#LaunchTheScene: Next Stop, Depot Park

The screams of slowing steel pierced the surrounding air as the cargo holder halted before the warehouse. Its contents were sorted and stored and the boxcars came and went. As years passed passengers loaded and left, some sorted just the same.

During a time where our country flirted with rebellion while headed in the direction of pursuing civil rights, the Old Gainesville Depot grew with its city and transported its people and their products where they desired to go.

Built in the 1860’s, the depot served Gainesville by means of the Florida Railroad, which connected the east and west coasts of the state to cut miles off cargo trips and provide a safer route for passengers. But after suffering losses during the Civil War, the Gainesville Depot lost steam and eventually defaulted to a dumping ground for industrial operations. Today, the space serves a new purpose.

After years of decay and neglect that led to a pit of coal tar residues and forgotten beams and lumber, the space has been purged of contamination and the foundation of the remaining historic station strengthened. In its place lies the new Depot Park.

In honor of the former transportation hub, when visitors enter the space they still feel as if they have been taken somewhere else.

“I would say I feel like I’m being taken to a place for relaxing,” says Jon Alfonso of his experience at the park. “The atmosphere there is super laid back with all of the sitting areas and open space. I think that the modern construction and landscaping sets it apart from the surrounding area.”

Tucked away within the fringe of the downtown Gainesville grid, the site includes a modern take on the community park. It features decorative railways and grey stones leading to a paved picnic area with high-tops and built in umbrellas. The promenade overlook set before the pond welcomes picnic-goers, sunset enthusiasts, and live music fans, surrounded by a walking track for those who prefer a scenic workout.

For younger visitors, a playground and fountain park outlines the grassy areas just outside the Boxcar and Pop-a-Top store. These two features were built within the Historic Depot Building and offer a unique event space and bar alongside Gainesville’s favorite general store.

By blending the sleek, open layout of the Boxcar space with the quirky and nostalgic wonderland within Pop-a-Top, visitors can enjoy good food, brews, and company under the roof of Depot Park’s new and improved commemoration of one of Gainesville’s most historic assets.

“It reminds me of Westworld honestly,” Alfonso jokes. “Choo Choo trains and a saloon? Totally Westworld. Pretty sure I saw Dolores last time I was there.”

Whether or not the space takes you to a fictional fantasy, it is a given that the hustle of the urban area disappears. The stress of campus life subsides. The obligations of the real world escape you. The Depot Park lets you enjoy something bigger.

“I like to sit on a bench and reflect there because it is relaxing and it feels removed from school. There seems to be more green space there than most parks, and it isn’t too cluttered which makes it unique,” says park visitor Mary Hannah Monroe. “It’s always nice to get away.”

Let Depot Park take you somewhere. Come on out and see it for yourself this Thursday, November 17th and help Gainesville Scene celebrate our new ownership as we #LaunchTheScene with our favorite picks from art, music, food, drinks and fun.

View photos and read article at: http://gainesvillescene.com/2016/11/15/launchthescene-depot-park/

Depot Park earns $60,000 Capital City Bank grant for Adventure Play Area

Depot Park visitors will now have some much needed protection from the Florida heat! We're thrilled to announce that Capital City Bank's non-profit foundation has graciously contributed $60,000 towards constructing a much-needed shade structure next to the Depot Park custom splash pad and adventure play area! (pictured from left to right: City Manager Anthony Lyons; CRA Project Manager Nathalie McCrate; CRA Project Manager Cindi Harvey; Capital City Bank Chairman, President, & CEO William G. Smith, Jr.; Interim CRA Director Sarah Vidal-Finn; CRA Board Chair & Commissioner Craig Carter)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Families will enjoy some much needed shelter from the hot Florida sun when the Depot Park play area opens this summer, thanks to the support of a local bank. Financial services firm Capital City Bank has committed $60,000 toward adding a sunshade structure next to the future downtown central park’s splash pad and play area.

Currently under construction by the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), Depot Park will feature a football-field sized children’s play area with a custom Sweetwater Creek-themed splash pad; a water’s edge promenade designed to host food truck rallies, art galleries, festivals and other special events; outdoor grills and picnic pavilions; dramatic entry features; and more.

“At Capital City Bank, we are committed to supporting causes that enhance the quality of life enjoyed in our communities,” said Chairman, President and CEO of Capital City Bank William G. Smith, Jr. “Our company was founded on the values of community pride and loyalty, and community involvement has been a part of our tradition for more than 120 years. Our associates don’t just work in our communities. We also live here. We raise our families here, so we have a deep, personal interest in what happens here. We are proud to have been the first private investor to step forward and contribute to the Depot Park project."

