When Jack Davis moved to Greater Gainesville to teach history at the University of Florida in 2003, he was interested in living in a historic neighborhood – so, he chose the Duckpond.
“I was very much attracted to an area that had maintained its historic character and was walkable,” Davis said. “I can walk to Publix and CVS and Downtown. I ride my bike to work faster than I could drive to park my car at the O’Connell Center and walk to my office.
“Davis reveled in the diversity of architecture. Construction in the Duckpond area began in the 1870s, according to an article in the book “Historic Gainesville: A Tour Guide to the Past.” Twenty-four of the homes in the area were built before 1900, mainly in the Queen Anne style. As time went on, architecture evolved, the book notes.
“I like that no two homes are alike,” Davis said.
He purchased a home built in 1948 and set about enhancing its character. On the interior, he converted a large, one-window room into his study by adding four windows, French doors and a wood floor.
Outside, he installed native landscaping, featuring saw palmetto and coontie palms.Since moving to the Duckpond, he said that many young families have also arrived.“My 12-year-old daughter has lots of friends in the neighborhood,” he said.
Year by year, people are renovating the few remaining homes that were in disrepair, he said.
“Working on my home is my hobby, and I also enjoy working out with a friend in the Northwest Park,” he said.
The Magnolia Plantation, locally known as the Baird Mansion, was constructed in 1885 by lumberman Dudley William. In 1990, current owners Joe and Cindy Montalto purchased the mansion and restored it to the Magnolia Plantation Bed and Breakfast Inn maintaining its original floor plan and Victorian style.
At age 70, Architect Bobby Altman and his wife Ammie decided to flee the congestion of Miami and find refuge in Gainesville. Altman graduated from the University of Florida in 1970, and his three daughters are also UF alumni.
His friend Kevin Thompson, a landscape architect, recommended Florida Park, a neighborhood between NW 8th Avenue and NW 16th Avenue and between NW 13th Street and NW 22nd Street.
The Altmans chose a home on a large wooded lot with a ravine at the back.
“It feels familiar to me,” Altman said. “It’s secluded, and there are foxes, squirrels and possums in the neighborhood. But we’re right in town. We can walk or bike to campus, and we’re close downtown. We’re looking forward to going to dances and other shows at an affordable price.”
He’s also enthused about the local food scene.
“It’s quite robust,” he said, “and we like eating at all the restaurants that serve locally sourced healthy food.”
The scale of the homes in Florida Park also appeals to Altman.
“They’re modest, like the homes in our neighborhood in Miami were when we moved in 35 years ago – before homes started getting over the top,” he said.
These days Altman has been putting his architectural skills to work redesigning his home – doubling it in size, making it more open and letting in more light.
Lugano, a new traditional neighborhood from Emmer Development in Southwest Gainesville, offers a perfect escape for busy people, said the company’s president, Lori McGriff.
An idyllic resort-style community, Lugano is surrounded by walking trails and a clubhouse with numerous amenities, including a pool, fitness center, dog park and much more.
Situated off SW 91st Street, Lugano provides residents with just a short commute to the University of Florida, UF Health Shands Hospital and much more – including major shopping, parks and recreational areas of Gainesville.
With homes priced in the mid-$200s and its convenient location adjacent to Haile Plantation, Lugano is the perfect place to call home.
“Emmer Development has been building the places you call home in Gainesville for over 65 years,” McGriff said. “Each Lugano home is carefully and creatively designed by a leading team of professionals to combine comfortable, easy living with functional efficiency.”
The community will ultimately consist of 450 total homes with light commercial space on its 145-acre property.
Haile Village Center
Attorney David Coffey has been a long-time proponent of new urbanism – the movement that encourages high density, mixed-use neighborhood development as an alternative to urban sprawl. He served as the land-use attorney for Haile Village Center, the first example of new urbanism in Alachua County. When the first phase of the Village Center opened in 1998, Coffey and his wife, Susan, moved into the 2,500-square-foot home on a small, 35-by-85-foot lot where they still live.
“I put my personal investment where my mouth was,” Coffey said.
Coffey initially leased a building in the Village Center, which he later bought.
“I chose something that was in easy walking distance of my home,” he said. “By that, I mean that I could walk to work in July in a suit and not get drenched.”
