More than $717,000 in state grants was approved by the Tallahassee City Commission last week to fund the renovation of the Ashmore’s Pharmacy building.
Proposals to renovate the West Brevard Street site and turn it into a Frenchtown cultural center and museum have been floated but nothing has been solidified. But city officials say that to get there, work inside and outside the building will preserve the historic character while making it a community asset.
The site renovation is part of the Frenchtown Neighborhood First plan. More than $224,000 in funding from funds previously allocated to this plan will be matched with the grant from the Florida Department of State.
Last year, the Ashmore building became city property as the commissioners sought ways to fund the renovations in their capacity as the community redevelopment agency. The ARC initially attempted to tap funding from the tourism development tax for the project.
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The renovation of the once-thriving neighborhood pharmacy is seen as a way to boost tourism in Frenchtown and invest in a part of town that has seen funds diverted elsewhere time and time again.
Ashmore’s was selected by city staff to receive the grant over other projects on the site of the former Robinson’s Grocery store on Holton Street and Greenwood Cemetery near Old Bainbridge Road, said the director of City Neighborhood Services, John Baker, to Commissioners.
But residents and those seeking to preserve this area’s history are hopeful that the long-term plans laid out actually materialize.
Local historian and president of the National Association for the Preservation of African American History and Culture, Delaitre Hollinger, has noted many times throughout history that residents of Frenchtown were promised the availability of retail and business space as the area developed, but the opportunities never materialized.
He said he supported approving the article but asked that staff follow the plan presented to the state.
“The days of telling the people of Frenchtown that we’re going to do one thing and then turn around to do another should be long gone,” he said.
Sabrita Thurman-Newby said it’s time for the Commission to invest in those with a stake in Frenchtown.
“You shouldn’t be wondering if Ashmore’s store gets this grant or not. You should just do it. It’s in our neighborhood plan, it’s what we’ve been talking about forever and it’s a chance to show some first hand to the Frenchtown community that we’re on your radar,” she said. “Too often decisions have been made that have had a big impact on the Frenchtown community because people who don’t live or have no direct ties to the Frenchtown community influenced the decision in my opinion.”
Contact Karl Etters at [email protected] or @KarlEtters on Twitter.
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