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Gainesville is the county seat and largest city in Alachua County, Florida, United States, and the principal city of the Gainesville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The population of Gainesville in the 2013 US Census estimates was 127,488, a 2.4% growth from 2010. Gainesville is the largest city in the region of North Central Florida. It is also a component of the Gainesville-Lake City Combined Statistical Area, which had a 2013 population of 337,925.
Gainesville is home to the University of Florida, the nation's fifth-largest university campus by enrollment, as well as to Santa Fe College. The Gainesville MSA was ranked as the No. 1 place to live in North America in the 2007 edition of Cities Ranked and Rated. Also in 2007, Gainesville was ranked as one of the "best places to live and play" in the United States by National Geographic Adventure.
Gainesville is located at 29°39'55" North, 82°20'10" West (29.665245, −82.336097), which is roughly the same latitude as Houston, Texas. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 62.4 square miles (161.6 km2), of which 61.3 square miles (158.8 km2) is land and 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2) is water. The total area is 1.74% water.
Gainesville's tree canopy is both dense and species rich, including broadleaf evergreens, conifers, and deciduous species; the city has been recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation every year since 1982 as a "Tree City, USA".
Gainesville is the only city with more than 10,000 residents in the Gainesville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area (Alachua and Gilchrist counties), and it is surrounded by rural area, including the 21,000-acre (8,500 ha) wilderness of Paynes Prairie on its southern edge. The city is characterized by its medium size and central location, about 90 minutes driving time from either Jacksonville or Orlando, two hours driving time from Tampa, and five hours driving time from either Atlanta or Miami. The area is dominated by the presence of the University of Florida, which in 2008 had been the third largest university campus in the USA and as of fall 2016 was the fifth largest campus by enrollment in the USA.
Gainesville's climate is defined as humid subtropical (Köppen: Cfa). Due to its inland location, Gainesville experiences wide temperature fluctuations for Florida, and it is part of USDA Plant hardiness zone 9a. During the hot season, from roughly May 15 to September 30, the city's climate is similar to the rest of the state, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms and high humidity. Temperatures range from the low 70s (21–23 °C) at night to around 92 °F (33 °C) during the day on average. The all-time record high of 104 °F (40 °C) was reached on June 27, 1952. From November through March, however, the Gainesville area has a climate distinct from much of peninsular Florida with 16 nights of freezing or below temperatures and sustained freezes occurring every few years. The all-time record low of 6 °F (−14 °C) was reached on February 13, 1899, and the city experienced light snow and freezing rain on Christmas Eve, 1989. Traces of snow were also recorded in 1976, 1996 and again on December 26, 2010. The daily average temperature in January is 54.3 °F (12.4 °C); on average, the window for freezing temperatures is December 4 through February 24, allowing a growing season of 282 days. As with the rest of the state, cold temperatures are almost always accompanied by clear skies and high pressure systems; snow is therefore rare. Temperatures reaching 100 °F (38 °C) or falling below 20 °F (−7 °C) are rare, having respectively occurred on June 16, 2015 and January 11, 2010.
The city's flora and fauna are also distinct from coastal regions of the state, and include many deciduous species, such as dogwood, maple, hickory and sweet gum, alongside palms, live oaks, and other evergreens. Thus, the city enjoys brief periods of fall color in late November and December (though hardly comparable to areas further north) and a noticeable and prolonged spring from mid February through early April. This is a generally pleasant period, as colorful blooms of azalea and redbud complement a buttless blue sky, for this is also the period of the lowest precipitation and lowest humidity. The city averages 47.33 inches (1,200 mm) of rain per year. June through September accounts for a majority of annual rainfall, while autumn and early winter is the driest period.
Since the 1990s, suburban sprawl has been a concern for a majority of 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. Many gentrification plans rely on tax incentives that have sparked controversy, and even so are sometimes unsuccessful. University Corners, which would not have been proposed without a $98 million tax incentive program by the city was to be "a crowning jewel of the city's redevelopment efforts", 450 condos and hotel units and 98,000 square feet (9,100 m2) of retail space in eight stories covering three city blocks, on 3.4 acres (1.4 ha) purchased for $15.5 million. 19 thriving businesses were demolished in April 2007, but in May 2008 deposit checks were refunded to about 105 people who reserved units, and in July 2008 developers spent "$120,000 to beautify the site, so we won't have this ugly green fence."
