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Elements of Urbanism: Tallahassee

A brief tour around the downtown of Florida's capital city: Tallahassee.

Published November 14, 2008 in Learning From      24 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


 Tale of the Tape:

Tallahassee Population 2007: 168,979 (City); 352,319 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1824)

Jacksonville Pop. 2007: 805,605 (City); 1,300,823 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Tallahassee (27,237)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2007)

Tallahassee: +10.00%
Jacksonville: +15.86%


Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Tallahassee: 204,260 (ranked 148 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)


Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Tallahassee: 1,793.7
Jacksonville: 2,149.2


City Population Growth from 2000 to 2007

Tallahassee: +16,694
Jacksonville: +69,988


Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center (1980) - 35,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet


Tallest Building:

Florida State Capitol - 322 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Downtown-Based Fortune 500 companies:

Tallahassee: zero (0)
Jacksonville: CSX (261), Fidelity National Financial (435), Fidelity National Information Services (481)


Urban infill obstacles:

Tallahassee: Downtown is split by two major roadways, W. Tennessee Street and W. Gaines Street.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Tallahassee:  The Tennessee Strip, the Gaines Street corridor and Midtown Tallahassee.
Jacksonville: East Bay Street, located between Main Street and Liberty Street.  This four block stretch is home to four bars and clubs.


Common Downtown Albatross:

Several blocks of major office buildings that turn their back to the street.


Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Tallahassee: 91 out of 100, according to
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to


Downtown Tallahassee Photo Tour


Tallahassee was named Florida's capital in 1824 because of its central location between Florida's then-largest cities, St. Augustine and Pensacola.  The "New Classicism" Capitol complex design, which includes a 22-story office building, was a joint venture of Reynolds, Smith and Hills of Jacksonville and Edward Durell Stone of New York.


As visitors to and residents of Tallahassee have noticed over the years, from a direct view from the front, the new capitol building looks somewhat phallic, an impression aided by the delicate placement of the domed wings on either side of the base as it looms over the old capitol building. All official photos seem to be taken from the South West or North West as it gives the best view of the building while de-emphasizing its masculine qualities. Local legend has it, when the newer road, Apalachee Parkway,was built leading to the front of the capitol building it was designed to prevent viewers from finding a good spot to view this edifice head on. From the only places you could see it, large trees have been planted to prevent the view. This architectural edifice has been the brunt of jokes for years, including the sale of boxer shorts with the silhouette of the building silk screened over the fly under the brand name "legislative briefs."










Kleman Plaza

Kleman Plaza is an important civic space in the heart of downtown that links the commercial core, the State Capitol, the Civic Center and City Hall.  Constructed on the top of a 1,022 space underground parking garage, the Plaza includes green space, an amphitheater, fountains, museums, an IMAX theater, office, residential and retail spaces.

The Kleman Plaza Master Plan document is a good resource for planning how to properly integrate urban public spaces with their surroundings.


The Gaines Street Corridor & All Saints Neighborhood

Gaines Street sits between the campuses of Florida State and Florida A&M University, running parallel to the railroad tracks.  For a number of years it thrived as Tallahassee's major industrial area.

The All Saints neighborhood lies between Gaines Street and the railroad tracks.  In the early 20th century it also thrived as an industrial district.  Today, its becoming a district with upscale condos and live-work lofts.  The city's vision for these adjoining districts is to see them transform into a sustainable pedestrian friendly urban atmosphere.






Unique Tallahassee

- The name "Tallahassee" is a Muskogean Indian word often translated as "old fields".

- Tallahassee was the only Confederate state capital east of the Mississippi not captured by Union forces.

- Until World War II, Tallahassee remained a small southern town, with virtually the entire population living within a mile of the Capitol.

- Recognized by Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine in 2007, as one of the "Top Ten College Towns for Grownups" (ranking second, behind Chapel Hill, North Carolina)

- Since 1968, Leon County residents have voted four times against consolidating the city and county.  In 1992, consolidation was defeated 60.2% - 39.8%.