Coffey points out that the 52-acre Village Center is the same size as the Historic District in St. Augustine.
“Fifty-two acres can be an entire town,” he said. “This approach makes a much more efficient use of land than the post-World War II approach of large lots.”
The Village Center includes 350 residential units, including apartments above retail and office space. It also has 300,000 square feet of offices and stores.
The density provides for coziness.
“I know every single neighbor on my street,” Coffey said.
Coffey’s affinity for new urbanism wore off on his son who lives with his family in the Duckpond area and now practices law with his dad.
“We moved our office downtown so now my son can walk to work,” Coffey said.
Town of Tioga
Located west on Newberry Road, The Town of Tioga is an example of live, work and play communities in Greater Gainesville.
Michael Diaz and his son Luis were visionaries in creating a community that incorporates a variety of housing styles on small lots, reminiscent of historic small towns, while offering abundant retail, office, dining, entertainment, walking and fitness features.
Tioga appealed to Scott Robinson when he was looking for a home.
“There’s a good blend of housing styles and diversity, economically and socially,” he said. “We have everything from people starting a family to empty-nesters.”
Robinson moved into his 2,300-square-foot home in 2015.
“I had been predisposed to a home with a big lot, but I realized that I don’t need to be mowing and manicuring a lawn all the time,” he said. “I know a lot more people here than I did in 15 years in a suburban home,” Robinson said.
Rick Hammond of Tioga Realty also lives and works in the community. He and his wife – who are empty-nesters – have lived in what he calls a cozy three-bedroom cottage since 2008.
“It helps my work that I live here,” Hammond said. “I’m always available, and it says to buyers, ‘If he’s willing to live here, it must be a pretty great place.’”
Residents of the Town of Tioga can enjoy access to a community pool, as well as basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts, a playground and clubhouse.
The Town of Tioga is so successful that it will be nearly doubling in size, with a second section planned to the south of a new road called the Eighth Avenue extension.
New home construction has taken off in Newberry in the past three years, with four subdivisions developing rapidly.
Buyers include Newberry residents who have been renting and are now purchasing their first home, people relocating from out of state to work at the University of Florida, and other families looking to stretch their dollars, said Joy Glanzer, owner of Glanzer Realty.
“We’re well situated with a four-lane highway into Gainesville and a small-town feel,” she said. “We’re the only municipality in the county with the grade school, middle school and high school all in the historic part of town.”
New homes are $15,000 to $20,000 less than comparable homes in the Gainesville area, because of lower land costs and an efficient city development process, said Glanzer, who is also
a city commissioner.
CountryWay Town Center, which has the potential for 700 homes, starts with patio homes situated closely together and close to the shops and offices in the town center.
The restored Dudley Farmhouse in Newberry includes the original furnishings. Other buildings at the Dudley Farm Historic State Park include an 1880’s kitchen outbuilding, a general store and post office, and a cane syrup complex.
Oakview Village offers the most affordable homes in Newberry, with prices starting around $180,000.
Newberry Oaks has new homes in the low- to mid-$200,000 range with square footage from 1,600 to 2,100.
Newberry Corners’ prices start at $199,000 and go to nearly $300,000 with sizes starting at 1,602 square feet.
Half Moon Station’s homes are in the low- to mid-$300,000 range, and they go from 2,500 to 3,500 square feet.
Erin Edwards has always loved the City of Alachua, so when she was looking for a new home five years ago, she drove around the community when she noticed a home in Santa Fe Station, a subdivision of modern homes on compact lots near downtown.
“When I saw the house, I fell in love with it,” she said.
Edwards, who is a self-employed proposal consultant, lives with her daughter, a rising seventh-grader, and her mother, who is retired.
Alachua was founded early in the 19th century, and many historic stores and homes still line Main Street.
The community of 9,500, located north of Gainesville along U.S. 441, is growing rapidly.
“Alachua has changed so much in the last four years,” Edwards said. “I love that it is up-and-coming but quaint at the same time. I love being able to get out and walk to various restaurants and shops. The neighborhood is quiet, and all the neighbors are super nice.”
Donna McKinney also lives in Santa Fe Station.
