecological functions; can reduce the amount that people drive, improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and can lead to the cleanup and reuse of formerly economically viable but now abandoned sites, including those contaminated with hazardous substances.”
In addition to this and other urban infill initiatives, the City of Tallahassee is working to continue increasing tree cover in the community – which has expanded significantly since 1950 – by planting the right trees in the right locations. As part of that effort, they are spearheading the development of an Urban Forest Master Plan and have invited residents to participate in that process.
To that end, NAP has created a landscaping plan for the Cascades Project that establishes the street canopy surrounding the property and includes the replacement of trees that were removed from the site to achieve density requirements. The company will also pay into the city’s “tree bank,” which funds tree planting throughout the city.
8. Will the landmark live oak tree on the northeast corner of the site be preserved?
Yes. NAP is committed to preserving the large live oak tree on the northeast corner of the property as required by the CRA. The development team worked closely with an arborist to create a protection plan that ensures the tree will be fully protected during construction. In addition, the tree at the corner of Gaines and Calhoun which was originally slated to be removed will now remain as the centerpiece to an urban pocket park.
9. Will the fountain (“splash pad”) or the adjacent public restroom facilities be affected by the project?
The city has asked NAP to consider making repairs and enhancements to the fountain (splash pad), specifically concerning the pumps and electrical wiring. The details of that request are still being explored. NAP recognizes the importance and popularity of this fountain – especially to families with young children – and wants to ensure it continues to be a fun feature at Cascades Park.
There has been some discussion of potential modifications to the building adjacent to the splash pad that houses the public restrooms and city office space, though no final decisions have been made. At a minimum, new public restrooms will be added to the area to support the fountain, the park and the new development.
Please subscribe for updates at the bottom of this page to remain informed on this and other aspects of the project.
10. What kind of housing will be offered at the new development?
The residential component of the project will appeal to people who desire to live year-round in quality, modern housing at the heart of Tallahassee’s newest hub of entertainment, arts and culture. Housing options will likely include market rate apartments, flats and/or townhouses for rent, along with a handful of condominium units – all offering stellar views of either the park or downtown.
11. How do we know these residences won’t end up vacant for most of the year, like some other residential buildings downtown?
NAP holds extensive experience developing successful mixed-use projects on public parks and fully understands the symbiotic relationship that must exist between the park and the development, with each spurring activity in the other. The goal of this project is to breathe life into Cascades Park and the downtown area, making them hubs of economic activity, growth and overall vitality. NAP is committed to working with the City of Tallahassee to increase the number and types of events held at the park and at the new development. NAP is also considering strategies to limit seasonal residents.
12. What type of businesses will be located there?
The development will offer an eclectic mix of retail shops, restaurants and office space, as well as food truck vendor support, pop-up retail and family-friendly recreation and play spaces.
Additionally, agreements were recently signed to bring the region’s first Marriott International AC Hotels brand to Downtown Tallahassee. AC Hotels caters to the next generation, design-conscious business traveler and blends sophisticated European style with a distinctly modern feel. Plans for the seven-story, 154-room hotel boast more than 5,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space as well as a rooftop bar and observation deck overlooking the park. The European-inspired AC Lobby will feature high ceilings and an open staircase leading up to the AC Lounge, which will serve craft beers, signature cocktails and tapas-style small bites to both guests and locals. Stylish yet efficient guest rooms, sleek furnishings, ambient lighting and hardwood floors will offer guests a tranquil retreat at the core of a local hot spot.
13. Will the new development contain arts and cultural components?
In addition to the hospitality and retail opportunities available, the development will honor Tallahassee’s commitment to the arts by expanding the entertainment and cultural functions of Cascades Park through a designated amphitheater support space. Discussions with local government regarding this space are currently underway.
If you represent a local arts organization and have questions or ideas about how your organization might be involved with this development, please contact the Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency at 850-891-8357.
14. Where will people park once the development is completed?
The current site plan calls for approximately 1,000 parking spaces. These spaces will exist both underground and in a garage that will be concealed on three sides by the exterior of the development.
15. What will the development look like, and how tall will the buildings be?
The design draws from the surrounding downtown buildings, historical structures and the nearby Edison restaurant to create a compatible but distinct character unique to the Cascades District, with special attention paid to street-level character. High-quality exterior materials reflect a sense of permanence and respect the civic pride for Cascades Park. The buildings, aligned along an open corridor connecting downtown Tallahassee and Cascades Park, offer ample space for outdoor dining, retail displays, and picturesque landscaping, lighting and water features – all of which will contribute to a dynamic pedestrian experience.
The largest buildings are divided into different masses to temper the overall scale of the development and stimulate visual interest. The corner towers, with their subtle variations, stand as beacons of light to celebrate the gateway between the city and the park. Multiple building heights are used in the design plan to account for the topographical context of the project site. In the current project design, the town homes are four stories, the former WPA Health Unit that will be preserved is two stories tall while the hotel is seven stories tall and the office building (consisting of a restaurant on the ground floor, the amphitheater support space on the second floor and four stories of offices above) is six stories tall. The highest portion of the residential building is eight stories but will taper at the ends.
