Eastern Alachua County, specifically eastern Gainesville, was located amongst the center of Gainesville’s real estate development activity throughout 1960s and 1970s. Communities such as Highland Court Manor, Carol Estates, Lincoln Estates, and others were the key location for Gainesville families seeking home ownership. These communities provided modern conveniences that the Gainesville family was seeking, including neighborhood amenities offering a swimming pool and community center for families to gather, play, and befriend one another. Friendships were born here that continue through today. If you speak to folks who have lived in Gainesville all their lives or for a long time you’ll probably find out they once lived in eastern Gainesville, and you will also find out about the kind of lifestyle and friendships they forged in those days that have shaped their lives.
Eastern Gainesville also offered greater opportunities for fledgling businesses. Many local grocer entrepreneurs opened and operated grocery stores in eastern Gainesville prior to the chains we now rely on. Robinson’s Grocery, Branch’s Grocery, and Butler Grocery were among these grocers that offered fresh, locally grown produce, meats, and dairy products. Restaurants such as Louie’s, Primrose Inn, Manaros Italian Restaurant, and In-N-Out Burgers offered Gainesville residents the kind of places to eat and build relationships. So many of today’s local businesses that were founded so long ago began in eastern Gainesville, with many remaining today: Ridgeway Truss / Theo Enterprises, Lewis Oil, Lester’s Garage Doors, Chestnuts, Ricks Hardware, City Drugs, Brownlee’s Seed and Feed, Hughes Supply, Fagan’s Bootery, Combs Lumber, Silvermans, and Wise’s Drug Store to name a few.
Eastern Alachua County offers numerous opportunities for a rural lifestyle, yet conveniently located within proximity to today’s lifestyle conveniences. Windsor, Rochelle, Hawthorne, Orange Heights, Melrose, and Cross-Creek are long-standing rural communities with hidden natural features only a few enjoy today. Yes, the Oaks Mall, Butler Plaza, I-75, and other growth factors began to change the pattern of local development in Gainesville/Alachua County in the late 1970s and 1980s. These factors led to commercial growth along the Newberry Road and Archer Road corridors west towards (and past) I-75. As commercial development expanded and relocated, so too did the new residential home sites. Many families from eastern Gainesville communities relocated to western Gainesville in search of more modernized homes and access to new commercial conveniences.
These patterns of change formulated a new look to eastern Gainesville. Businesses relocated, families relocated, and the existing community began to feel and see the change via vacancies, lower values and shifts in community dynamics.
As with most change so too comes opportunity. A few strong willed visionaries began to invest in “downtown” seeking to lure remaining folks to stay and encourage others to invest in downtown. The rejuvenation of downtown by most any measure has been successful. Places like the Sun Center, the restoration of the Hippodrome, the Commerce Building, Union Street Station, parking garages, etc. gave a renewed life to Gainesville. Now when one looks at downtown it is hard to remember (except for those that facilitated the change) back to the vacancies and visual decay that had occurred. Downtown Gainesville has had a resurgence of residents, businesses, commerce, entertainment, eating establishments and others and is home to not only the traditional nine-to-five offices, public facilities, and services, but home to our technology and arts communities. Downtown continues to thrive with the surrounding vibrancy from the I-District, Power District, Depot Park, Cade Museum, First Magnitude, The Top, and other businesses and establishments.
Eastern Gainesville and eastern Alachua County are also poised to flourish, similar to downtown of the last decade. Yes, there are aging communities in eastern Gainesville, and yes there are some business vacancies with visual deterrence; however, these same features are characteristics for positive change, renovation, and regrowth when viewed by existing residents, existing business owners, and those “strong willed” visionaries. When viewed through these lenses, one can see that eastern Gainesville/eastern Alachua County has many characteristics of opportunity: need that drives demand, availability of green and brown-field lands, affordable land values, redevelopment opportunities, infrastructure capacity, quality roadway corridors with convenient capacity, proximity to public services, proximity to jobs (downtown, UF, airport, etc.), CRA and enterprise zones with published incentives, and a population with open arms willing to grow, prosper, and enjoy the lifestyle experienced by other residents of Alachua County. East Gainesville has received public/private partnership support for critical quality of life elements and is home to quality parks (Depot Park, Morningside Nature Center, Boulware Springs Nature Park, Fred Cone Park, Hawthorne Trail, etc.), quality open space (Sweetwater Wetlands Park, Newnan’s Lake Conservation Area, Hatchet Creek, Longleaf, Flatwoods, Lochloosa Wildlife Conservation Area, area lakes, Cynthia Moore Chestnut Park, and Clark Butler Nature Preserve), UF Satellite Campuses, Alachua County Health Department, and GTEC (Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center).
What’s missing? A strong-willed visionary, a catalyst project, a message of prosperity, and you! Eastern Gainesville/Alachua County is a place of opportunity.