When I first visited Tallahassee from the
plains of West Texas nearly 14 years ago, I
wondered what was really here, hiding
behind all these trees. My first trip down
Monroe Street from my hotel just north of
Interstate 10 did nothing to tip me off to all
the wonderful memories to come. I just saw
a hodgepodge of restaurants, hotels and
hopeful storefronts that anyone could see
off any other interstate exit in any other
Fast-forward to 2012 and not much has
altered Tallahassee’s first impression. The
exit itself has received a facelift, but there’
s still no signature greeting for visitors to
the capital city.
Gateway Tallahassee, an initiative of the
Knight Creative Communities Institute,
would like to change that. Our group is
working toward plans to transform the city’
s most heavily traveled entryway into a
welcoming corridor that clearly identifies
and brands Tallahassee. We hope it will be
the beginning of other well-defined
entrances on all sides of the city.
What is your vision for North Monroe?
Maybe you’d like to see more lighting,
better sidewalks? Perhaps you’d like to see some kind of “Welcome to Tallahassee”
structure? Or, possibly you’d like to see
businesses along that stretch of road
working together on this and other
We are seeking input, especially from those
working or living in that area, at a 6 p.m.
meeting, Tuesday at Candlewood Suites,
2815 Lakeshore Drive.
We do know that Tallahasseeans treasure
their city’s aesthetics. Half of citizens
polled for the 2010 Knight Soul of the
Community study gave the city’s parks and
outside settings a positive rating, a higher
percentage than other polled communities
ranging from Charlotte, N.C., to San Jose,
This love of the green spaces and trails
influences our emotional attachment to
where we live. For most people polled,
aesthetics was a stronger attachment driver
than social offerings such as a vibrant night
life. This matters, because the study also determined that those communities with the highest levels of emotional attachment
also had the highest rates of gross
domestic product growth.
For the volunteer team of KCCI catalysts
advocating a North Monroe transformation,
it’s also a matter of pride. As the
designated highway entrance leading to
Florida’s state Capitol, the nondescript
roadway reflects poorly on the entire
We have spent the past year doing a lot of
homework. We have met with city, county
and state planning officials and
commissioners to gather data. We have
gathered a list of potential funding sources
that already exist. We have canvassed the
area, talking to business owners and
managers. We have not, however, found a
go-to organization in that area of town. We
hope this meeting will be an opportunity to
get North Monroe advocates together.
Improvements happen when the people
affected support them. Consider the recent
transformation of Midtown into a thriving
destination for dining, shopping and
entertainment. Bolstered by efforts from a
revived merchants association and
supportive neighborhood organizations, the
city has devoted resources to improve
traffic safety and public spaces.
The Gateway Tallahassee team chose to
focus our efforts on the city’s North Monroe
entrance for a number of reasons,
• Visibility: More than 40,000 vehicles
travel Monroe between Interstate 10 and
John Knox Road on a work weekday. By
comparison, the traffic on Thomasville
Road between Interstate 10 and Woodgate
numbers about 28,000. North Monroe with
its wide median also offers great potential
for a landmark site.
• Stakeholders: Businesses and nearby
residents in the North Monroe area have a
vested interest in making the corridor more
aesthetically pleasing. There are more than
240 acres of commercial, retail or office
parcels in this area that have a combined
taxable value of more than $84 million.
• Pride: The North Monroe stretch is the
most direct way from Interstate 10 to the
Capitol. Our hope is to clearly identify to
travelers that they have arrived in the
capital city and showcase Tallahassee.
• The need for a starting place: We would
like to see something created on North
Monroe that could be replicated at other
Tallahassee entry points.
Making North Monroe Street a more
welcoming way into Tallahassee just makes
good sense. Every good hostess knows the
porch should always reflect the family i
nside, and the foyer should always be
spotless and ready for company. We think
it’s time to spruce up our front door.
We hope you will join us Tuesday and
participate in the North Monroe discussion.
You can find more information about our
efforts at http://kccitallahassee.