What do you think when you think about Alachua County? Aren’t we that special place “Where Nature and Culture Meet”? Aren’t we springs and prairie and forests and rolling green hills surrounding a dynamic university city?
And if we set out to build an event center, a sports palace to attract visitors, wouldn’t we want to place it where, you know, “Nature and Culture” actually meet?
Wouldn’t we want to show off the best we have to offer?
Our dynamic downtown arts scene.
Our newest and best park and the museum that celebrates what makes us innovators and inventors.
Our town-gown culture that breeds more innovation still.
Who are we anyway? What are we? We’re Gator Country set amid real gators and buffalo and so much more.
This isn’t us, is it? This is just more of the same autoAmerican landscape that you can see anywhere in Anywhere USA.
We’re really going to put our events center here? We’re going to welcome our visitors to a place where Commerce and Asphalt Meet? Is that really us?
Granted there are certain expediencies to inviting the world to our own little slice of autoAmerica.
I-75 is the perfect asphalt delivery system. It will allow our visitors to drive directly to their chain-owned hotel, attend their chosen event, eat at any number of chain-owned restaurants, shop in the big box of their choice…and then gas up and get the hell out of town. It is the autoAmerican way.
Will they even suspect that there is this amazing Innovation City just beyond sight of that asphalt delivery and departure system? Will they care? Do we even want visitors to come and see who and what we really are?
Or are we only interested in filling Interstate-adjacent beds, supporting minimum wage restaurant jobs and funneling shoppers into big boxes before we send them back to wherever they came from?
Who are we? What are we about? Are we just another way stop on the autoAmerican autobahn? Is that really the best vision Alachua County Commissioners have for our community’s future?
If so, we need commissioners with better vision. Because asphalt and commerce is a poor substitute for that magical place where Nature And Culture Meet.