About the CRA
Community Redevelopment Agency:
Our goal is to build awesome things that make a difference in Gainesville, FL.
We help underserved regions attract private investment through community partnerships, competitive economic development incentives and improved public infrastructure. Projects have ranged from building Depot Park, renovating Bo Diddley Plaza, and replacing the former 13th St pedestrian overpass with the signature Helyx Bridge, to incentivizing Mindtree Ltd.’s pledge to create 400 high-wage local jobs. We target our redevelopment efforts in four core urban areas (Downtown, Eastside, Fifth Avenue/Pleasant Street and College Park/University Heights). After achieving our strategic goals in a district, we step out of the way and let the private sector do the rest. The CRA is devoted to helping Gainesville achieve its full potential as a vibrant, diverse community.
The CRA is governed by the CRA Board (composed of the City of Gainesville Commission) and is guided by four citizen advisory boards representing each district.
meet the team
City Manager & Executive Director
Office Number: 352-393-8211
As Fast Company magazine recently wrote: Anthony Lyons is not your typical urban planning type. He didn’t go to planning school. He didn’t get an MBA. He went from studying Greek art to starting one of the nation’s first pre-paid phone card companies before turning around Claremont, New Hampshire, a New England mill town. He then became director of Gainesville, Florida’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).
Using his progressive outlook and eclectic background, Lyons is rethinking the role of local government in community life. In four short years, following a theory of simple innovation, the CRA accomplished the unthinkable: 1,500 new housing units were built, property values increased more than 60%, fiber optic cables were laid in long-neglected neighborhoods, and a signature park on the site of an abandoned train depot began to be created.
Anthony has worked on behalf of downtowns for more than 13 years, and is a proven and skilled leader with substantial economic, planning, community and organizational development expertise. Anthony is an inventive team leader and is skilled at cultivating public/private partnerships, town/gown collaborations, and mediating diverse interests. Anthony has overseen numerous successful initiatives from conception through construction including research districts, river’s edge redevelopment, historic preservation, building multiple bridges, recruiting companies of all sizes and, most importantly, revitalizing long neglected neighborhoods.
In his spare time he is a husband of 20 years, a father of a ten-year-old and is a dedicated athlete, coached by a gold medalist/former world-record holder in track. In 2014, Anthony earned All-American status for track at the Master’s National Championship and finished as the fifth fastest man in the nation for the 200 meter dash.
Quote of the Year: "The only way to change is to change."
Favorite Food: Dim Sum
Office Number: 352-393-8203
Mobile Number: 352-316-6283
As Director of the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), Sarah Vidal-Finn leads redevelopment and economic development efforts in Gainesville’s urban core. Prior to becoming the Interim Director, Sarah was responsible for the operations of the Gainesville CRA, including overseeing budgeting and procurement and improving operational processes.
She also managed redevelopment projects and has successfully completed a single-family home urban infill project, a historic rehabilitation project and the development of a LEED Silver, mixed-use commercial building (now home to the CRA office and two start-up companies) and the redevelopment of Gainesville’s downtown Bo Diddley Community Plaza.
Prior to joining the Gainesville CRA, Sarah was the construction coordinator for the University of Florida Purchasing Services Department where she managed the university’s procurement and contract management for construction-related services for Facilities Planning & Construction, Physical Plant Department, Housing and the Institute of Food & Agricultural Services. She is also a licensed Florida Real Estate Sales Associate with a background in commercial real estate and development and a certified Housing Development Finance Professional by the National Development Council. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Florida.
Quote of the Year: "If anyone ever tells you your dreams are silly, just remember there's a millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle." ~ Unknown
Favorite Food: Fresh seafood
Office Number: 352-393-8205
Andrew Meeker is a registered landscape architect with more than a decade of public and private sector experience. From managing the CRA’s $6 million budget to overseeing multiple community initiatives, Andrew integrates his process oriented approach to achieving feasible results.
In his current role as project manager for the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, Meeker led the creation and subsequent implementation strategy of the Power District redevelopment plan (a vision to redevelop 17-acres of former industrial land) and the Innovation Square Parking Analysis and Strategy (a planned five million square foot tech oriented mixed-use development bridging the University of Florida and the city of Gainesville).
Previously, Meeker served as a Senior Landscape Architect for the Parks & Recreation Department as well as the Public Works Department for the City of Greenville, SC. His work included acting as an in-house designer and liaison for several private/public projects, project manager for multiple planning and construction projects, managed the Landscape Ordinance for the City, crafted multiple City Council adopted policies, and oversaw a number of high profile bikeway planning and construction projects. Other career highlights include founding Bikeville (the City of Greenville’s bicycle-friendly community initiative) and working on various residential and commercial planning and design projects in Florida, Georgia, and Colorado. In 2002, Meeker received his bachelor of landscape architecture from the University of Florida’s College of Design, Construction, and Planning.
He is a registered landscape architect (RLA) in the State of South Carolina and a league certified cycling instructor (LCI) with the League of the American Bicyclists.