The east side of Gainesville houses the majority of the African-American community within the city, while the west side consists of the mainly student and white resident population. West of the city limits there are large-scale planned communities, most notably Haile Plantation, which was built on the site of its eponymous 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 that replaced the grand courthouse became known to some locals as the "air conditioner". Additional destruction of other historic buildings in the downtown followed. Only a small handful of older buildings are left, like the Hippodrome State Theatre, at one time a federal building. 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 that blend in with existing historic structures. There is a proposal to rebuild 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 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:
Additionally, the University of Florida Campus Historic District, consisting of eleven buildings, plus an additional fourteen contributing properties, lie within the boundaries of the city. Most of the buildings in the Campus Historic District are constructed in variations of Collegiate Gothic architecture, which returned to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Historic structures on the Register in and around downtown are:
The population of Gainesville was estimated to be 125,365 in 2011. The population of Gainesville was 124,354 at the 2010 census, a 30.3% change from 2000. At the 2010 census there were 51,029 households, with 2.2 persons per household. Children under the age of 5 were 4.4% of the population, under 18 13.4%, and people 65 years or over were 8.3% of the population. 64.9% of the population was white, 23.0% black, 6.9% Asian, 0.3% American Indians and Alaska Natives, 0.1% Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, 1.9% some other race, and 2.9% reporting two or more races. 10.0 percent were Hispanic or Latino of any race, and 58.7% were non-Hispanic whites. 51.6% of the population were female. For the period 2007–11, the estimated median household income $30,952, and the per capita income was $19,100.
As of 2000, 87.10% of residents spoke English as their first language, while 6.31% spoke Spanish, 1.28% spoke Chinese, 0.55% spoke French, 0.52% spoke Korean, and 0.50% spoke German as their mother tongue. In total, 12.89% of the total population spoke languages other than English.
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.
The 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 median income in Gainesville is slightly below the U.S. average.
The city of Gainesville heavily promoted solar power by creating the first feed-in tariff (FIT) in the United States. The FIT allowed small businesses and homeowners to supply electricity into the municipal power grid and paid a premium for the clean, on-site generated solar electricity. The FIT started with a rate set at $0.32 per kilowatt-hour and would allow the person or business to enter into a 20-year contract where Gainesville Regional Utilities would purchase the power for 20 years. The FIT ended in 2013, when the rate was set at $0.18 per kWh, but the city is still seen as a leader in solar power. This increase in solar installations put Gainesville at number 5 in the world, in solar installed per-capita, beating Japan, France, China and all of the US.
The sports drink Gatorade was invented in Gainesville in the 1960s as a means of refreshing the UF football team. UF still receives a share of the profits from the beverage. However, Gatorade's headquarters are now in Chicago.
According to Gainesville's 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
All of the Gainesville urban area is served by Alachua County Public Schools, 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 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. In all, the University of Florida contributes nearly $9 billion annually to Florida's economy and is responsible for more than 100,000 jobs.
Middle schools in the county run from 6th to 8th grades.
High schools in Gainesville run from 9th to 12th grades.
The Alachua County Library District provides public library service to a county-wide population (in 2013) of 253,451. 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.
The Florida Department of Citrus has its department of economic research on the campus of the University of Florida.
Gainesville is administered by a 7-member city commission (4 commissioners are elected by district, 2 commissioners are elected at large plus a mayor elected at large). The commission and mayoral elections are non-partisan, with a runoff in case there is no majority winner.
Gainesville's city hall is at 200 E University Avenue.
Law enforcement in Gainesville is provided by Gainesville Police Department, except for the University of Florida campus which operates the University Police Department.
Fire protection within the city limits is provided by the Gainesville Fire Rescue, while the surrounding county is served by the Alachua County Fire Rescue. Ambulance services are provided for the whole county by the Alachua County Fire Rescue.
Mayor of Gainesville
The National Coalition for the Homeless cited Gainesville as the 5th meanest city in the United States for the city's criminalization of homelessness in the Coalition's two most recent reports (in 2004 and 2009), the latter time for its meal limit ordinance. Gainesville has a number of ordinances that target the homeless, including an anti-panhandling measure and a measure making sleeping outdoors on public property illegal. In 2005, the Alachua Board of County Commissioners and the Gainesville City Commission responded by issuing a written "Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness"; which was followed by the 2010 "A Needs Assessment of Unsheltered Homeless Individuals In Gainesville, Florida" presentation to a joint meeting of Gainesville and Alachua County Commissions. An indoor homeless shelter was built on the site of the former Gainesville Correctional Institution grounds, with surrounding area designated for tents.