The funding announcement was made during the Capital City Bank Annual Shareowners’ Meeting, held at the Phillips Center for Performing Arts in Gainesville, Florida on April 26 (a photo is available upon request by emailing gainesvillepio@cityofgainesville.org). The check will officially be presented to the Gainesville CRA Board (composed of the City Commission) at 3 p.m. Monday, May 16. The meeting will be televised on Community 12TV and available to view on the city’s website at www.cityofgainesville.org.

“We are deeply honored to have been selected for the Capital City community grant,” said interim CRA Director Sarah Vidal-Finn. “Depot Park will be a major destination for families all over the north central Florida region when it opens in just a few months. This grant will significantly improve the experiences of parents and children enjoying the park.”

The Depot Park grant was awarded through the Capital City Bank Group Foundation, a non-profit organization created in 1983 by Capital City Bank Group that provides grants to non-profit, charitable organizations and institutions exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Through this annual grant process, Capital City Bank helps community organizations fulfill their missions and enhance the lives of local citizens.

For more information, please contact Gainesville CRA at 352-393-8213 or Capital City Bank Chief Brand Officer Brooke Hallock at 850-508-1675.

Giggle Magazine Article: Not Your Typical Park Experience

Not Your Typical Park Experience

32-acre, Family-Friendly Depot Park Opening in Gainesville this Summer!


Photos courtesy of Ben Tobias and City of Gainesville

Alachua County parents, brace yourselves for an onslaught of carpool requests and beautiful bluebird days outdoors. In just a few months, toddlers and teenagers alike will be begging you to take them to Downtown Gainesville’s “Central Park.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Depot Park is anchored by a restored, 1860s-era train station that served as Gainesville’s main railroad hub for 60 years. This rustic, railroad theme informs the aesthetic of the whole park — from a towering, weathered steel gateway feature to a football field-sized Adventure Play Area built around a custom splash pad.

The $5.9 million park includes: a water’s edge promenade designed to host food truck rallies and festivals; picnic pavilions perfect for birthday parties and barbecue cookouts; and winding trails ideal for birdwatchers and nature lovers.

The Adventure Play Area at Depot Park isn’t a “15-minutes-and-the-kids-are-bored-now” playground, either. With a North Florida springs-inspired splash pad — complete with water soakers, ground jets, and waterfalls — many of the play elements draw from Gainesville’s rich ecology and history.

Kids can scale a brick smokestack and dangle from utility-inspired climbers that pay tribute to Gainesville’s industrial Power District. A series of domes hints at the traditional dwellings of the area’s Native American Timucuan tribe. Carvings of raccoons, butterflies, mice and other critters are hidden within the oak tree climber for children to discover.

Other interactive play features include: a wheelchair-accessible choo-choo train replica; an oak tree climber; a sandpit with hidden fossils; an abandoned stormwater pipe; a rolling hill; dueling slides; and more than a dozen swings.

The playground area is safely fenced in to keep children from wandering too far away, so parents can find a comfortable bench and just relax. Clean restrooms are in close proximity to the play area. A parking lot will be built on the east side of the park and more parking spots are available on Southeast 4th Street and along South Main Street.

The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention (which celebrates the invention of Gatorade and entrepreneurship) is on-track to construct a world-class facility on the west side of Depot Park by 2017. Soon, children will be able to exercise their creativity in the labs at the Cade Museum and then play at Depot Park.


Depot Park marries environmental sustainability with economic development. It has taken more than two decades of partnerships and planning to convert the land from an industrial brownfield site into a flourishing, urban park. The park wraps around a large stormwater pond that collects runoff from Gainesville’s urban core and cleanses it before it flows into Sweetwater Branch Creek and Paynes Prairie. The southern half of Depot Park is a brilliant integration of manmade and natural wetlands. The historic Depot Train Station was restored using certified U.S. Green Building Council Gold LEED standards. Prominent features include original old growth heart pine, energy-efficient lighting and interactive rain barrels that capture rainwater from the roof’s copper gutters.

Depot Park is also designed to make it easy for visitors to arrive using eco-friendly modes of transportation, like public transit, walking and bicycling. It’s conveniently located across the street from the Rosa Parks Downtown RTS Station, which receives buses bringing passengers from 19 different bus routes around the city. The popular Gainesville-Hawthorne rail trail feeds cyclists directly into the southern edge of the park. The newly redeveloped Depot Avenue features wide sidewalks, beautiful palm trees and bright lighting, making a nice jog from P.K. Yonge to Depot Park a fun exercise route.

Want to learn more about Depot Park’s highly anticipated summer 2016 grand opening? We can’t wait to unveil this landmark destination! Please follow the Gainesville CRA on social media under #DepotPark2016 #GCRA or visit our website at Gainesvillecra.com.

Email Depot Park CRA project manager Cindi Harvey at HarveyCK@cityofgainesville.org for more information.

Originally published in Giggle’s April/May 2016 Issue