Catalyst Interview Series: Jay Revell

It’s no secret that Jay Revell is downtown’s biggest cheerleader – and for good reason! Since becoming director of the Downtown Improvement Authority, Tallahassee has seen explosive growth in its core. The Catalyst Interview Series continues with Revell’s take on KCCI.

KCCI: Tell me a little about your past involvement with KCCI.
Jay Revell: I stumbled upon KCCI at a Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce conference. I was so energized about wanting to make Tallahassee a better city that when I heard KCCI’s mission, I knew it was for me. I remember specifically I wrote a letter to each and every one of the KCCI board members asking them to give my application a second look because it meant so much to me. I got in with a great class of Catalysts on a project called Identify Tallahassee that aimed to make Midtown a better, more recognizable district. It set me on my career trajectory, for sure.

KCCI: Tell me a little about Identify Tallahassee’s mission.
JR: This was back in 2009—you’ve got no Gaines Street, no Cascades Park, Midtown was struggling to find its identity. We needed to start identifying what these places were going to be because we felt there was a lot of potential.

We brought the neighborhood residents together with business leaders to build a common vision. They both wanted to have a walkable, bike-able neighborhood with better connectivity. We formalized a committee and about three years later, the 5th Avenue Plaza was built as a symbolic connector between the Lafayette Park neighborhood and Midtown’s business hub, complete with gas lamps and other infrastructure improvements.

KCCI: How did your work with KCCI influence your work with the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority?
JR: I remember telling myself at the time, “if I could find a way to do this for a living, that would be incredible.” When I went back to graduate school, my thesis was on the subject of improving downtown – at around the same time, the DIA job became available. Had I not gone through KCCI, I would have never been prepared to do what I’m doing today.

KCCI: What developments can we expect in downtown soon?
JR: One popular movement nationally and here in Tallahassee is the rehabbing of older buildings. For example, the DoubleTree—a great hotel that’s been there forever—was in need of an update. The team behind Hotel Duval is turning it into a beautiful new hotel. The building where Po’boys used to be is also about to get a major overhaul. There’s a great project coming in on College Avenue with 600 beds called the Onyx as well as a lot of adaptive reuses on that same stretch. Near Cascades Park, two city blocks are ripe for redevelopment and it looks like they are going to go vertical with heavy housing and retail components. Not to mention the historic building in Cascades Park that will house The Edison restaurant in the future.

KCCI: What are some of your favorite spots in Tallahassee?
JR: I love Railroad Square; I’ve gotten to be a really big fan. I love browsing the galleries and with Proof opening it has become a really cool spot. If you haven’t been to Railroad Square on First Friday within the last year, you really need to—the brewery has put it on a whole new plane. The amphitheater at Cascades, too; I’ve got tickets to three of the upcoming shows. I also love seeing the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra at FSU’s Ruby Diamond Auditorium and hanging out at the downtown marketplace.

KCCI: Who should consider becoming a KCCI Community Catalyst?
JR: The most successful Catalysts are people who have a deliberate passion for Tallahassee. There’s a great portion of the population that really loves this town and I’m talking about the people who wake up every morning thinking, “what can I do to make my neighborhood better, what can I do to make my friends love Tallahassee more?” Those are the people that I think are in the right place when they sign up to be a Catalyst. If you really love Tallahassee and you’re looking for a platform that can help you make a difference, KCCI is for you.