Archer Community Center awarded historic status

This is what the Florida Community Design Center is all about:

“Roberta Lopez said the reconstruction of the [historic Archer] gymnasium into a community center began in 2002 after she was elected to the city commission.

“Lopez asked the commission for the key to the gymnasium, which she had noticed was boarded up despite the red brick being in good condition.

“When I opened the door, all I could see at that time was the potential for the building to be utilized as a community center,” she said. “It had a stage and a lot of open space. And while it was dirty, I didn’t see any of that.”

The next day, Lopez went to the Florida Community Design Center and told them what she had in mind.

“I walked out with an architect, a UF professor, and a grad student who helped me to come up with a plan,” she said. “From there, it’s history, but it took a lot of hard work and sacrificing.”

For the full story: visit

Jean Chalmers: Expand options for renting rooms in Gainesville

By Jean Chalmers / Special to The Gainesville Sun
Posted Jan 25, 2019 at 2:00 AM

Good citizens are grappling with the issues of how to save single-family neighborhoods, but still provide affordable housing to working folks.

We are at a point in the growth of our community where the value of land near the University of Florida is higher than the value of many of the older structures on that land. That makes it very attractive to developers that wish to tear down the old houses and build more living units to use the land more efficiently.

One approach is to allow ancillary housing structures on that valuable land, resulting in a better use of scarce space and saving much of the older housing stock. There seems to be a consensus that such small houses, which are in demand by young people in the market, should be allowed.

As always, the devil is in the details. Will the city be willing to lower minimum square footage standards to increase density and affordability? Will tiny houses only be allowed on owner-occupied lots or can they be allowed on absentee landlord lots? Will they have separate meters and how will extra parking be accommodated?

Another approach may be to allow owners of single-family homes to carve out a simple room that could be rented to a single person or a couple. Such a space, with a Pullman kitchen and a bathroom, would be very attractive to a single person or a couple.

About 50 years ago property owners began installing second kitchens in their homes in order to rent out a room or two to accommodate the new people coming into town during that period of rapid growth. There was a huge protest from the folks who lived in single-family neighborhoods.

They were afraid that single homes being turned into duplexes would change the character of their area with too many transient people accompanied by cars, noise and trash. As a result, in the 1970s the City Commission passed ordinances making it much more difficult for property owners to increase density in single-family neighborhoods.

One ordinance limits occupancy of a single-family residence to only three unrelated people. This was to prevent the spread of off-campus fraternity-type housing that brought late-night noise, front-lawn parking and a lack of maintenance into quiet neighborhoods, where most homeowners have nine-to-five jobs.

Another ordinance prohibited a second area in a single-family home from being turned into a place for the “preparation and storage of food.” This was to prevent single-family homes from being used as duplexes.

If the city would rescind its ordinance as it relates to second kitchens, I believe it would create an incentive for homeowners to prepare small rental units in unused space, thus creating more affordable housing. For many empty nesters, the income from such a rental may just make it possible to “age in place.” Of course such rentals should fall under the landlord-licensing purview of the city and the owners should pay the licensing fee and abide by off-street parking restrictions.

In addition, we need single-room occupancy buildings (SROs) for folks on limited incomes. Developers investing in Gainesville simply see the student market where four bedrooms with a private bath, shared living space, a kitchen and a laundry room is in demand. This is not an arrangement that serves working people well. They need a quieter, private space.

Some one-room efficiencies are provided by hotel chains that charge for cleaning and management services and are out of the price range for most working people. We need to encourage the development of simple buildings that supply good quality single rooms for folks who cannot afford more.

Most large cities in America have entire buildings that were dedicated to SROs but when they are converted to luxury apartments the homeless rates go up. Many such buildings were demolished in downtown Atlanta in preparation for the 1996 Olympics and the homeless rate soared at that time.

When I got off the boat in New York City with two suitcases, a small trunk and very little money, a kind longshoreman showed me the “room for rent” section of the New York Times and I soon had an 8×10 room in the apartment of a nice Swedish lady uptown. In Gainesville today, with all its restrictions, I would have been homeless.

Reprint from The Gainesville Sun

Endless Summer 2018

The Florida Community Design Center is happy to announce Endless Summer 2018. The Endless Summer festival will kick off on Friday, August 24, and will continue Saturday, August 25  and Sunday, August 26. The event is co-hosted by the Florida Community Design Center and Heartwood Soundstage. Taking place during the warmest part of the year, Endless Summer aims to provide a cool, enjoyable outdoor space and beach-like experience. People are encouraged to come and relax as they would at the beach. Sand will be placed throughout the alley and people will be encouraged to bring towels or beach chairs to relax on. Shade and mist will be provided in order to cool off.

Become a volunteer:
The Florida Community Design Center is a non-profit organization of volunteers and is looking for additional volunteers to help ensure Endless Summer 2018 runs smoothly. Email Program Officer Alexis Benton at for more information on how you can get involved.