In 2009, the Gainesville metropolitan statistical area (MSA) ranked as the seventh highest in the United States for percentage of commuters who biked to work (3.3 percent).
Gainesville has an extensive road system, which is served by Interstate 75, and several Florida State Routes, including State routes 20, 24, and 26, among others. Gainesville is also served by US 441 and nearby US 301, which give a direct route to Jacksonville, Ocala, and Orlando.
The city's streets lie on a grid system, with four quadrants (NW, NE, SW and SE). All streets are numbered, except for a few major thoroughfares, which are often named for the towns they lead to (such as Waldo Road (SR 24), Hawthorne Road (SR 20), Williston Road (SR 121/SR 331), Archer Road (also SR 24) and Newberry Road (SR 26)). Streets ending in the suffixes Avenue, Place, Road or Lane (often remembered by use of the acronym "APRiL") run generally east-west, while all other streets run generally north-south.
Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach buses connect with Jacksonville, Florida, to the north and Lakeland, Florida (to/from points south, LKL), to the south. Buses arrive/depart stations to connect with the Silver Service. Amtrak train service is available at Palatka, Florida, 32 miles (51 km) to the east.
At one time, Gainesville had railroad lines extending in six directions from the community and was served by several depots, the earliest route constructed reaching the town in 1859. As traffic and business patterns changed, the less heavily used railroads were abandoned beginning in 1943, and some routes realigned, with the last trains running in the middle of Main Street in 1948. By the 1980s, the only freight operator into the city was the Seaboard System (formerly the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, now merged into CSX). Passenger service into Gainesville had ended by the time of Amtrak's 1971 creation. In 1984, the last freight trackage was removed as the Seaboard abandoned the branch through Gainesville to Hawthorne due to light customer traffic on the line.
In addition to its extensive road network, Gainesville is served by Gainesville Regional Transit System, or RTS, which is the fourth-largest mass transit system in the state. The area is also served by Gainesville Regional Airport in the northeast part of the city, with daily service to Atlanta, Miami and Charlotte.
According to the 2000 census, 5.25 percent of Gainesville residents commuted to work by bike, among the highest figures in the nation for a major population center.
Gainesville is known as a supporter of the visual arts. Each year, two large art festivals attract artists and visitors from all over the southeastern United States.
Cultural facilities include the Florida Museum of Natural History, Harn Museum of Art, the Hippodrome State Theatre, and the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Smaller theaters include the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre (ART), Actors' Warehouse, and the Gainesville Community Playhouse (GCP). GCP is the oldest community theater group in Florida; in 2006, it christened a new theater building.
The presence of a major university enhances the city's opportunities for cultural lifestyles. The University of Florida College of the Arts is the umbrella college for the School of Music, School of Theatre and Dance, School of Art and Art History, and a number of other programs and centers including The University Galleries, the Center for World Art, and Digital Worlds. Collectively, the College offers many performance events and artist/lecture opportunities for students and the greater Gainesville community, the majority of which are offered at little or no cost.
Since 1989, Gainesville has been home to Theatre Strike Force, the University of Florida's premier improv troupe. In addition Gainesville also plays host to several sketch comedy troupes and stand-up comedians.
In April 2003, Gainesville became known as the "Healthiest Community in America" when it achieved the only "Gold Well City" award given by the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA). Headed up by Gainesville Health & Fitness Centers, and with the support of Shands HealthCare and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, 21 businesses comprising 60 percent of the city's workforce became involved in the "Gold Well City" effort. As of July 2011, Gainesville remained the only city in the country to reach the achievement.
The counties surrounding Alachua County vote strongly Republican, while Alachua County votes strongly Democratic. In the 2008 election, there was a 22% gap in votes in Alachua County between Barack Obama and John McCain, while the remaining eleven candidates on the ballot and write-in votes received approximately 1.46% of the vote.
Gainesville is renowned in the recreational drug culture for "Gainesville Green", a particularly potent strain of marijuana. Orange and Blue magazine published a feature article in 2003 about the history of Gainesville Green and the local marijuana culture in general. In the mid-1990s, several Gainesville Hemp Festivals took place outside of the Alachua County courthouse.
