URP dedicated to serving Gainesville

URP continues working to serve Gainesville

Downtown Gainesville, Florida from VisitGainesville.com

December 16, 2022

The University of Florida’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning has dedicated itself to researching and teaching its students about the equity issue that the City of Gainesville faces.  Growth and development in the western parts of Gainesville and unincorporated Alachua County has outpaced that in East Gainesville, which is predominantly African American and lower-income. Recent student studio work is one example of collaboration that builds upon the legacy of engagement between the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the East Gainesville community. Faculty and students engage in work across Gainesville through case study in courses, studio projects, community engagement, research, and publications.

“[Working in Gainesville] allows students the opportunity to contribute to a meaningful discussion about providing creative expression, as well as spiritual and physical healing to the disadvantaged communities of Gainesville. The most useful part of this class was realizing that despite how far we’ve come as planning students and professionals, planning should always remain a challenging and open-ended practice without any clear solutions.”
Sam Braverman, URP student

SPARC352 Studio Project

Since 2018, Drs. Ruth Steiner and Emre Tepe use the Urban Planning Project Studio course to facilitate research and discussion around different elements of inequity across Gainesville. Dr. Ruth Steiner and Dr. Emre Tepe used the same course in 2022 to collaborate with SPARC352, a place-based initiative fostering arts and wellness within the Gainesville community.  Students in the course researched opportunities to grow arts and wellness in the community and presented findings at the Matheson History Museum in December 2022. The project was coordinated by the Office of Community Collaborations and was a collaborative effort between the UF College of Medicine, UF College of the Arts, Center for Arts and Migration (CARE), Center for Arts and Medicine (CAM), and Department of Urban and Regional Planning. 

Students shared their findings to a group of Gainesville residents in a presentation held at the Matheson History Museum.  The study set forth research and solutions based in six elements of planning practices that impact the daily lives of the resents of East Gainesville. 

“We juggled the vision and goals of a client, SPARC352, with our own – grappling with what we believed to be the target audience, intended outcomes from our research, and ideal tools for community revival. This course taught me how to consider and develop a planning process to achieve results aligned with a community-wide vision.”
Hillary Laskey, URP student

Urban Planning Project 2022 Presentation at the Matheson History Museum.

Urban Planning Project 2022 Presentation at the Matheson History Museum.

Student Recognition

At the Florida APA Conference in 2022, seven Urban and Regional Planning students were awarded the Outstanding Student Project Award for their Urban Planning Project Studio coursework titled “Connectedness: Suggestions for Planning Best Practices in East Gainesville.” The students partnered with local leaders and community stakeholders in the Duval Heights neighborhood to identify longstanding disparities and generate solutions for fostering a more equitable relationship between the community and local institutions. 

This work was a continuation of previous student studios in 2019 and 2020.

Dr. Ruth Steiner, Jeremy Griffith, Jessica Hays, and Rama Hiba. FL APA Conference 2022.

2022 Outstanding Student Project Award Submission.

Project Awards & Publications

The department has also focused efforts on preserving community identity in the Porters neighborhood. In 2019, URP professors Dr. Kathryn Frank, Dr. Laura Dedenbach, and Dr. Kristin Larsen, and alumnus Dr. Tyeshia Redden, engaged with neighborhood residents to establish a community narrative that preserved their history and identity.

This research contributes understanding of how planning has reproduced narratives that harm minority neighborhoods, as well as how a participatory neighborhood narrative process can give voice to residents’ perspectives. The original 2017-18 participatory project upon which this study is based received an Award of Excellence in Neighborhood Planning from the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association in 2019.

Laura Dedenbach (left) and Tyeshia Redden (right) engaging children with the neighborhood narrative at the Porters Summer Block Party. Via Award of Excellence in Neighborhood Planning.

Award of Excellence in Neighborhood Planning 2019. Florida APA conference. From left, Laura Dedenbach, Gigi Simmons, and Kristin Larsen. Via Award of Excellence in Neighborhood Planning.

You can read more about their research and community engagement efforts in the story, “Strengthening a Neighborhood by Finding Its Story and Protecting Its Future” published by the Guide to Better Gainesville.

The research team also recently published a study in the Journal of the American Planning Association, titled Gainesville’s Forgotten Neighborhood: An Examination of Narratives in Planning.

“It is an incredibly rewarding experience to apply our professional expertise and commitment to social justice towards local concerns and thus build long-lasting relationships and goals, while at the same time gaining insights for the field.”
– Dr. Kathryn Frank, principal investigator

Context map of Gainesville, FL. Via Gainesville’s Forgotten Neighborhood in Journal of the American Planning Association.

Graphic of Porters Welcome Sign. Via Award of Excellence in Neighborhood Planning.

URP faculty and Porters residents and stakeholders participating on the project steering committee. Via Award of Excellence in Neighborhood Planning.

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