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HGS Leads ULI Advisory Panel Examining Tallahassee’s Troubled South City Neighborhood

Posted Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Hopping Green & Sams (HGS) lawyers David Powell and Jennifer Kilinski provided key leadership for an eight-member advisory panel of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) that recently conducted a two-day charrette on Tallahassee’s beleaguered South City neighborhood and delivered a broad range of recommendations to Mayor Andrew Gillum and the Tallahassee City Commission.

The multi-disciplinary ULI panel was commissioned by the City to review conditions in South City, a 273-acre neighborhood composed of two U.S. Census tracts with public health disparities that include chronic diseases, high incidence of low birth weight infants, high infant mortality, and other indicators of poor public health. Underlying conditions include a higher-than-average crime rate, many dilapidated properties, lack of sidewalks, code enforcement violations, and lack of access to healthy food. After the review, panel made recommendations based on ULI’s Build Healthy Places Initiative.

The panel was chaired by HGS shareholder and ULI member David Powell. Members included Dale Brill, principal of the Thinkspot consulting firm in Tallahassee; Russell Ervin, architect with Ervin Lovett & Miller of Jacksonville; Michael Frumkin, dean of the College of Health and Public Affairs at the University of Central Florida in Orlando; Christopher Jones, president of RDBG Consulting Group in Jacksonville; Paul Lewis, chief planning manager for the City of Orlando; Thomas Murphy, ULI’s senior resident fellow and a former mayor of Pittsburgh; and Wayne Reed, an engineer with R-A-M Professional Group in Jacksonville. All members served without compensation. The panel was organized by HGS lawyer Jennifer Kilinski and ULI North Florida Director Carolyn Clark of Jacksonville.

One key recommendation from the panel was to find ways to strengthen connections between the predominantly African-American South City neighborhood and adjacent Florida A & M University (FAMU). Recommendations included creating a pedestrian pathway from South City through the adjacent FAMU campus for a direct walking route to Bond Elementary School for South City youngsters, avoiding the need for them to cross busy arterial roads.

“The university is the key,” Murphy said. “Every city in America is trying to partner with their universities.”

Another key recommendation was to establish a “community school” like Evans Community School in Orlando and similar schools in other parts of the U.S. that bring together educational, public health, and community services under one roof. Such schools provide one-stop shopping for whole families that need easy access to a wide range of services and become a community hub. Evans school was created in 2012; academic performance has soared there from an F to a B school. The ULI panel identified under-utilized school facilities adjacent to the South City study area as a possible location.

Other recommendations to promote better health through greater physical activity and a healthy life-style included:

● Establishing a network of sidewalks throughout the South City neighborhood, with lighting and management of vegetation to discourage crime.

● Converting an old drainage ditch into a greenway with trails that would also connect South City to FAMU.

● Establishing a partnership with Tallahassee Community College to promote adult education opportunities and workforce development.

● In partnership with the Community Redevelopment Agency, seek opportunities to secure private investment along the Adams and Monroe Street corridors with emphasis on jobs for South City residents.

● Identify potential catalytic retail sites in South City, including under-utilized shopping centers and retail opportunities along the Adams and Monroe Street corridors.

● Promote access to financial incentives for expansion of existing businesses, such as new market tax credits, and work with local banks to direct capital investments to South City under the Community Reinvestment Act.

● Expand the just-created community garden and identify an appropriate location for a Farmer’s Market within South City to promote access to fresh fruits and vegetables with the City providing necessary capital improvements (pavilions, etc.).

● Have FAMU and Florida State University establish baseline health metrics for South City, identify healthy outcomes and conduct periodic health impact assessments to track performance.

The final report is due later this summer.

For additional information contact David Powell or Jennifer Kilinski.

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