Bo Diddley Community Plaza Facelift Aims To Revitalize Downtown

The heart of Downtown Gainesville is getting a new look! After nearly four years of site studies and community discussions, Gainesville’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is leading efforts to turn the historic Bo Diddley Community Plaza into a more iconic destination for locals and visitors alike. Improvements will include a gently-trickling water wall, a green room for performers and a second café space. 

“The north plaza rejuvenation will attract more users at all times of day,” said CRA manager Sarah Vidal-Finn. “A coffee-shop styled café will encourage early morning traffic and additional features will support and enhance plaza programming. The goal is to create a fun, active space for everyone to enjoy.” 

The plaza’s bus stop will be moved slightly east in order to make the plaza more visible from University Avenue and encourage more pedestrian activity. An informational kiosk will be used to promote special events. Safety, visibility and accessibility were major guiding principles, Vidal-Finn said.

Destin-based DAG Architects has been contracted to redesign the north plaza. Construction could begin as early as winter 2014.    

In 2010, the agency converted the plaza’s old Bethel Station (a 1920s-era gas service station) into the bustling Lunchbox café. The CRA’s mission is to eliminate slum and blight, revitalize Gainesville’s urban neighborhoods and encourage economic growth. Projects have ranged from building the signature 13th Street DNA-helyx bridge to spurring Mindtree’s 400-job creation pledge with a high-wage job incentive package. 

Governed by the Gainesville City Commission seated as the CRA Board, the agency reinvests tax increment dollars into target redevelopment areas. Learn more at


Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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