Brien’s Blog

Segregated Tallahassee

Brien R. Sörne
August 23, 2021

There is a stirring in Tallahassee. It began many years ago. It is a stirring of thought, and of intention. Some of it is by design, and I think some of it is by default or inevitability. The design portion has come by way of enterprising entrepreneurs, public officials, and community planners. The rest of it is the result of in-migration.

People have come to Tallahassee for opportunities in education and have stayed. Others have come looking for a more relaxed lifestyle, while others have retreated to Tallahassee after having been forced out of other communities by disasters of one kind or another, like hurricanes, forest fires, and floods.

Like the change that such natural disasters bring to any landscape, the shifting demographic changes in this part of the world are challenging old economic systems and the underlying mindset that has dominated the region for generations. Of late, the established status quo that supports this old thinking has met such challenges with various kinds of reactions, responses, and resistance that are not altogether unpredictable. There have been the modest accommodations that many people consider tokenism, along with a flurry of public meetings concerned with economic development, affordable housing, race relations, land development, and the use of public funds. Of late, more harsh criticisms and public backlash from community leaders have helped to expose more clearly the degree of entrenchment that holds Tallahassee in check.

Six years ago to the day, Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander published Segregated City: The Geography of Economic Segregation in America’s Metros. Among its many revelations regarding economic, educational, residential segregation in Tallahassee and communities across the country came the revelation that Tallahassee topped the list among metros of comparable size. Local power brokers and their emissaries decried the validity of the research and one business leader was quoted in the local newspaper as saying that what was being described did not refer to the “real” Tallahassee.

While the old guard remains vigilant in protecting their domain, the relentless, emerging, evolving mentality of the new, more diverse Tallahassee continues to advance. Like the impact of insurmountable storms, fires, and floods, this collective push for a new paradigm is changing the social and cultural landscape and redefining how we go about finding opportunities for advancement and creating a more integrated Tallahassee.

Tallahassee’s New Day Dawning

Brien R. Sörne
July 23, 2015
Construction of a pedestrian bridge across S. Monroe Street at Cascades Park has begun.

Every day I talk with people across town, across the region, and across the country who say “something is happening in Tallahassee” or “Tallahassee is emerging and finding a new place in the world”. Talking with a group of businesspeople earlier this evening, I heard more of the same. Realtors, web developers, bankers, business owners… they all talked about the resurgence and the redefinition of Tallahassee’s cultural and economic landscape.
I agree and I think some of this is by design, some by desire, and some by disappointment. Many of us who have been pursuing business opportunities for a number of years have been disappointed and even discouraged by old rules and old concepts of how decisions are to be made and who is granted access to the decision-making process. Mostly, the decisions about how land is to be used, how funding is to be granted, how contracts are to be awarded, and whether businesses, universities, and municipalities can cooperate toward mutual gain have been reserved for a few conclaves of privileged individuals. In the last ten years, there has been a growing desire to change these rules and explore newer concepts of community and economic development. Organizations like KCCI, Leadership Tallahassee, Town & Gown, and NEBA have come online with fresh vision and resolve. The results have been remarkable.
Cascades Park and the revitalization of Gaines Street and the All Saints District are examples of designed rediscovery and redefinition. The development of these common access areas speaks to the valuing of our community-at-large rather than gated communities for a few. Likewise, the design of the Tallahassee Music Week, Tally Fiesta, the Tallahassee Sand Festival, and Word of South Festival underscore our cultural common ground over the interests of a private organization like Spring Time Tallahassee. A new day is here and ready for each of us to consider how we will live it. Carpe Diem.

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