The University of Florida has announced the launch of a strategic development planning process designed to secure Gainesville’s place among the most vibrant college communities in the country. With an eye toward developing “a preeminent city” for a preeminent university, the strategic development process will examine UF’s aspiration to become one of the nation’s top-10 public universities in partnership with the Gainesville and Alachua County community.
Leading the nine-month strategic development planning effort is Dr. Charlie Lane, UF senior vice president and chief operating officer. In a recent op-ed in The Gainesville Sun, Lane described the first-of-its kind effort as a key factor in attracting and retaining the nation’s top researchers, faculty and students.
“In short, a preeminent university requires a preeminent university city,” Lane said. “These are lofty targets requiring strategic, collaborative and thoughtful consideration.”
A steering committee comprising UF faculty, administrators and students along with members of the community will represent diverse viewpoints as well as a range of interests including healthcare, technology transfer, business and development. Through a series of stakeholder interviews, already underway, the committee aims to identify opportunities for shared vision and partnerships in the areas of education, sustainability, urban design, arts and culture, recreation, transportation and more.
In addition to these interviews, the committee will conduct benchmarking of other notable college towns, such as Ann Arbor, Boulder and Austin. A Boston-based firm, Elkus Manfredi Architects, has also been engaged to provide its expertise on design, planning and strategy. The project will integrate seamlessly with current master planning efforts for UF’s 2,000-acre campus.
Members of the Gainesville and Alachua County community will be invited to participate in the planning process as well, and a website will be developed to share information and opportunities for involvement. One of the project’s first deliverables will be a summary matrix of the ideal college town attributes that support a high quality of life.
“The anticipated result will be a vision based on a few ‘big ideas’ with broad support and actionable steps,” Lane said. “We do not know where the process will take us, but the journey promises to be exciting and we look forward to engaging the community along the way.”