Local

Gainesville 20/20

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Plum Creek

Plum Creek has big goals with Envision Alachua – a sector plan to unlock East Gainesville’s regional potential.

As one of the country’s largest private landowners, Plum Creek owns 14 percent of Alachua County’s lands. The company hopes to develop and conserve 65,000 acres of land in East Gainesville. With one application to county planning staff under its belt, Plum Creek is now in the process of public hearings and refining another application.

If approved, Envision Alachua hopes to economically revitalize East Gainesville’s traditionally underserved areas through economic, environmental and community development. The company estimates that the multifaceted plan would create 30,000 jobs throughout its projected 50-year formation.

In the next 20 years, Plum Creek would develop the basic plan for the area and recruit large companies. To determine targeted industries, Plum Creek recently performed a “relationship mapping” assessment of the current and potential connects between UF and the area’s private sector. It determined that large, light manufacturing companies and other related opportunities could best take advantage of UF’s proximity, and the large parcels of land Plum Creek can offer.

Envision Alachua aims to create three jobs for each residential unit built in the development’s living areas. Plum Creek believes that this would create a ripple effect throughout the East Gainesville housing market, as over 65% of employees would seek housing outside of the project area. Plum Creek said families would fill in homes in Hawthorne and East Gainesville, improve the housing infrastructure, and consequently raise the value of the area.

Furthermore, an increased number of children in East Gainesville schools would drive state funding to the area to develop special courses, extracurricular activities and enrichment programs that the now under-utilized schools cannot afford.

“By bridging the county’s income gap and ensuring our youth are prepared to leverage future job opportunities, standard of living will begin to steadily improve over the time span of our proposed plan,” said Tim Jackson, project leader for Envision Alachua and director of real estate for Plum Creek in Florida.

At its completion, Envision Alachua would bring in $82 million to the county and $6 million to the local school system each year.

“We can literally change the destiny of our area and our neighbors for the better,” Jackson said.

As Poppell said, all boats rise with economic improvement. For Gainesville, the rising tide is washing in increased retail options.

It’s a numbers game, Glaeser said. Before locating, major national stores closely analyze an area’s demographics to gauge potential success in the market. Previously, many retail giants have passed over Gainesville, but improved economic prospects are changing that.

“The demographics of the area are starting to teeter over that magical number that they need to see from a regional aspect for them to think that their stores will be viable in a shopping environment,” Glaeser said.

With that tipping point, Butler Plaza and Celebration Pointe are enjoying phenomenal interest from companies that have yet to locate in Gainesville. This ignites the potential to change the look and feel of our shopping districts, he said.

“I think the community is going to be very impressed, when it’s all said and done, by their shopping opportunities,” Glaeser said.

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