Welcome to University of Florida City – I mean, Gainesville! Read Guide >
Let's face it, Gainesville owes its very existence to the University. Until the school's inception and subsequent development in the early half of the 20th century, Gainesville was a sleepy farming town whose boll weevil population probably outnumbered its human population. After World War II, veterans flocked to town to reap the higher education benefits of the GI Bill. With the help of these residents, Gainesville transformed from a small town with a rural university to full-fledged central Florida city.
So, today the streets are generally resounding with the call of, "Let's go Gators!" and the city has been ranked as one of National Geographic Adventure's "Best places to live and play" (emphasis: play). In fact, Gainesville distinguishes itself culturally from its, ahem, more Jeff-Foxworthy-joke-worthy neighbors because of the school.
A huge student population means affordable housing, great music and nightlife, and lots of arts and cultural events. But, a huge student population also means a weak job market over-saturated with booze-soaked post-teens, noise, crime and homelessness. So, when beginning your apartment search in Gainesville, it's important to understand that close to campus means close to campus. Ergo, if you've put your beer bong in storage for the remainder of your adult life, you'll need to be more discerning about your prospective 'hood.
Bachelor's Degree: So you're on a budget and you plan to spend most of your time at home recovering from mild alcohol poisoning. No worries! Pretty much any apartment adjacent to the University of Florida and Santa Fe College campuses will be right for you. The main strip of bars, restaurants and night clubs runs down University Avenue from Main Street to campus. Do everyone a favor and find an apartment within walking distance of this thoroughfare. Though southeast Gainesville may look good through beer goggles (very sexy, very low rent), it's best to avoid. Higher crime rates will put you in danger when stumbling home from The Swamp at four in the morning. Average cost for a two bedroom in the campus area: $500-650.
Master's Degree: As previously mentioned, Gainesville has a serious love affair with its University, so major urban development is focused on the campus-oriented west side. This means a plethora of newly constructed apartment complexes for the middle-income resident highly concentrated on the northwest and southwest sections of town. For instance, Spyglass Apartments offers furnished and unfurnished rentals to a mixed crowd of older and younger students. Going rates for a two bedroom: $550-700.
PhD: Hi grownups. Sorry, this isn't your town. That said, I want you to be very, very selective when choosing an apartment for you and your family. Unfortunately, acceptable apartments cannot be gauged by their distance from the University, as the campus-free east side of the city remains fairly neglected in terms of housing and development. Your best bet may be to the far north or far west of the west side, near the Oaks Mall. Here the living is a bit quieter and a bit more suburban, with many townhouse and condo developments renting to established professionals. Two bedroom price range: $650-900, depending on building amenities.
Go to Gainesville in August, close your eyes and spit, and chances are it'll land on an apartment that is close to campus, affordable and has a flexible lease. With the predominance of move-in bonuses around this time of year, landlords are literally paying tenants to take property off their hands. Yes, there will be close to 10,000 other people blindly spitting around town, but by and large, the early fall rental market in Gainesville is approximately the same as shooting fish in a Jaeger bottle.
Just because an apartment is marketed as being "Great for students," doesn't mean that a settled family won't feel at home there. Remember, the housing market--particularly on the desirable west side of Gainesville--is saturated with students, and landlords know their prime demographic. Also, keep in mind, there are many types of students and many apartments house student families similar to the ones found in adult cities!
Newer developments frequently described as "luxury," regardless of their location, have a more rigorous application process and are more heavily managed. Whether you're a student or living an adult lifestyle, keep this in mind when settling at these establishments.
Hey, did I mention that Gainesville is a college town? Well, if you haven't figured it out yet, you'll have plenty of time once you move in. In any case, college town means great public transportation--including reliable city transit and private college bus systems. Gainesville is also incredibly bike and foot friendly, making alternative transportation easy, popular and fun.
Driving around town is also pretty easy-peasy. I-75 lies to the west of town, running from the mall south, and remains pretty clear throughout the day. Though Gainesville is subject to any small city's rush hour, you can generally commute to and from anywhere in the metropolitan area in 30 minutes or less. Exercise caution when driving late nights and on weekends, as drunk driving is a concern of many residents.
So welcome home new Gator. Whether you're a university student or a student of life, you'll benefit from the fun, cultural vibes of this north-central Florida city!