The DeVoe Moore Center celebrates the power of human ingenuity and innovation to address social needs and solve social problems through the private sector. The center was founded in 1998 after Tallahassee entrepreneur DeVoe L. Moore attempted to develop a “brownfield,” a 28-acre property containing the abandoned Elberta Crate and Box Company factory. Recognizing the growth of Florida State University, the market-driven desire for safe residential communities, and the need for higher quality housing close to the campus, Mr. Moore purchased the vacant industrial property to transform it into a high-quality gated student residential community.
Mr. Moore’s ability to provide this housing, however, was thwarted by behind the scenes politics that ignored his interests as the property owner. The city had rescinded the land’s zoning–a legal entitlement to develop the land–without his knowledge or approval. The city had instead targeted the property for a water detention area for the new city hall and Florida State University’s planned football stadium.
By rescinding his legal entitlement to build, city regulators (working with state policymakers) made his property worthless on the open market. Notably, Mr. Moore had secured a construction loan commitment of $60 million (about $95 million in today’s prices) to build on the property. In current dollars, this property fully developed would be generating about $900,000 in tax revenue for the county and city at current property tax rates. Despite significant investments in time and money preparing the property for development, including clearing and leveling the land, Mr. Moore was forced to petition the county to reduce the land’s property tax value. The city reduced the land’s assessed value to just $250,000 (with the potential to generate about $4,000 in tax revenues at current prices).
Mr. Moore was troubled by the process. Land-use and government policies should be transparent, above board, and respect the legal rights of property owners. Property owners shouldn’t have to worry about city regulators unilaterally determining the future use of their property without consultation or consideration for the economic and fiscal effects on the private parties and the community.
Mr. Moore believed a public policy research center, or “think tank,” that exposed these problems and offered constructive solutions would address these problems and lead to reform. Thus, he endowed the center with $5 million of his own money that was matched by the State of Florida to create a $10 million endowment to fund these activities.
The DeVoe L. Moore Center officially opened its doors in the College of Social Sciences in Public Policy in October 1999. The center has grown to a full and part-time staff of nearly 40 faculty, staff, and students producing academic research, policy studies, commentary and testimony to citizens, the business community, public officials, policymakers on the state and local level.