People with a love for East Gainesville are working to erase the bad name of Kennedy Homes, intent upon building a vibrant neighborhood in place of the 1960s housing project that deteriorated until it was closed in 2007 after a fire.
These people – both ones who live in the nearby area and ones from other parts of town – are collaborating to create a mixed-use community that combines owner-occupied homes and condos with stores, ample green space and good lighting on the 15-acre site south of Southeast Eighth Avenue.
“We want to have our village square and our town center,” said Gainesville City Commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls at a recent planning meeting sponsored by the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency. The city now owns the site.
The CRA is spearheading the renaissance of the former Kennedy Homes area and nearby property, including land next to the Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center, a business incubator located on Hawthorne Road.
Despite the demise of Kennedy Homes, “This area has good bones,” said Kona Gray, a principal of the design and planning firm EDSA. “It has an established community, something that takes time to develop.”
Gray, who works in EDSA’s Orlando office, is cooperating with the JBrown Professional Group of Gainesville to consult on the Kennedy Homes initiative.
The assets of the area include:
- The strong middle-class neighborhood of Lincoln Estates
- Nearby William Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School
- The upgraded Cone Park and the new Cone Park Library on University Avenue
- A branch of the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County
- The T.B. McPherson Recreation Center
- The La Chua Trail entrance to the Paynes Prairie State Preserve
- The new Southern Charm restaurant, which was built as a CRA project
Yvette Carter recalled the 10 years that she and her husband lived in Lincoln Estates when their children were young: “It felt like a village. We had lots of surrogate grandparents watching out for kids. Everyone was called ‘uncle this’ or ‘aunt that.’”
Recently, crime and drugs have become problems in parts of the area. The best way to fight these problems is through building a strong neighborhood that is open and well-lit, with “no place to hide,” Gray said.
Demand is high for affordable homes that could be built at the Kennedy Homes site, said Craig Wilburn, leader of Team Dynamo of Bosshardt Realty, adding, “If the neighborhood is done right, it can be the catalyst for redefining the perception of the area around it.”
To get involved, call the CRA at 352-334-2205.
Members of the community participate in a meeting, conducted by the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, on creating a new neighborhood at the former Kennedy Homes site.