- During the 1960s and 1970s Florida State University became a center for student activism especially in the areas of racial integration, women's rights and opposition to the Vietnam War. The school acquired the nickname 'Berkeley of the South'[36] during this period, in reference to similar student activities at the University of California, Berkeley and is also purported to be the site of the genesis of "streaking," which is said to have first been observed on Landis Green.

- The Capitol is usually referred to as a twenty-two story building. However, there are three underground floors, and no sixth floor (edit: There is a sixth floor, its just not accessible by elevator).


Florida State University

FSU is one of two flagship universities in the State University System of Florida.  Originally known as the Tallahassee Female Academy, FSU's campus is the oldest continually used location of higher learning in Florida.  Before allowing male students, the Florida State College for Women had grown to be the third largest women's college in the United States. 

Today, Florida State University aspires to become a top American research university with at least one-third of its graduate programs ranked in the Top-15 nationally.  Well known FSU alumni include Gov. Charlie Crist, Burt Reynolds, Texas Longhorn coach Mack Brown and Sen. Mel Martinez.


The neighborhoods surrounding Florida State feature a mix of uses that cater to FSU's 1,500 acre urban campus, its faculty and students.


The Tennessee Strip is home to several bars, night clubs and restaurants that area heavily supported by the city's college student population.




Florida Agricultral and Mechanical University

Also known as FAMU, Florida A&M University was established in 1887 as an institution of higher education for the State's black community.  With 12,792 students, Florida A&M has become a perennial leader in the recruitment of National Achievement Scholars.  The FAMU Marching 100 band is well known nationally and has been credited with 30 innovative techniques that have become standard operating procedures for many high school and collegiate marching band programs.



FAMU School of Architecture (SOA)

In 1973 the State University System completed A Study of Florida's Future Need for Architects. It concluded that the state would need more than twice the number of professional architects the two schools then existing in Florida could produce. Since the Board of Regents (BOR) had no control over the private University of Miami and the program at the University of Florida was considered too large to expand further, a new school of architecture at one of the other eight universities was proposed.

At the same time, the 1974 version of Florida's Plan for Equalizing Educational Opportunity in Public Higher Education was completed. This document, along with the Federal Equalizing Educational Plan of 1974, called for increasing the number of black students in the eight state universities which were traditionally white schools and for increasing the number of non-black students at the traditionally black Florida A&M University. The establishment of a professional school that historically attracts very few other-than-white males provided a solution to both the desegregation of FAMU and the need to educate more architects to practice in the state. Consequently, the School of Architecture (SOA) at Florida A&M University (FAMU) was opened in September 1975 under the leadership of Dean Richard Chalmers from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

This building became the second home of Your's Truly, during my five year stay in Tallahassee.


Article by Ennis Davis



November 14, 2008, 07:42:49 AM
Imagine if UNF was closer to the urban core.  :'(


November 14, 2008, 08:03:49 AM
Brings back so many memories! Glad to see some good infill developments taking place around Downtown and FSU.


November 14, 2008, 09:12:03 AM
I've never been to Tally, but have heard good things about it's DT, particularly in regards to how it handles parking.   It looks very clean and well-kempt in the pictures too. 


November 14, 2008, 09:41:54 AM
Finally, My Article is Posted......


November 14, 2008, 09:50:24 AM
The multilevel garage under Kleman Plaza is the city's main centralized parking structure.  if I remember correctly, the first 30 minutes or so are free.  Although small in comparison to a major city, Tallahassee's downtown is pretty easy to get in and out.  The negative is one would expect a higher concentration of bars and restaurants with two universities nearby.


November 14, 2008, 10:24:17 AM
there is a lot of really good things happening in Tallahassee....and more urban infill will be promoted under the new Multimodal Transportation District regulations, which are expected to go into effect in early 2009.


