The following begins the story of a group of young investors who came together and created a company aimed at transforming communities. They would name that company "Foremost" and their motto would be, "Build Things Better."
That's exactly what they have done with a former Exxon Station that has sat empty and abandoned at the corner of FAMU Way and Adams Street for more than a decade.
Built in 1963, the building contains 1,226 SF and is situated on a .320 acre site. The group paid $110,000 to purchase the property in 2015.
Foremost aimed to revive this gas station in an effort to bring new life to the core of Tallahassee. The question they had to answer was what does the community desire. On November 17, 2015 they invited people from all corners of the city to come out to an event and help answer this question.
UrbanTallahassee was in the room and we witnessed first-hand crowds of people jotting down ideas to transform the building into a bakery, an art gallery, a bar, a boutique, a salon and so forth.
The decision would be a tough call. And yet the acquisition of and improvements to the building itself are a testament to the ability of Foremost's leadership to forecast changes unfolding within the community and plan to contribute to them in a small, yet transformative way. Tactical Urbanism.
One thing has been clear from the start - this former auto-oriented building was about to shift its attention to people, not cars. After all, this is the trend for urbanizing communities.
The building has been dubbed "Happy Motoring" and its new spirit is created by the relationship forged in partnership between Foremost and the owners of Madison Social, For The Table Hospitality and the owners of Catalina Cafe, The Tallahassee Tea Company, who signed on to become Happy Motoring's first tenants.
On March 8, 2018, at 4PM the garage doors of Happy Motoring will open and Tallahassee will be invited into a brand new fusion of Catalina Cafe and a beer, wine and beverage bar many will call "Desperados". The property will also serve as a staging location for Food Trucks, an idea inspired by the Wynwood district in Miami.
In many ways Happy Motoring can be seen as a gateway to both downtown or the city's south side; FAMU or Cascades Park depending on the direction of travel. Pedestrians, bicyclist and motorist will be led along the newly improved FAMU Way and be greeted by signs to fuel up at Happy Motoring's cafe as they venture to and from some of Tallahassee's most dynamic outdoor recreational spaces. It happens to be situated at the foreground of a proposed monumental project that will bring a large "TLH" marker to the cityscape.
The timing for the opening of this new venue ties into the evolution of the central core of the city which actively working to connect the downtown, Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Cascades Park.
For Tallahassee the improvements don't stop here. At this intersection alone just across the street, work is underway to improve the former "Graphiteria" building that sits empty at the north west corner of the intersection, its proposed future use unknown at this time. On the south east corner of the intersection, plans have been circulating to potentially build out a new brewery or vodka distillery within the former Coca-Cola bottling plant.
Indeed, Happy Motoring is a testament to a collective vision to see the potential in a community and bring it to life. For Foremost, Happy Motoring is a 1st short that shows this company has the foresight to truly "Build things better!"