cropped-IMG_3981.jpgFrenchtown Better Block | Tallahassee, Florida

A weekend demonstration of a walkable, livable Frenchtown

The Frenchtown Better Block project was community-based effort led by the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Department, in collaboration with national and local partners that culminated in a two-day community event on November 18th – 19th.  The project was located at the intersection of Old Bainbridge Road and Brevard Street, in the heart of the historic Frenchtown community.  The purpose of the event was to use community input to activate an underutilized space within the community, demonstrating the potential of the block through an interactive temporary charrette.  Working with FSU’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning, information was gathered from residents in Frenchtown to understand what they would like to see come to life on this block.  Based on the input from the neighborhood, we were able to achieve multiple block improvements supporting the vision of the community.  This included the creation of a bike lane on N. Macomb Street, from Carolina Street to Brevard Street; a placemaking mural on an existing concrete retaining wall; live music performances and an indoor theater for viewing the FAMU Vs. BCC Classic; construction of a greenhouse for use as an iGrow demonstration; an active market space with community vendors and pop-up shops; and the introduction of traffic calming strategies such as enhanced pedestrian crossings and a pedestrian island to promote non-vehicular mobility.

The Frenchtown Better Block Event was well attended by participants and community members, with an estimated 100 visitors on both Friday and Saturday.  The event was very well received by community members, who provided great feedback to staff about the benefits of the project on the community.  Some community members expressed interest in preserving some of the improvements of the Better Block project to become permanent enhancements.  Staff was also encouraged to hear from community members that the Frenchtown Better Block Event was one of the best Frenchtown community events they had participated in.  Many were interested in making this a recurring event, bringing the market space and live performances back for a bi-monthly community event.  Additional community feedback included appreciation for the diversity of participants and attendees that made for a meaningful celebration of community culture.

Moving forward, the Planning Department will initiate a formal method to obtain feedback from Frenchtown Better Block Event attendees.  This information will be used to identify what the community liked most about the event and identify block improvement priorities, allowing staff to explore the possibility of permanent improvements in the Frenchtown community.

One of the greatest outcomes of the Frenchtown Better Block Project and weekend event is the strengthened relationship between government and community members.  Planning staff sees this project as a great opportunity to develop and expand this relationship with continued momentum, supported by significantly positive media coverage on the project and community participation.  As we continue to work with the Frenchtown Community to empower and promote this type of community driven planning, this may be a model we should consider for other areas of our Capital Community!