Facebook Event

Ask An Architect with Josh Shatkin on Friday April 20th, 12n to 1pm

Drop in, and ask questions about architecture & design. Co-sponsored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gainesville Chapter, and the Florida Community Design Center (FCDC). Location: FCDC, 101 N. Main Street, Gainesville FL 32601.

Free on-street parking along N. Main St (between University Ave and 2nd Ave); along NE 1st St (between University Ave and NE 1st Ave).

Meter Parking only 25 center per 30 minutes along NE 1st Ave (between NE 1st St and N. Main St)

Internship Opportunities at the Florida Community Design Center

The Florida Community Design Center (FCDC) is excited to announce two internships now available through the Design Center. We are looking for two energetic and enterprising individuals with experience and education related to planning, sustainability, policy, and/or economics to join our team for the spring, summer, or fall semester. Interns will take on a semester project, as well as work as a team to create publications and media to support the FCDC efforts.

Take a look at these job descriptions. Community programs and projects serve the Gainesville, Alachua County, or other Florida community by providing investment and support for people who need it most. All too often, the projects and communities that need the most support get the least. If you have experience working at a local community level, let us know. We are happy to field any questions. Send us your application with attached resume, cover letter, and any other qualifying information. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Community Projects Intern

● This intern will be responsible for staying in touch with one or more community projects. They will need to stay on top of each project they work on, and develop and commit to a timeline for each project. Finding the resources for each project and supporting the project team will be crucial. Providing support and outreach for each project will help it succeed.

● This intern will be responsible for requesting assistance from local professionals, other interns, university faculty, city staff, and anyone that is willing to donate their time, money, or energy to help see the projects succeed.

● This intern will help support other intern’s projects and provide resources and assistance to the FCDC team when needed.

Community Programs Intern

● This intern will be responsible for keeping the FCDC in touch with the community programs that operate within the city and county and providing them resources and support to succeed in their goals.

● This intern will write grants to provide support for the FCDC, the projects that flow through the FCDC, and the community programs that support local people. Previous grant writing experience is a plus.

● This intern will keep the FCDC updated of important volunteer opportunities and provide the outreach and support for some of these programs.

● Knowledge of various outreach tools from social media to newspapers and publications will help this intern succeed and provide support for community’s programs.

The two internships being offered will encompass the following responsibilities within the FCDC:

● One spring or fall semester part time internship commitment of 300 hours. That’s approximately 20 hours a week, half of which can be on your own time, half at the FCDC.

● Interns will select between multiple projects to allocate their work and resources. These projects can range from design projects to community development programs. All projects that flow through the FCDC are sustainability related. Previous volunteers and interns have worked on topics such as tiny houses and affordable housing, park design, landscape architecture, downtown parking, local business advocacy, and bike trails, among others. Choose a project that YOU want to work on, and you get to form a team to work on that project. This will encompass the majority of the experience.

● Interns will collectively be responsible for planning, designing, and distributing a monthly publication that will be shared with leaders in local government, business, and other organizations.

At least two students will be selected for these positions. Again, these are unpaid internships. If you have an internship requirement within your college or major, we will assist you in seeking to structure the experience to count as practical experience. For example, the Sustainability and the Built Environment major requires either a 6-credit internship or a 6-credit Practicum course. These internships will satisfy the Practicum course for SBE majors.

Here is the Google doc application to apply! Download it, complete it, and return it to Or print it out and drop it by our office at 101 North Main Street.

Please include your resume, a brief cover letter telling us why you would like this opportunity, and any other qualifying material you would like to include (such as references, or examples of past work you have completed).

Please feel free to contact us with any questions! Email us at, or call us during regular business hours.

Randy Wells, Executive Director: (352) 318-9410

Executive Director of FCDC wins 2016 Impact Award

From Business in Greater Gainesville Magazine

Executive director of the Florida Community Design Center Randolf Wells has advocated for returning vacant property to a productive use for the surrounding neighborhood and the city as a whole for seven years. This year his efforts were successful as the city formally accepted ownership of the closed US Army Reserve facility in east Gainesville, and repurposed the building as the new home of a growing local manufacturing firm Phalanx Defense Systems. The grounds have been designated as a new community park dedicated to the reservists who served and trained on this site for 51 years.

“My passion is finding creative ways to build capacity within our community,” explained Wells. “I help facilitate this by bringing together different groups who can combine resources and complement one another to achieve a shared vision.”

Wells volunteers as executive director of the Florida Community Design Center, but also serves on the boards of Friends of GRACE Marketplace, Welcoming Gainesville and Bike Florida. He is a member of the organizing committee for Bulla Cubana, a Cuban cultural festival planned for Gainesville between January and March 2017. In November, he will be on the Gainesville delegation (for the second time) to visit our Israeli and Palestinian sister cities of Kfar Saba and Qalqilya.

Get to Know Randy:

What is your go-to coffee order?

Cafe con leche with plenty of sugar (my grandfather called it “kid’s coffee”)

Who had the biggest impact on your life?

As a child, the biggest impact on my life was my grandfather. As an adult, the biggest has been my wife, Ondine