Gainesville: A Bastion of Liberalism in North Florida

February 5, 2015 12 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Home to the University of Florida, with a population of 124,354, Gainesville is the largest city in North Central Florida and closest mid-sized city to Jacksonville.

A tribute to the Gainesville culture and all the amazing things it has to offer. An Andrew Reid & Rohan Cornwall Production

The city was named in honor of second Seminole War US Army commander, General Edmund P. Gaines and was founded in the 1850s as a place to serve as the Alachua County seat on a proposed railroad line between Fernandina Beach and Cedar Key. The Florida Legislature's passing of the Buckman Act, consolidating existing publicly supported higher education institutions of the state, led to the city being selected as the location for the University of Florida. This early 20th century decision transformed Gainesville into a quintessential college town.

By the 1960s Civil Rights era, Gainesville had become a bastion of liberalism in conservative North Central Florida and known by many as "The Berkeley of the South." Now home to the nation's 8th largest university campus by enrollment, the city has become a North Florida trendsetter with its embracement of New Urbanism strategies in the vicinity of the university and downtown. Despite being a state highway, University Avenue has become a walkable stretch of bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and retail shops between the University's campus and downtown Gainesville. In addition, several road diet and complete street projects over the last two decades have led to the city having a comprehensive network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The revitalization craze has also impacted downtown Gainesville.

However, one place to keep your eye on over the next couple of years is Innovation Square. Being developed on the former site of Shands Medical Center, Innovation Square is a 40-acre mixed-use urban infill development that will provide space for startup companies, labs, offices, residences, shops, restaurants and open space linking downtown Gainesville and the University of Florida. If you're up for exploring and want to get away from the city, Gainesville is a day trip worth considering.

Next Page: Photo Tour of Urban Gainesville

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