Office Number: 352-393-8213
Ori Baber joined the CRA in August 2016 as a Project Manager for Depot Park, the Historic Depot Building, and the CRA’s Community Vitality Report.
He holds a master’s degree from the University of Florida’s Engineering School for Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment. He specializes in using GIS, analytics, and health/ environmental impact assessment to plan and evaluate redevelopment initiatives. In 2014, Ori was involved in the National Study of Neighborhood Parks (NSNP), a project managed by the RAND Corporation with support from the City Parks Alliance. Prior to joining the CRA, he was part of a research team evaluating the economic, social, and health impacts of several large brownfield redevelopments across the US.
Ori has happily called Gainesville home for over a decade and can often be found enjoying one of the city’s many beautiful natural areas.
Office Number: 352-393-8206
Jessica Leonard joined the CRA as a Project Manager II in August and she has a love for culture, urban form, and history. She received her Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Florida. She concentrated on Historical Preservation and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). She expanded her knowledge in GIS at the 2016 Summer Assistantship with Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI) International Users Conference in San Diego, CA. as well as presented her thesis titled, A Historical Bike Tour: Re-discovering the value of chert rock structures, during the blast to the past sessions at both ESRI’s UC and Southeast Conference in Charlotte, NC.
Prior to joining the Gainesville CRA, Jessica was a military contractor for Naval Air Station (NAS) Roosevelt Roads, PR as a certified draftsman in the Public Works Department. She kept her ties with the U.S. Navy as an Engineer Aide Reservist attached to NAS Jacksonville. While working on her master’s degree, Jessica completed an electronic mapping survey of 300 structures within the Northeast Historic District for the City of Gainesville, surveyed 200 historical locations in that formed the basis for an active walking tour that starts at the Nantucket Whaling Museum in Massachusetts, as well as researched various planning solutions for the City of West Melbourne Planning Department.
Jessica was raised on an Arabian horse farm outside Bushnell, FL. She is a proud Navy veteran as is her husband. They are the busy parents of 2 girls. She is happiest when spending time outdoors with family and friends in her free time.
Favorite Food: Anything with Avocados and Cilantros that ranges from Glowing Green Goddess Smoothies to Southwestern Dishes
Quote of the Year: “I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.” ― Helena Bonham Carter
Office Number: 352-393-8210
Mobile Number: 352-672-5026
Michael, a Gainesville native, is a product of the University of Florida’s M. E. Rinker School of Building Construction. After which, he immediately began managing the construction of health care facilities throughout Florida. Shortly following the completion of the Emergency Wing Addition at Flagler Hospital with Cyntex Rogers Construction, Michael launched a residential design and construction group in Ocala, Florida. There he had a very successful career in custom residential building and development. His company’s willingness to push the envelope of creativity in residential design led to him winning the 2007 Marion County Parade of Homes. His expertise in both residential and commercial construction management coupled with his community efforts in association with the North Central Florida Center for Community Enrichment made him a welcomed addition to the CRA Team. He is married to a beautiful East Gainesville local and they have two wonderful handsome boys.
Michael is the project manager for two of the largest undertakings by the CRA in East Gainesville. Heartwood, a 34 lot single family detached residential community with a fresh look and modern flare sure to draw attention, and Cornerstone, a nearly 14 acre commercial complex currently housing the Gainesville Technological and Entrepreneurial Center. In addition, he manages the Commercial Building Façade Improvements Incentive Program and acts as the liaison for the Fifth Avenue Pleasant Street District.
Quote of the Year: "A vision without the implementation of a plan is just a good idea."
Favorite Food: Barbecue
Program and Event Coordinator
Office Number: 352-393-8202
Mobile Number: 352-727-0238
Nigel Hamm grew up in Hollywood, Florida and graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in 1994. He has lived in Gainesville for the past 21 years... 15 spent as owner of the music venue Common Grounds. In 2012, Nigel decided to pursue his passion for food and cooking and opened the food truck Go Go Stuff Yourself. He joined the CRA in 2015 as the event and program coordinator, focusing primarily on Depot Park and Bo Diddley Plaza. He has a passion for music, food, and Gainesville.
Favorite food: BBQ /Fish Tacos
Office Number: 352-393-8207
Sarit Sela is an architect and an urban regeneration specialist. She received a Bachelor of Architecture from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Israel, and a M.Sc. in Development and Planning: Urban Regeneration from The Bartlett School, University College London, UK. Her fifteen-year career spans three continents and includes a variety of private and public architecture and urban design projects. These include large-scale educational and government buildings in Jerusalem (Kolker Kolker Epstein Architects), brownfield regeneration projects in the United Kingdom (Urban Initiatives Studio, London), urban design projects (ROMA Design Group, San Francisco), and high-end residential, educational, and historic preservation projects in California (Cody Anderson Wasney Architects, Palo Alto).
