By Ava Jowers
What was once several city blocks of warehouses and empty lots is now one of the most popular destinations for college students and young professionals in Tallahassee. The story of how this older section of the city transitioned into a premier urban location is complex but instructive for understanding contemporary urban redevelopment.
The development of CollegeTown started with the revitalization of the Gaines Street corridor. Gaines Street is a major road connecting Florida State University, Downtown Tallahassee, and Florida A&M University. In February 2001, the Gaines Street Revitalization Plan was completed, beginning the transformation into a pedestrian-friendly area with the capacity for retail and restaurant spaces, providing new opportunities for economic growth. The Florida State Seminole Boosters used the revitalization as a platform to further develop the surrounding area and started planning what is known today as CollegeTown.
The CollegeTown area was initially envisioned by developers as a place where students and alumni could come together. CollegeTown does precisely this by providing a wide range of amenities and making it a favorable place for students to live, eat, and play. Within walking distance from FSU’s campus and a short drive to FAMU, CollegeTown’s location is its most sought-after amenity.
Other appealing features are the area’s walkability and access for busy football game days. One popular event in CollegeTown is the FSU’s Friday Night Tailgates before Saturday home football games. Additional amenities include the area’s array of restaurants, shops, and nightlife, such as Madison Social, Urban Outfitters, and Township. CollegeTown also has a unique aesthetic within the Tallahassee region, including art installations like “Declaration” by Kenn Von Roenn, an alumni of FSU who specializes in creating public art.
Since CollegeTown’s completion in 2013, property values have skyrocketed. In the years prior to the development, combined warehouse property values in the area were all less than $1 million, but those numbers are much higher now. According to the Florida Department of Revenue, the value of the land that houses popular restaurant Madison Social, is around $1.8 Million. The Catalyst Apartment building is worth about $32 Million, and the building that holds Urban Outfitters is just over $1.8 Million. The total value of all parcels in the CollegeTown area in 2006 was $489,817,987. In 2019, the value of the parcels almost doubled to be worth $861,579,994.
The development also makes great use of space by incorporating a variety of mixed-use buildings. Property owners use these buildings to their advantage with three different phases of “CollegeTown Apartments” above commercial spaces for restaurants and shops. Mixed-use buildings help provide different income streams for investors with the ability to collect commercial and residential rent. That said, mixed-use buildings also increase property value. Rising property values are indicators of how much the area has benefited economically over the years since adding multiple amenities. CollegeTown has made a sizable return on investment for the parties involved in its development.
CollegeTown has had great success socially, economically, and aesthetically for the city of Tallahassee. However, the incorporation of a few additional elements could improve it as a destination for families, students, and alumni. The introduction of a park would accentuate the walkability of the area while creating visual appeal and a pet-friendly area for residents. This addition could increase the property value of surrounding buildings and apartment rental prices.
Another suggestion for improving the area is renting retail space to brands that have a large following in the college student demographic, such as Lululemon or Sephora. This would complement the local boutiques that are already present and add more demand to the retail market for college students. These improvements could further increase community engagement and make CollegeTown a go-to destination for anyone visiting Tallahassee.
Department of Revenue Property Appraisal Data: Florida Dept. of Revenue – Property Tax – Data Portal – Request Assessment Roll and GIS Data
Featured Image by CollegeTown
Tallahassee-Leon County GIS. Land Information Map: Land Information Map