Regular and harmonious repetition of architectural elements create a rhythm along the streets and park edges, with elegant patterns of light filtering through the glass at night. Charming balconies along office, residential, and public spaces promote enjoyment of the active park and reinforce a sense of safety for pedestrians with “eyes on the street.”
The architectural renderings for the project can be viewed below. These renderings are not final, and the design may evolve over the next few months as NAP works to make this development something everyone can be proud of. As NAP movies through this process, its representatives will continue to meet with and gather input from local government and other stakeholders before presenting final designs. Any design put forward will adhere to the Gaines Street Urban Design Guidelines established by the City of Tallahassee and must be approved by local government.
If you would like to be notified as the design process progresses, please subscribe for project updates at the bottom of this page.
16. What will happen to the Old Waterworks building across the street?
In December 2017, North American Properties (NAP) responded to an RFP released by the City of Tallahassee for the sale of the city-owned Waterworks buildings located at East Gaines and South Gadsden Streets. In March 2018, the City Commission voted to issue and execute a Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) that enables North American Properties to purchase, preserve and restore these historic structures for the public to enjoy.
Prior to submitting a response, NAP representatives met with the executive director of the Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation to discuss the possibilities for refurbishing the buildings, which are included on both the National and Local Registers of Historic Places. Because the Waterworks buildings are listed on the Local Register, the Tallahassee Trust holds review and approval rights over their redevelopment.
In addition to the feedback received from the Tallahassee Trust, NAP’s proposal also took into account a report previously submitted by Tallahassee’s Knight Creative Communities Institute (KCCI), which evaluated and recommended specific uses for the space according to the most viable ideas submitted by area residents.
NAP’s proposal intends to preserve and restore the buildings on the site to active use, potentially as a brewery/distillery. However, additional due diligence will be required before determining the final use and a firm direction on the design.
The restoration of the Waterworks buildings will complete Tallahassee’s “four corners of history” at the intersection of Gaines and Gadsden Streets. The four corners include: The Old City Waterworks, the Historic Caroline Brevard Grammar School, the Former County Health Unit, which NAP will preserve and repurpose as part of The Cascades Project, and a new community-envisioned historical plaza commemorating the important events of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.
Ultimately, the adaptive reuse of the Waterworks buildings will complement the plans for the redevelopment of the Firestone and Bloxham Annex properties and further contribute to the establishment of a vibrant, 18-hour downtown.
To receive updates on the progress of the Waterworks redevelopment and the Cascades Project as a whole, please subscribe for updates at the bottom of this page.
17. Was public input incorporated into the final vision for the project?
Yes, between 2016 and 2018, many residents participated in a variety of public meetings related to the project. After receiving input from both local government and the community, the project is moving forward in accordance with the Gaines Street Urban Design Guidelines established by the City of Tallahassee.
18. Will the area be safe for pedestrians and bicyclists?
The development will improve the walkability of the area with pedestrian friendly pathways and support for multi-modal transportation that will connect the development to downtown. Bicyclists will enjoy connection to Tallahassee’s extensive bicycle paths. Additionally, residents will have the opportunity to walk or ride their bikes to work at downtown offices.
19. How was the developer selected?
The Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the sale and redevelopment of the Firestone and Bloxham Annex properties in February 2016. After receiving no responses, the CRA re-issued the RFP in August 2016. North American Properties was the only respondent to the second RFP and was invited to present their proposal to the RFP selection committee for evaluation in December 2016, and eventually to the CRA Board for a vote in January 2017. After nearly a year of multiple reviews and approvals from local government and community input, the project was approved by the CRA Board in September 2017.
20. Who is North American Properties?
Founded in 1954, North American Properties (NAP) is a privately-held, multi-regional real estate operating company that has acquired, developed and managed retail, multifamily, mixed-use and office properties across the U.S. The company also holds extensive experience developing successful mixed-use projects surrounding public parks, including the Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta and Centennial Park in Nashville.
NAP makes it a priority to become part of the communities in which it operates by employing local residents, consultants and contractors, and by supporting local causes. With a full-time staff working out of its Tallahassee-based office, NAP has invested more than $150 million in large-scale, mixed-use developments in Tallahassee since 2013, specifically in the Gaines Street District. These projects have collectively created more than 800 construction jobs and nearly 200 permanent ongoing jobs, with a total annual economic impact of more than $17 million. Most recently, the company relocated Tallahassee-based J.H. Dowling Construction Materials from their office on Madison Street to a more efficient facility on Jackson Bluff Road through adaptive reuse of two vacant buildings. The relocation enabled the 70-year-old, family-owned company to remain in business and expand its local presence.
For more information about NAP, visit www.naproperties.com.