Before we could move this neighborhood into the future, we had to embrace its past.
The Eastside of Gainesville is the “older” part of the city and one that’s rich with natural beauty, a multigenerational legacy and a tight-knit sense of community. Despite its proximity to downtown and potential for development, the Eastside hadn’t seen any investment from the city or the private sector in decades. Our client, the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Authority designated the Eastside as one of its priority redevelopment areas and acquired funding to develop two large construction projects.
The first was a new subdivision of 38 homes that would be built on the former site of a public housing complex. The second was a 14-acre site which already featured a 30,000 sq. ft. small business incubator.
The new plans called for the construction of ten additional office, retail and mixed-use buildings to be built on the site over the next couple of years. Despite the two projects being very different, they were also very connected. While both projects shared a geographic proximity and held a promise of possibility for the future of the Eastside, they were also saddled with the emotional baggage of a community that was weary and skeptical of promises.
Our initial step was to do a series of interviews with residents, community leaders, pastors, teachers, and local merchants who could give us a good perspective on the past, present and future of the Eastside. We needed to find out just what it means to understand a community.
That story provided context for us to look at the things that had shaped this area thus far. It was only then that we could speak to the community honestly. Story helped us frame the conversation around the history, but also allowed us to talk about the future from a perspective of neighbors and friends. Secondly, we were charged with naming and branding both of the sites.
Heartwood was chosen for the housing development. A reference to the center growth of a tree, the name spoke to the sense of old and new.
Cornerstone was the name picked for the business site. With the redevelopment bringing much needed retail and commercial services, the name solidified this was just the beginning, and there were more good things to come for the community.
Other elements we created included environmental signage, a microsite for Heartwood featuring home designs, floor plans and amenities as well as logos and branding materials for both projects.
Within a few months of the rebranding, there was a commitment from a French food analysis company to take 70,000 sq. ft. of office and lab space in Cornerstone. This meant that construction needed to begin much sooner than anticipated on two new buildings to meet the company’s move-in date. At the same time, the GCRA decided to relocate their headquarters from its previous downtown location to the Cornerstone site.
After the launch of the Heartwood website we saw an overwhelming response to the fact that a development of new, contemporary homes was finally being built in this previously underserved part of town.