In just 4 years Gainesville Florida’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) accomplished the unthinkable: 1,500 new housing units were built, property values increased more than 60%, fiber optic cables were laid in long-neglected neighborhoods, and a signature park on the site of an abandoned train depot was begun.
Pretty impressive for former art student turned redevelopment guru, Anthony Lyons and his team…with help from the design firm of Perkins+Will.
This success did not start with the typical questions asked by urban planners today, nor did it begin with the myriad of complaints that the locals had about their community. Instead it began with a very simple question…
“What kind of (city) do we want to be?”
Obviously – without knowing what you want to be, it is impossible to know where to start. Actually, that’s not as obvious a question as it would seem.
Many cities, communities and companies are so busy “doing” that they don’t notice the lack of a meaningful direction in what they really are committed to. This direction is the overall promise that they make to all stakeholders and it guides their actions step-by-step every day. (aka a brand promise.)
It’s not a logo, a slogan, or an ad campaign that makes a place different. It’s the every day WORK to deliver on an organization’s promise that is key. This is how places (and companies) become great and build valuable brands.
When Gainesville was asked “what kind of city do we want to be? – the answer came back very clear to the CRA. “We want to be a walkable and flexible city. Beyond that we just want Gainesville to be cool.”
Gainesville has started their journey by “walking their talk” and the results are starting to show in a big way. How they communicate on the CRA website is aligned with being a flexible and cool place. They actually adopted one redevelopment plan that’s simply a grid of streets with shorter blocks for walkability so they can be flexible. They are a group to watch in redevelopment.