University towns are unique for many reasons, all of which shape the energy and culture of the region. From the omnipresent exchange of ideas to the never-ending arts and cultural activities to the employment opportunities at the University of Florida, people often choose to live and work in cities like Gainesville for its energy and unique benefits.
With a 6.4 percent increase in population during the past 10 years, Gainesville continues to outpace the national population growth and exemplifies several trends that showcase why university towns differ from other similar-sized cities.
Rise in urbanism
The demand for urban communities has risen in the U.S. since 2013, but because the infrastructure, housing and business environments must support it, the trend usually takes time to come to life in many areas. But not in a university town.
In a city like Gainesville, where the University is ingrained into the culture, many amenities are already walkable. Green spaces, restaurants and bars, libraries, retail and other activities are established, so when young professionals are looking for a vibrant, diverse lifestyle, they can often find it near a university.
“There’s definitely an increased desire for quality homes close to campus that aren’t student rentals,” Tiffany Thomas, co-owner of Thomas Realty Group, said. “We see a strong market for urban developments like the Grove Street Development, near 6th Street downtown, that will fill the need for people who want to be close to campus.”
Families choosing the university and wider community
According to Thomas, families relocating to Gainesville are most often looking for homes that are convenient and low maintenance.
“Many people are affiliated with UF or UF Health, so they’re looking for homes that are less than 15 minutes from campus and have the conveniences of nearby shopping and restaurants like on Archer Road,” Thomas said. “They appreciate the benefits of UF, but are also looking for a lifestyle outside the University. Longleaf is an example of the type of neighborhood that has a family culture, low maintenance properties and community amenities that are attractive to active, growing families.”
In a growing trend, boomer couples without previous ties here are moving to Gainesville to support grown children and their families. “Parents are coming here to be closer to their older kids and grandkids, and seeing the benefits of the strong economy and culture, like the theatres,” Thomas said.
Transient population supports strong housing market
The National Association of Realtors’ reports have shown several consecutive years of home price increases in most of the country. According to Thomas, the demand for both single family homes and rentals also remains very strong in Gainesville.
“Gainesville market is a very transient community,” Thomas said. “Our real estate cycles are similar to other markets, meaning we see a spike in closings during the summer in line with summer breaks, but we also see trends that are unique to the university town.”
Thomas said the best example is the spike they often see around Match Day at the UF College of Medicine each year, during the third week of March.
“Although Gainesville is a very transient town, we see many people from out of the area come here to go to UF and then chose to stay,” Thomas said. “They love the University and find so much more here. We have the benefits of quickly being able to reach the beaches and big cities, but with a great small-town feel.”
By Jennifer Riegert