The Providence community is a Tallahassee neighborhood and was the second community to participate in the City’s Community Renaissance Program. It was originally called Bloxham Heights in honor of one of Florida’s Governors William D. Bloxham. Providence is approximately 125 acres in size with approximately 890 dwelling units and a population of 1,423. The neighborhood is located off Lake Bradford Road and is bounded by the CSX Railroad lines on the north, Hutchinson Avenue and FSU’s Alumni Village on the south, Iamonia Street on the west and Lake Bradford Road on the east. The neighborhood lies within an earshot from Florida State University, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, FAMU/FSU School of Engineering, FSU’s Alumni Village and Innovation Park.
The population of the neighborhood is predominately black with African American comprising of 87%. The residents are relatively young. Approximately 59% of the residents are children and young adults under the age of 24. College students account for 33% of the neighborhood’s population. Thirty-five percent (35%) of the neighborhood households are families and 66% of the families with children are single parent households. The median family and household incomes for the neighborhood are $10,971 and $14,280; respectfully well below the median and family incomes for the City of Tallahassee, $23,453 and $34,764, respectively.
In 1996, concern over the high rate of crime, a lack of positive activities for our children and the many deteriorating homes in our neighborhood, sparked the interest for a neighborhood crime watch in our community. With the permission of the Pastor, Reverend Walter McDonald, concerned neighborhood residents began meeting monthly at the Providence Baptist Church to discuss these and other issues. Officer Tonja Bryant-Smith of the Tallahassee Police Department assisted greatly with this effort by keeping the residents in attendance at those meetings informed about neighborhood crime and ways to combat it as citizens. During the first few years of the crime watch, the tireless efforts of Officer Smith and several concerned citizens led to crime being lowered in our neighborhood. The neighborhood’s concerns and focus were reflected in an early motto of the group, which was, “Making a better place to live.”
In 1998, after attending several community meetings with the Chief of Police, it appeared to the neighborhood leaders that a neighborhood association seemed to carry more weight than a neighborhood crime watch. So the neighborhood reorganized and officially became a neighborhood association in 1998. During this time, the association began hosting its seminal event, an annual community fun day, on the property of Providence Baptist Church. The event is designed to bring the neighborhood together. A big focus of the event also is to provide recreational, social and educational activities for the neighborhood children and to give them a chance to interact in a positive setting with local law enforcement officers. During this time also, the Tallahassee Police Department was the principal supporter of the event. The association also began having a joint anniversary and Christmas holiday celebration to help bring the neighborhood together.
Starting in 1999, the association became more active in trying to address neighborhood code enforcement issues and in targeting programs for our children. Several individuals received Neighborhood Scout Training, which serves as a mechanism to assist city code enforcement officers with identifying and correcting code enforcement problems in neighborhoods. Neighborhood residents began to notify the neighborhood scouts at association meetings of problems they noticed in the neighborhood. Many problems were corrected in this manner. Annual neighborhood cleanups also began in association with the annual citywide Super Lube cleanups. In regards to programs for children, Officer Smith began an earnest effort during that year to locate a home in the neighborhood that might be donated to be used as a center for our kids.
Officer’s Smith’s initial efforts to establish a “Kid’s Place” carried over into 2000 and 2001, as Reverend McDonald and other members of the association began an initiative to bring more outside assistance to the neighborhood. They approached the Boys and Girls Club and the Police Athletic League about providing activities for children in the neighborhood, and they pursued the idea of having an abandoned property to be donated for use as an after school center for kids. During this time also, the association began to organize more, and volunteer positions were established and filled for a meeting coordinator, head scout, newsletter editor, meeting host/hostess and children’s supporter. In addition, it became evident that the Tallahassee Police Department and the neighborhood association’s crime reduction efforts had been very effective. For the 5-year period of 1996-2000, totals for some of the more serious neighborhood crimes dropped from 127 in 1996 to 70 in 2000.
In 2002, the association recognized that home ownership would be one important way of improving the overall neighborhood and establishing a sense of community pride. To that end, the association established a relationship with the Tallahassee Lenders Consortium, which gave its first of several home-buying presentations to the association. By this time too, efforts to combat crime, cleanup the neighborhood, address code enforcement issues and provide activities for our kids became part of the ongoing work of the association and its supporters.
The sustained effort and accomplishments of the neighborhood and the strong spirit, energy and leadership reflected by that effort moved the association to apply and be selected for the Renaissance Partnership in 2002. This effort included working in partnership with city planners and various city agencies, neighborhood organizations, and various community stakeholders to develop a comprehensive plan to identify and address the concerns of our residents.
Between 2002 and 2010 the neighborhood successfully completed the Renaissance process and, because of the work of the City of Tallahassee and various partners in that partnership, saw many neighborhood improvements made. Some of these included major upgrades to the streets and drainage system, improved neighborhood lighting, new single family homes and townhomes constructed, which resulted in increased homeownership, remodeling of existing single family homes and apartments, and continued improved neighborhood safety.
Additionally in 2008, the current Neighborhood Association President, Rahni Spencer Wright was elected and developed a relationship with Underground Utilities of the City of Tallahassee. Annually, that department co-sponsors the Annual Neighborhood Clean-up Day and the Annual Fun Day.
This brings us to our present time, where our president and one of several active neighborhood association founders, Reverend Walter McDonald, continue to provide strong leadership and support for the organization and forge new partnerships. Now also, as a result of the Renaissance Partnership, and under the leadership of the Delta Kappa Omega Foundation and the City of Tallahassee, a community neighborhood center has been constructed in Providence.
Everyone who lives, works or owns property in the Providence Neighborhood is a voting member of the Providence Neighborhood Association (PNA). This differentiates PNA from homeowners associations whose membership is limited to homeowners and that may be required to pay dues. PNA members are not assessed dues. The only elected office is President. Operationally, it has been the practice for PNA members to act as committee chairs or co-chairs for various activities. Members are encouraged to bring their ideas and concerns to the PNA meetings. Meetings are held each third Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m.
More detailed information regarding the history of Providence Neighborhood can be found in the Providence Neighborhood Plan.