Florida Department of Revenue HQ shown. A recently relocated agency shifting its new facilities away from the downtown core to the newly developing DMS campus near Southwood, a 4,500+ acre Master-Planned community, 6+ miles from the Florida Capitol in downtown Tallahassee. Florida Department of Revenue HQ shown. A recently relocated agency shifting its new facilities away from the downtown core to the newly developing DMS campus near Southwood, a 4,500+ acre Master-Planned community, 6+ miles from the Florida Capitol in downtown Tallahassee. UrabnTallahassee Images

Keeping state employees downtown necessary for burgeoning vibrancy

Written by  Saturday, 03 March 2018 11:00

ISSUES - Savills Study Occupational Services recently completed a study on behalf of our state’s Department of Management Services (DMS). The report is a full study of our state’s real estate portfolio in Leon County.

It does all of the stuff that one would hope a study does: assessments of state properties and their facilities, optimization of state land/property use, and recommendations for what the state should do with their portfolio going forward. The report is thorough and offers reasonable suggestions that the state will likely incorporate in planning their footprint in Leon County and our city. There is one caveat - the suggested plans for consolidation might do more to harm our city than help it.

The study recommends that the DMS sell off most of their aging real estate in downtown and move state workers to satellite office centers, one in Southwood, and one by I-10 and Capital Circle NW. I don’t take issue with older state buildings being sold to be repurposed or redeveloped. That idea presents a lot of economic opportunity downtown. I am, however, worried about our state workforce being relegated to the distant corners of our city. Our main street is outdated. The city has been attempting to revitalize our downtown corridor for about half a century.

Our story reflects a common theme across America. Cities needed growth, and developers met that demand by expanding outwards, giving birth to suburb developments and shopping malls. With the advent of these developments, people had fewer reasons to do things downtown.

Despite this, a band of restaurants, bars, and coffeeshops continue to operate in our downtown. In many ways, they are reliant on the foot traffic they get from being in close proximity to the state campus. If the state workforce moved elsewhere, these businesses would probably suffer as a result.

People want to live close to where they work. If state jobs stay downtown, people will naturally tend to reside closer to our downtown. That sort of population aggregate makes an area more attractive for residential development. Keeping our state workforce close to the urban core almost seems necessary to sustain the burgeoning vibrancy of our downtown, and build upon the progress already made. Moving them elsewhere would be antithetical to all of the growth planning our city has done in recent years.

The solution?

I’m not really sure. I hope that this piece starts a dialogue about the eventual relocation of our state’s workforce. I’m certainly going to forward this opinion article to those elected to represent me at the city, county, and state levels. If you feel strongly about this, I recommend you inquire about it as well. Their staff will probably know more about how to tackle this issue than I do. I don’t think it is far-fetched to say that Tallahassee should benefit from being the capitol of our state. I do not see the state consolidating its workforce in a manner that stretches our city beyond its capacity as a benefit.

Comments from the Forums
Re: Opinion: Keeping state employees downtown necessary for -- chudan
2018 Mar 06 03:39:13 PM
Problem with downtown office towers are A) expensive to build as opposed to sprawling 3-4 story complexes on cheap land (especially if developer is kicking in land to get complex) and B) Much more expensive to maintain and operate both infrastructural and consumables.

If DMS does as directed, they will build a very nice tower for the executive suites of state agencies. On the other hand, the front-line staff are going to be moved into the most cost effective structures they can build on the cheapest land they can find. And that's because that is what the Legislature wants. Not the state employees, not the residents of Tally, not the business community of Tally, and not the local governments of Tally. Its the direction the Legislature wants because they don't want to pay for considerably more expensive downtown office buildings, other than the ones they work in.

I'm not cheering this idea on and hope it does not come to fruition until I''m retired. But I'm also a realist and know how the winds blow with the Legislature and DMS on this. Barring the City paying to build these towers (or someone else), the writing is pretty much on the wall, the State is not going to pay a premium to build towers downtown. The existing buildings are having greater and great structural issues (see Legislative parking garage, Firestone building, RA Grey building) and those costs are doing nothing but going up year over year. Its why no one was willing to rehab the Firestone building, it was too costly fix or even try to maintain. And because we have a Legislature that does not want to spend dime one on state employees, they are only going to approve the low bid solution.

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Matthew Latch

Matthew Latch is a recovering native of South Florida and recently graduated from Florida State University. He currently lives in Southwest Tallahassee and spends most of his time trying to keep old buildings from falling apart.

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