Marketing Push Aims to Shred Misconceptions of City’s East Side

Gainesville leaders hope a new marketing plan for two major redevelopment projects on the city’s east side will prompt people, especially developers and investors, to open their eyes to the area’s potential.

A “Look East” umbrella marketing campaign to elicit interest in the overall east side is expected in the coming months, according to Nathalie McCrate, project manager for the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).

For now, the CRA is focusing on two sites: the existing Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC) area and the former site of Kennedy Homes, a public housing complex. They are located within a quarter mile of each other, about one mile from downtown Gainesville and two miles from the University of Florida. In August, the CRA board approved a $102,367.50 contract with DRMP, Inc., for civil engineering services — surveying, design plat, construction drawings and final permitting – for the 15-acre former Kennedy Homes site at 1717 SE 8th Ave. The land has been vacant since 2007 when the troubled complex was demolished by the city.

When the contract is completed, the CRA will have all the necessary permits and entitlements to construct the first phase of the new residential development. Next steps include reaching out to builders or developers to discuss ways to partner on the plan.

In May, the CRA board approved a master plan for the 13.6 acre GTEC mixed-use site to include up to 10 new commercial buildings. The only building there now is the 30,000-square-foot GTEC business incubator at 2153 SE Hawthorne Road, operated by Santa Fe College.

“We’re looking at rebranding and renaming this entire business park,” said Sarit Sela, GTEC project manager for the CRA. Sela and other staffers spoke at a meeting with eastside residents in late June to explore theme ideas for both projects.

Parisleaf, a local branding and marketing agency, was hired to conduct a research study to determine how to best unlock private investment for the projects. The firm found primary misconceptions that hold back investments such as the east side is less safe than west side, east side schools are not as good, and you cannot run a successful business on the east side.

It looked at statistics from the sheriff’s department and found there is a less than 1 percent difference between east side and west side for most crime incidents; East Side High School has one of the highest graduation rates in the country and its culinary institute is recognized nationally for its hospitality programs; and the firm Optym successfully operated in the GTEC building for 10 years.

Patrick Saunders of Parisleaf said the firm wanted to be sure the marketing plans had an authentic voice and voice, which is why they talked to a lot of people and distilled all the voices into a poem.

“We want to make sure future projects have the same spirit, the same emotion so we’re not creating glossy versions of what the east side really is but really championing the special qualities that exist here,” Sanders told the residents.

Three themes were presented for each project to reflect the area’s history, physical attributes, culture and future.

Here are the suggestions for the GTEC site: Watershed, Hive and Nest.

“We’re looking for a name that can lend itself to the physical architecture of the site,” McCrate said “It will have a different culture from the incubator because the incubator is naturally a place that is kind of in flux. We’re looking for permanent tenants like manufacturing, office, retail – a variety of things outside the Santa Fe incubator.”

One resident said she didn’t see the cultural connection. “I don’t feel that it’s there in such a way that’s branded that it’s a site that has encompassed a lot of culture in terms of the people and the businesses,” she said. “I don’t know if watershed, hive and nest are going to do it for me.”

Residents were much happier with the suggested themes for the Kennedy Homes site. Parisleaf suggested three: Tupelo Stand, Heartwood and Terrence. The residents at the June meeting and members of the Eastside Advisory Board particularly liked the Heartwood conceptual branding.

“It feels like what we need to have is love for each other,” one resident said.

The CRA Staff is continuing to work with the community and Parisleaf to determine a final name and logo to be approved by the board.

“The development of the GTEC site and the former Kennedy Homes site is a priority in the city’s strategic plan and the CRA strategic plan as a catalyst for increasing economic growth in the area,” McCrate said.



About the Author

Ron Wayne is a communicator working with startups in the Gainesville region. He can be reached at

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