Tallahassee City Commission agrees to sell historic Waterworks buildings to North American Properties
KCCI Tallahassee produced a video in 2016 on redevelopment opportunity within the Waterworks property.
For at least 21 years, Tallahassee civic leaders and preservationists have tried to find someone willing to restore the historic Waterworks buildings to return the architecturally distinct complex to productive use.
They finally found that entity in North American Properties— the same Cincinnati, Ohio-based developer behind the $150 million Cascades complex that will go up on the Firestone/Bloxham properties across the way on Gaines Street.
体育在线365The City Commission unanimously agreed to sell the Old City Waterworks to North American Properties for $408,000 Wednesday, eight months after telling staff to send out an invite for private companies to bid on the site “as-is” with the floor set at $370,000 — or about $100,000 less than the taxable value listed by the Leon County Property Appraiser.
NAP was the only company to make an offer.
“I am appreciative of the fact that someone did step up and offer,” Commissioner Nancy Miller said. “Attempts to sell it in the past came to nothing. I am really glad there is a buyer and appreciate the sensitivity you have shown.”
Commissioner Gil Ziffer said he remembered coming before the commission as a citizen about 12 years ago to get funding to restore part of the Waterworks building to prevent it from its downhill slide.
“Part of that conversation was what we envisioned that structure could become, which is exactly what has been brought to us,” Ziffer said. “I wholeheartedly support it. These plans are what we want in the downtown area and I look forward to becoming one of your first customers.”
体育在线365Mike Pate, a consultant for the Knight Creative Communities Institute, said that when he moved back to Tallahassee 21 years ago "one of the conversations that was going on was about the Waterworks building."
But none of the talked about proposals ever came to fruition.
Two years ago, KCCI began Reimagine Waterworks with a goal to restore the main building to its highest and best use. The city voted to put a historic overlay over the buildings and authorized a request for proposals "that incorporated some of our project team's recommendations," Pate said.
体育在线365KCCI recommended in 2016 that it be converted into a performance space or distillery, and ruled out a restaurant or museum because of space limitations.
NAP plans to turn the round, windowless cistern into a performance space, with a steel or translucent roof replacing the original. The main building would contain a bar or restaurant with a distillery or brewery.
The developer expects it will be completed around the same time as the larger Cascades Complex in 2020.
“The Waterworks building is beautiful and unique, and represents a period of growth and modernity,” said Melissa Stoller, executive director of the Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation. “We want to see it preserved and have a useful life.”
体育在线365The property is in the city’s historic overlay, which gives city leaders regulatory control over the final design for the buildings, Stoller said.
“The architectural review board has a say in what is built going forward,” she said. “I know many people are skeptical now but I support the sale.”
体育在线365Tallahassee native Sarah Bardolph, who helped procure state grants to restore the Monticello Opera House, is one of those skeptics.
“Respectfully, North American Properties and the Community Redevelopment Agency have already proved to be terrible stewards of the city’s history,” Bardolph said, noting the recent demolition of the Firestone building that once housed the county jail.
NAP appointed a citizens committee to discuss ways to preserve the history of the Firestone and Bloxham buildings and their significance to the Civil Rights movement. But instead of saving a part of the jail, the developer is demolishing it and replacing it with a memorial plaza.
The developer is saving the Leon County Health Unit, which Bardolph said was the least interesting of all the Art Moderne buildings on the site.
“Why are we allowing this developer based out of Ohio to decide what our city should look like?” Bardolph asked. “Their vision is the same in every city they work.”
Contact Schweers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.