Gainesville, population 115,000, is located in the north central part of Florida, 65 miles southwest of Jacksonville, in Alachua County, a 965 square mile area that is half covered with a wilderness of lakes, forest and wetlands. The county is also graced by a change of seasons. While there is no snow and little cold weather, the Fall foliage is beautiful. A small-town atmosphere with large old homes on tree-shaded streets gives the town its nickname of “The Tree City.”
Gainesville is home to the University of Florida, one of the ten largest schools in the United States (population of 45,000 students). The University brings significant educational and recreational opportunities to the area, and seniors who have resided in Gainesville at least one year may audit courses free of charge. Some retirees may consider the large student population to be a drawback (it does limit the number of part-time jobs available), but many retirees enjoy the youthful enthusiasm that college kids bring to the city.
Overall, the cost-of-living here is roughly 5% below the national average, thanks to housing costs that are 7% below the national norm and health care costs that are 5% below. Average homes sell for around $275,000. Rentals are available, but the market tightens in the fall when the college students return to town.
Originally planned as a health resort by its founder, Gainesville’s medical facilities are outstanding with four full-service hospitals and 1200 doctors and dentists. Shands Hospital is the leading referral facility for the entire southeast.
Outdoor recreational opportunities a plentiful.. There are numerous nature preserves along with the Kanahapa Botanical Gardens. Bird watching, fishing, tennis, swimming and 60 miles of bicycle trails are available. The city has seven golf courses, and many retirees enjoy attending sporting events at the University.
Although seniors account for only 9% of Gainesville’s population, senior services are good. Seventy-five agencies offer volunteer opportunities, and the Center for Aging Resources maintains a toll-free elder helpline that offers assistance to seniors.
Theater, dance performances and lecture series are provided by the University of Florida. The Samuel Horn Museum of Art and the Hippodrome State Theater also provide cultural activities.
It’s hard to find reasons to not retire in Gainesville. The area does have some large insects, but overall, Gainesville seems to be an ideal retirement spot.
Climate: The town sits at sea level. The average January high temperature is 71 degrees, and the average low temperature is 45 degrees. The average high summer temperature is 92 degrees, and the low is 72 degrees. Humidity is about 60%. The area receives 50 inches of rain a year.
Cost-of-Living: 5% below the national average.
Health Care: The county has four hospitals and over 1200 doctors and dentists.
Housing: Above the national average. The average price of a new 3 bedroom home is $275,000. Rentals are available but less so during the school year.
Taxes: The state sales tax is 6%. There is no state income tax and no death taxes on estates under $600,000. Property taxes are $27 to $30 per $1,000, and property is appraised at 100% of market value. There is a $25,000 homestead exemption for permanent residents whose first home is in Florida.
Safety: The crime rate is higher than the national average but lower than in other Florida cities. Local law enforcement works with seniors to educate and protect them.
Contact: Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, 300 E. University Ave., Gainesville, FL 32602, (352) 334-7100.