Gainesville is the largest city and county seat of Alachua County, Florida.GR6 Gainesville is home to the University of Florida, the largest university of the State University System of Florida and the third-largest university in the United States. Santa Fe Community College, one of the nation's largest community colleges, is also located in Gainesville.
Downtown Clock Tower
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated a 2006 population of 108,143. The Gainesville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes Alachua and Gilchrist counties, has a population of 243,985, according to 2006 Census Bureau estimates. The Gainesville MSA was ranked as the #1 place to live in the 2007 edition of Cities Ranked and Rated.
Gainesville is located at 29°39'55" North, 82°20'10" West (29.665245, -82.336097),GR1which is roughly the same latitude as Houston, Texas. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 49.1 (Expression error: Unexpected round operator ), of which 48.2 (Expression error: Unexpected round operator ) is land and 0.9 (Expression error: Unexpected round operator ) is water. The total area is 1.87% water.
Gainesville is one of the southernmost cities in the United States where deciduous trees predominate, and has been recognized every year since 1982 as a "Tree City, USA". There are deciduous trees farther south, but they are not as abundant as they are from Alachua County northward. The city is also an important way station for automobile travelers, as it is located nearly midway between Atlanta and Miami, five hours from each.
Gainesville is the only city with more than 10,000 residents in either Alachua or Gilchrist County (the two counties in the Gainesville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area), and it is surrounded by rural area, including the 21,000 acre wilderness of Paynes Prairie on its southern edge. The city is characterized by its medium size, semi-rural location (about 90 minutes driving time away from Jacksonville or Orlando), and is dominated by the presence of the University of Florida, the nation's third largest university. Gainesville is informally called "Hogtown" by many residents, after Hogtown Creek, which runs through the city and was the original name of a town nearby, which was eventually incorporated into the growing city.
The North Florida area in which Gainesville is located is known to natives as the "end of the South." This is most likely due to the fact that south of Alachua County, starting somewhere north of Orlando, there are fewer native Floridians (and effectively native Southerners) and the sprawling development that defines South and Central Florida begins. However, it should be noted that due to large levels of migration, much of it related to the University of Florida, the western sector of the city holds more in common culturally and visually with Central and Southern Florida, whereas the eastern sector of the city holds more in common culturally and visually with "the South".
Suburban sprawl has, as of late, become a concern for the city commissioners. However, the "New Urbanization" plan to gentrify the area between historic Downtown and the University of Florida may slow the growth of suburban sectors and spark a migration toward upper-level apartments in the inner city. The area immediately north of the University of Florida is also seeing active redevelopment.
The east side of Gainesville houses the majority of the African-American community within the city, while the west side consists of the mainly white student and resident population. There are also large-scale planned communities on the far west side, most notably Haile Plantation, which was built on the site of a former plantation.
The destruction of the city's landmark Victorian courthouse in the 1960s, which some considered unnecessary, brought the idea of historic preservation to the attention of the community. The bland county building which replaced the grand courthouse became known to some locals as the "air conditioner." Additional destruction of other historic buildings in the downtown followed as the city tried to modernize, but succeeded in diminishing the city's historic charm. After many years of little progress, revitalization of the city's core has picked up, and many parking lots and underutilized buildings are being replaced with infill development and near-campus housing which blend in with existing historic structures. There is talk of rebuilding a replica of the old courthouse on a parking lot one block from the original location.
Helping in this effort are the number of areas and buildings which have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Dozens of examples of restored Victorian and Queen Anne style residences constructed in the city's agricultural heyday of the 1880s and 1890s can be found in the following districts:
Historic structures on the Register in and around downtown are:
Numerous guides such as the 2004 book Cities Ranked and Rated: More than 400 Metropolitan Areas Evaluated in the U.S. and Canada have mentioned Gainesville's low cost of living. The restaurants near the University of Florida also tend to be inexpensive. The property taxes are high to offset the cost of the university, as the university's land is tax-exempt. However, the median home cost remains slightly below the national average, and Gainesville residents, like all Floridians, do not pay state income taxes.
This city's job market scored only 6 points out of a possible 100 in the Cities Ranked and Rated guide, as the downside to the low cost of living is an extremely weak local job market that is oversupplied with college-educated residents. The University of Florida, the Shands Healthcare system (a private-public-university partnership), and the city government are the only major employers for the city. The median income in Gainesville is slightly below the U.S. average.
All of the Gainesville urban area is served by the School Board of Alachua County, which has some 75 different institutions in the county, most of which are in the Gainesville area. Gainesville is also home to the University of Florida and Santa Fe Community College. The University of Florida is a major financial boost to the community, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenues are created by the athletic events that occur at UF, including SEC football games.
Other educational institutions include Saint Leo University, City College/Gainesville Campus, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, Gainesville High School, Eastside High School, Buchholz High School, Santa Fe High School and Saint Francis Catholic High School.
The Alachua County Library District provides public library service to a county-wide population of approximately 190,655. The Library District has reciprocal borrowing agreements with the surrounding counties of Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Marion, Putnam and Union. These agreements are designed to facilitate access to the most conveniently located library facility regardless of an individual's county of residence.