November 14, 2008, 10:34:33 AM
The writer of the article simply didnt know about the bars in downtown.


November 14, 2008, 10:35:33 AM
There are lots.... There is Harry's The New Mint Lounge and 101 Restaurant. Paradigm...

Etc.. tons of restaurants with more coming.


November 14, 2008, 10:43:52 AM
Great information presented here. I enjoy reading these Elements of Urbanism produced by MetroJacksonville.

I noticed there were a few blanks in the report that I could perhaps help to fill.

Tallahassee's Convention Center: (Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center), was completed in 1980.

Urban infill obstacles: Downtown Tallahassee is split by two major roadways, W. Tennessee St. to the north, and W. Gaines Street (historically a thriving industrial district, now the focus of a major revitalization effort) to the South. Also, the abundance of many mature (100+ year old) oak trees scattered throughout the central core of Tallahassee limit development opportunities.

Nightlife: What is often referred to as the Tennessee Strip in Tallahassee is home to several bars, and night clubs heavily supported by the college student population in Tallahassee. Gaines Street has an emerging arts district composed of bars, pool halls, art galleries, and a collection of small, locally owned eateries. Just north of Downtown, in Midtown Tallahassee is another emerging hotspot attracting young professionals to socialize at a new winery, coffee shops, and a collection of restaurants serving up and international cuisine. Kleman Plaza in the heart of downtown promises to become a thriving center of activity now boasting a very popular Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille, Hometown Coffee House, an Urban Chic Restaurant (One O One Restaurant) and an upscale Mint Lounge. As you can see in one of the images included in this piece, there is also an IMAX theater on the plaza downtown which reliably features nighttime showings of box office favorites. Despite these offerings, nightlife continues to be an area we're looking to improve in Tallahassee.

Contrary to popular belief, there is a 6th floor at the Florida Capitol, it is simply not accessible by elevator.

Once again, great piece on Tallahassee! Perhaps one day UrbanTallahassee will be able to visit and do similar coverage on Jacksonville.


November 14, 2008, 10:48:58 AM
A while back there was a plan to build a highrise Marriott hotel at the Civic Center.  Is this still planned or has this project died?


November 14, 2008, 10:58:04 AM
No its dead, the marriot at the civic center has been stuck in constant court and litigation for years, its canned.


November 14, 2008, 10:58:44 AM
Lakelander, Care to fill in the gaps with the Info Taurean provided in your article?


November 14, 2008, 11:00:36 AM
As Taurean Stated, Everyone is invited to head over to to check out our site, which is dedicated to Tallahassee


November 14, 2008, 11:20:33 AM
Its updated.  Btw, I'm very impressed with the infill development taking place in the All Saints neighborhood.  I think it can set the tone for the quality of development that will eventually rise throughout the Gaines Street corridor.


November 14, 2008, 11:33:14 AM
That Marriott Project is dead. The Civic Center Authority continues to look for a way to get out of the arrangement they entered into with the developer of the now dead Marriott Convention Center project without the penalty of defaulting on the contract.

Meanwhile, the City of Tallahassee is preparing an RFP process for another convention center which they hope to see built on a lot just south of the Civic Center, with frontage along Gaines St. If all goes as planned, this future hotel will be bordered by the Civic Center to the North, and the Performing Arts Center to the east.


November 14, 2008, 11:39:24 AM
How large will this proposed convention center be?  Will it require the demolition of the shops on Gaines just east of Railroad Avenue?


November 14, 2008, 01:40:13 PM
I'm glad that Tally ain't "messin up" their city with that STUPID beach art-deco crap that unfortunately Jax currently have DT; Tally is settin' the standards on how a Northern Florida city should look, and it's NOT following behind 305's crap. Great tour; I gotta check out Tally one of these days; Hopefully on a "dream scenario" lotto run.__ :)


November 14, 2008, 01:43:55 PM
As someone who grew up in Tallahassee and went to FSU, I have to clarify a few things.