“I love Alachua,” she said. “It’s a neat little town.”
She enjoys meeting with friends at Teatime Tranquility & Treasures on Main Street and being close enough to walk to her dentist’s office. She also enjoys taking her grandchildren to the splash park at the Hal Brady Recreation Sports Complex, which adjoins the Legacy Park.
Alachua, “The Good Life Community,” has much to offer, from historic homes to the newly opened Legacy Park.
If you’re looking for a new home in a great neighborhood but can’t find exactly what you want, you may have overlooked Bailey Estates. This community offers a rare combination of benefits that make it a great place for young families and retirees alike.
Many homebuyers haven’t discovered Bailey Estates because it’s off the beaten path on a barely traveled road at the northern edge of historic High Springs.
The seclusion is part of the charm.
“We see deer every day,” said homeowner Justin Byrd. “That’s part of the beauty of living in a small town next to a nature preserve.”
In addition to deer, Bailey Estates’ homeowners often see wild turkeys, which live in the 150 acres of land set aside for conservation next to the community.
High Springs is close to O’Leno State Park, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Poe Springs and Ginnie Springs. Nearby are the Santa Fe River, the Ichetucknee River and the Suwannee River.
Residents can walk downtown to restaurants, antique shops, historic buildings, the Priest Theater and the High Springs Community Theater. Additionally, children can walk to the High Springs Community School, which is at the edge of the development.
Homes range in size from 1,600 to 2,000 square feet, with prices starting at $150,000.
Melrose and Hawthorne Area
Pete and Kathy Cochran wanted to get away from the traffic and annoyances of South Florida. They achieved their goal by purchasing a cracker house built in the 1950s on Lake Annie in Hawthorne.
“We have a cooling breeze off the lake,” Kathy Cochran said. “We loved the house as soon as we saw it.”
Cochran soon set up her 8-foot-wide, long-run quilting machine – a sewing machine with a table that accommodates quilts – and soon began making contacts in the quilting community.
The couple likes being just 20 minutes from Gainesville.
“We love watching the bats fly out from the Bat House on the UF campus and to visit the Butterfly Garden at the Florida Museum of Natural History,” Cochran said.
Roger Buz, owner of Century 21 Lakeside Realty, sold the Cochran’s their home.
“The market is brisk in the Melrose and Hawthorne areas,” Buz said.
Dotted with lakes and ponds, Eastern Alachua County lures people who want a 20-minute commute to Gainesville, he noted.
The art galleries and professional offices and Melrose’s historic character make it attractive to buyers, Buz added.
The City of Hawthorne is making improvements to its downtown and infrastructure. Relatively new homes are available within the city from $135,000 to $175,000, Buz said.
“I sell the towns and let people know there are lots of good values in the Melrose and Hawthorne areas,” he said.
Ed Crapo thinks he lives in the most scenic spot in Alachua County and he should know; as the county’s property appraiser, it’s his job to determine property values countywide.
His home, which he purchased in 1989, is on a hilly spot overlooking Tuscawilla Lake near Micanopy.
“It’s great having one of the few places in Alachua County where you can see the sun set over a lake,” he said.
Ed and his wife, Shelia, enjoy visiting with their neighbors – both those around the lake and the ones in town – and frequenting local spots such as Reddick Brothers Hardware, Blue Highway Pizza, Coffee n’ Cream and Pearl Country Store & Barbecue.
Among their friends are John and Cheri Banner, who bought a home with rich history. The couple, who are from Miami, wanted a place close to their thoroughbred breeding and racing program near Ocala, Cheri Banner said.
The walls of the home, built in 1921, are poured concrete.
“The previous home of the man who built it burned, and he said he didn’t want that to ever happen again,” Banner said.
This house sits on six acres, close to Micanopy.
“It’s a stone’s throw away from the center of town,” Banner said. “We knew almost instantly this was where we could get away and relax from the hustle and bustle of our everyday life in Miami,” she said.
The Banners’ land is known as the “Council Oaks” property and is the site of numerous archeological digs.
“Twin oaks once stood in the front yard, and lore has it that Chief Micanopy held his council meetings there,” Banner said.
Micanopy, the town that time forgot. The quiet little community comes alive during its Fall Festival.