705 W. Madison Street · Tallahassee, Florida · 32304
The Lumberyard, a five-story student housing development near Florida State University in Tallahassee, makes way for new homes for college kids—and carves a path into the future for the J.H. Dowling family and their legacy lumberyard, once located on the spot.
It’s often hard to separate a college from the idea of its college town. The University of Georgia has its Athens. Harvard, Cambridge. The presence of a growing student population tends to influence the surrounding community in a major way, as has been the case at Florida State University in Tallahassee. In a former industrial zone blocks from the football stadium, warehouses and lumberyards have given way to student housing and a walkable, urban environment that college kids (and their parents) increasingly want. We’ve had a big hand in the neighborhood’s transition, developing much needed retail and residential properties there since 2012. But by 2016, there was one remaining legacy business: a lone lumberyard whose time had come. Tractor-trailer deliveries intermingled with students walking to class, and the combination was getting dicier by the day. Real, beneficial progress happens when you address human needs, and for progress to continue here, we had to address the needs of the people attached to the legacy business that remained.
We wanted to do this the right way.
We’re treating land sellers with the respect they’re due.
J.H. Dowling established its lumberyard on Tallahassee’s Madison Street in the 1950s, in a district that would later come to be called College Town. A move was long overdue (the company had admittedly outgrown their property years before), but Dowling wasn’t in a financial position to relocate, and moreover couldn’t fathom closing their doors and displacing 22 employees, many of whom had been with the company for decades. (Nor did they want to pay over a million dollars in capital gains tax.)
We knew there had to be a solution that served both Dowling’s needs and the needs of Florida State’s growing campus population. That’s how NAP came to build and (briefly) own our own lumberyard. There’s a provision in the tax code that says if I have something that you have in like kind, then you and I can trade it without tax implications. So we helped the Dowlings find and secure a new location a few miles down the road, and through the 1031 Tax Free Exchange, entered into an agreement to build it, then trade the new lumberyard that we had built for their existing property. We both signed our deeds. We put them into escrow. And we ended up with a jewel piece of land in the middle of campus, while the Dowlings ended up with massive tax savings and a beautiful new place to extend their legacy long into the future. A true win-win.
Relocating the original Dowling lumberyard wasn’t the only obstacle we encountered however. An unexploded World War II-era bomb was discovered during construction, wrapped in tree roots. Likely to have come from the Dale Mabry Army Air Base and a leftover from fighter training in the 1940s, the bomb had to be detonated on site—an explosion that broke 14 windows in an adjacent student housing project. Understandably, the rest of the property was immediately, carefully inspected with ground penetrating radar to ensure there weren’t any additional explosives. Luckily there weren’t, and construction resumed safely.
The Lumberyard will be ready to welcome students next summer, just in time for them to settle in for the fall 2018 semester. They may not know the history of the place, but a lot of people do, and we wanted to honor it in any way we could—hence the name, a tribute to J.H. Dowling, and all of the lumberyards that once operated in the neighborhood. Cities change. Tallahassee has changed. With The Lumberyard, NAP is helping to facilitate that change, while treating the past—and the people who are a part of it—with all due respect. As for the Dowling’s new lumberyard: It’s up and running, on a 6-acre parcel (three times the size of the old site), that’s also home to the company’s corporate offices, storage warehouses and a 7,300 square foot hardware store.