Gainesville is well known for its music scene and has spawned a number of bands and musicians, including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stephen Stills, Don Felder and Bernie Leadon of The Eagles, The Motels, Against Me!, Charles Bradley, Less Than Jake, Hot Water Music, Loyal Revival, John Vanderslice, Sister Hazel, Hundred Waters, and For Squirrels. It is also the location of independent labels No Idea Records and Elestial Sound, and the former home of Plan-It-X Records, which moved to Bloomington, Indiana. For two years, the Gainesville non-profit Harvest of Hope Foundation hosted the Harvest of Hope Festival in St. Augustine, Florida. Gainesville is also the home of www.FLAROCKS.com, the founders of 'Santa Jam' who hold concerts every December throughout North Florida as a toy fundraiser for sick, injured, and homeless children and a showcase for local musicians. Since 2011 they have distributed nearly 700 toys to hospitals, local churches & homeless charities, and to needy families across the area.
No Idea Records puts on an annual three-day rock festival known as The Fest, which typically occurs during the last weekend in October, coinciding with the annual Florida-Georgia football game (played in Jacksonville) to minimize tensions between the largely out of town music festival goers with the University of Florida students and alumni.
Between 1987 and 1998, Gainesville had a very active rock music scene, with Hollywood star River Phoenix having the local club Hardback Cafe as his main base. Phoenix's band Aleka's Attic was a constant feature of the rock scene, among others. The Phoenix family is still a presence in Gainesville with Rain Phoenix's band Papercranes and Liberty Phoenix's store, Indigo.
Today, Gainesville is still known for its strong music community and was named "Best Place to Start a Band in the United States" by Blender magazine in March 2008. The article cited the large student population, cheap rent, and friendly venues as reasons.
Over the past decade, Gainesville has been home to a wide variety of bands, from the Latin/afrobeat sounds of Umoja Orchestra, to the rock of Morningbell, to ska staples The Know How.
Gainesville's reputation as an independent music mecca can be traced back to 1984 when a local music video station was brought on the air. The station was called TV-69, broadcast on UHF 69 and was owned by Cozzin Communications. The channel drew considerable media attention thanks to its promotion by Bill Cosby, who was part-owner of that station when it started. TV-69 featured many videos by punk and indie-label bands and had several locally produced videos ("Clone Love" by a local parody band, and a Dinosaur Jr. song).
The Florida Gators is the varsity team of the University of Florida, and competes at the Southeastern Conference of the National Collegiate Athletic Association since 1933. It has been ranked in the top 10 in the NACDA ranking since the 1983–84 season. It has won 32 national team championships, including two men's basketball titles, three football titles, four men's golf titles, and six women's tennis titles.
Opened in 1969, the Gainesville Raceway is a dragstrip that hosts the Gatornationals, one of the four NHRA major races.
Roughly since the 2006 founding of Grooveshark, a Gainesville-based music streaming service, Gainesville has seen an increase in the number of technology-based startup companies founded and developed in the city, particularly the downtown area. Among them are Digital Brands, SharpSpring, Fracture, Feathr, and others. The city celebrates Josh Greenberg Day annually in April, in honor of the late founder of Grooveshark and his contributions to the community's startup culture.
Gainesville is served by The Gainesville Sun and The Independent Florida Alligator, the student newspaper for the University of Florida and Santa Fe College.
The New York Times Editing Center also resides in Gainesville.
Arbitron ranks the Gainesville-Ocala market as the nation's 83rd-largest. Thirteen radio stations are licensed to operate in the city of Gainesville—five AM stations, six commercial FM stations, and two low-power non-commercial FM stations. Three of the stations (WRUF, WRUF-FM, and WUFT-FM) are operated by broadcasting students at the University of Florida. WUFT-FM is the city's NPR member station, while the WRUF stations are operated as commercial stations.
Gainesville is the 162nd-largest television market in the nation, as measured by Nielsen Media Research. Broadcast television stations in the Gainesville market include WCJB, an ABC/CW affiliate in Gainesville; WGFL, a CBS affiliate broadcasting from High Springs; WNBW, a NBC affiliate in Gainesville; WOGX, a Fox owned-and-operated station from Ocala; WMYG-LP, an analog MyNetworkTV affiliate broadcasting from Lake City; and WUFT, the PBS station affiliated with the University of Florida in Gainesville.
WOGX bears the distinction of being the smallest network O&O in the United States, as a semi-satellite of another Fox O&O, WOFL in Orlando.
Gainesville maintains sister city relationships with five cities in four separate arrangements:
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