1) Apalachee Pkwy. was not designed to hide the "issues with the current capitol building. Apalachee Pkwy. was constructed in 1957/58, long before the new capitol was built. Here is a look from 1962:[Capitol%20building%20from%20Apalachee%20Parkway%20:%20Tallahassee,%20Florida]%20[graphic]&IMGTITLE=Dot1176 Here is what it looked like before Apalachee was built in 1953, when it was Lafayette St./Perry Hwy that approached the capitol:[Looking%20west%20on%20Perry%20Highway%20toward%20the%20capitol%20:%20Tallahassee,%20Florida%20]%20[graphic]&IMGTITLE=SL03063A

2) Gaines Street has never really been an obstacle cutting off downtown from anything. It use to be a two lane road back in the 50's with parallel parking on it. They took out the parallel spaces and added two more travel lanes in the 60's because of increased traffic volume. I worked at the Department of Education building right on Gaines and Bronough and it is not difficult to cross the street. Gaines Street is the focus of revitalization efforts which want to reduce the capacity of the road to two lanes with angled parking and make it a shopping and nightlife destination potentially similar to what you guys in Jax see with San Marco or Five Points.

Some other historical tidbits:

-The route of I-10 was originally slated to go down the current path of Gaines St. through downtown and was dubbed the Seminole Exwy. The university along with some downtown land owners pitched a fit about it. Land was eventually donated north of town near Killearn, which is where the current route exists.

-Leon County Public Schools were not integrated until 1970.

-The city will always be somewhat limited on what they can construct downtown due to Leon County Codes. The county has a code which say that no building in the county may be taller than the capitol building. This obviously restricts what can be built downtown. The county also loses a lot of tax revenue from downtown because of the state office buildings which they are not allowed to collect property taxes on.

As far as the consolidation votes, typically the reason they have failed has to do with the function of law enforcement. The last consolidation effort would have gotten rid of the sheriff's office and made TPD in charge of enforcing the whole county. This was not a popular move, because the sheriff's office has always been viewed more favorably by residents, due to their professionalism and courtesy, something TPD often lacks. If you ever dealt with both, you would probably agree. However, the police department is unionized, which makes it difficult to get rid of since the LCSO is not.

Tallahassee has made great strides in downtown, but has problems similar to other areas. Downtown is not really a sustainable place to live as of yet. One still has to get in a car and leave downtown if they wish to buy groceries or shop. There are a few bars downtown, but nightlife is for the most part limited.

Let me know if you guys have any additional questions and I will be happy to answer them. I am pretty well versed on the history of Tally.


November 15, 2008, 03:37:53 AM
So which is the true "Berkeley of the South?" It can't be both Nole and Gator country...

If we're talkin football, FSU can be Berkeley and we'll (UF) be USC  ;D


November 18, 2008, 09:57:31 PM
Check out the new


November 28, 2009, 08:44:12 AM
Forgot about Railroad Square.


November 28, 2009, 09:23:10 AM
I checked out the website and really love the projects section.  It is a quick and easy way to see what is currently happening in the city.  I've never been to Tallahasee, but seeing the projects underway creates a positive image of the city as a whole. 

This might be something we want to do on MetroJacksonville as it would be an easier way to view whats currently being constructed or renovated in the urban core.  A map similar to what has would also be a good idea to show projects in development.  They only focus on the big projects though, not the small businesses or smaller residential developments.  I think the smaller projects need to be included as well.


November 28, 2009, 02:17:27 PM
Imagine if UNF was closer to the urban core.  :'(
Am I wrong to suggest that UNF is a campus built around the automobile?


March 07, 2011, 09:06:44 PM
Those pictures taken inside the SOA were taken while I was there. Specifically the two maps of San Francisco was the project my studio was working on at the time. In fact, I think I might have been the one that scaled and printed those maps for everybody else.
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