Sarit joined the Gainesville CRA in 2011. She has been project manager and design lead for a variety of projects, including the GTEC and Seminary Lane master plans, NW 1st Avenue streetscape design, Power District Catalyst Building Adaptive Reuse, and the interior design for the Southern Charm Kitchen, as well as Façade Grant Program manager.
Sarit is a licensed architect in Florida and Israel and a LEED AP. She is also a mother of two and a passionate Nia instructor.
Favorite Food: Scrambled Eggs
Quote of the Year: “I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.” -Arthur Rubinstein
Office Number: 352-393-8201
Mobile Number: 352-672-7809
Stephanie grew up in Orlando, Florida. She moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida where she received her Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Operations Management. She then went on to become a Certified Public Housing Manager for the Gainesville Housing Authority for three years where she managed the day-to-day operations of 220 housing units. For nine years after that position she worked as a Management Consultant for BCN Associates, Inc. where she was responsible for all contracts, facilities operations and quality assurance oversight for the company. Stephanie utilizes what she learned from these agencies to assist religious organizations, non-profit organizations and small businesses with their business systems through her own small consulting company. She loves to travel both for pleasure and on mission trips. She is an avid reader and loves GOOD music.
Stephanie’s love for her community and heart for ministry led her to the CRA. She is currently a Project Manager whose projects include the construction and development of the A. Quinn Jones Museum & Cultural Center; oversight for the Cotton Club Museum & Cultural Center and the Downtown Area Residential Paint program. She serves in a dual role as the CRA Secretary for the CRA Board where she is responsible for all the administrative functions for the Board and its four area Advisory Boards.
Quote of the Year: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” – Maya Angelou
Favorite Food: Mango (in any form; stand alone, sorbet, chutney, juice, etc.)
Office Number: 352-393-8208
Mobile Number: 352-672-5019
A civil engineer by training, Suzanne has three decades of experience working on a projects ranging from water resource management to urban renewal. A former small business owner, Suzanne has succeeded in both the public and private sector. She has worn several different hats throughout her career, being immersed in engineering, business development, massage therapy, education, energy conservation, and more.
In her current role as a Gainesville CRA Project Manager, she works on an array of strategic community initiatives including: Power District Redevelopment & visioning efforts, the potential daylighting of the Sweetwater Branch Creek, the NW 1st Avenue Electrical Undergrounding & Streetscaping, and NW 5th Avenue Electrical Undergrounding & Streetscaping. Suzanne loves to facilitate and catalyse cooperative relationships between many different people, CoG Departments, and organizations.
Prior to joining the Gainesville CRA, Suzanne led regional water resource protection missions for the St. John’s River Water Management District. She had the opportunity to work on preserving Indian River Lagoon seagrasses and fish/clam hatcheries, hydrologic & hydraulic modelling, and regulatory permitting efforts. In the private arena, Suzanne designed commercial/residential site plan developments. She also designed and wrote grants to support key municipal projects in Southeast Florida. Intrigued by the advancement of new energy efficient technologies, she also spent time working at the Florida Solar Energy Center’s Building Design Assistance Center. Suzanne holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering (BSCE) from Florida Tech (formerly known as the Florida Institute of Technology) in Melbourne, Florida.
A Gainesville resident for more than 20 years, Suzanne lives in a tiny house in the heart of the city. She loves being a mom and a Girl Scout leader—and is currently working with her daughter to design a new entrepreneurial product. Suzanne is driven by making positive changes in our world, our community, and people’s lives. You can often spot her biking, camping, hiking, and frequenting Florida’s beautiful beaches with friends and family.
Quote of the Year:"Nothing in Nature Blooms All Year, Be Patient"
Favorite Food: Fresh Fruits & Veggies!
Office Number: 352-393-8215
Tricia Lopez joined the CRA in February of 2016 and brings with her an Art and Human Services background. Tricia holds a BFA in Photography from the University of Florida and an MFA in Photography from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.
Tricia oversees the marketing and social media for the CRA and Bo Diddley Plaza. She is the in-house graphic designer and organizer of the CRA's 10,000+ photographs. She also makes a mean pot of coffee.
Tricia spent the last 11 years in Philadelphia, first attending graduate school, and then teaching at various colleges in the area while doing freelance photojournalism and working as an artist’s assistant. She took a part-time job at a non-profit employment agency for individuals with intellectual disabilities and other barriers to employment, and this changed everything. She found the work very rewarding and felt that she was really contributing to the community. She spent 8 years there, eventually becoming an Assistant Director, where she was overseeing the services for over 200 individuals.
Tricia enjoyed living in Philadelphia, but always thought of Gainesville as home, so she and her family returned in 2015 and plan on staying. She loves Gainesville because there is such a vibrant and close-knit community. Tricia is excited to be part of the CRA and to see Gainesville grow into its full potential, as a place where people love to live and will want to put down roots.
Outside of work, Tricia likes to spend time with family and friends, crochet, and go for bike rides.
Quote of the Year: “There's an old saying about those who forget history. I don't remember it, but it's good.” ― Stephen Colbert
Favorite Food: burritos