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: 352-334-5010
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, a father, and 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: 352-393-8206
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
Monica "Mo" Deel
Office Number: 352-393-8212
Monica “Mo” Deel joined the CRA in November 2017 as the Operations Coordinator. Mo has a personal vision to serve others with passion and brings her progressive administrative and professional operational knowledge to support the CRA’s dedication to serving our vibrant, diverse community.
As a proud Gator Alumnus, she has made the City of Gainesville her home since 1997. Upon receiving her Degree in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Parks and Tourism she honed her people passion as an Operating Partner for seven years and was fortunate to work alongside some of our city’s most amazing community partners and learned extensively from some of our city’s unsurpassed business leaders the necessary lengths needed to provide superior service to our citizens. It is her desire to bring her innovative and forward-thinking experience to the CRA’s citizen-centered vision.
Mo and her family happily call Gainesville home and can often be found making memories around the natural, recreational and cultural facilities and programs that make Gainesville an amazing place to live!>Quote of the Year: “Don’t worry about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright.” – Bob Marley, The Wailers Three Little Birds (Exodus (Deluxe Edition) (Mo truly hopes you couldn’t resist singing that out loud).
Favorite Food: Lobster Bisque
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: 352-393-8213
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: 352-393-8208
Shawn Moss joined the Gainesville CRA in November of 2017 as a Project Manager. Shawn is a proud member of the Gainesville community. He attributes many of his successes to the experiences and the relationships he forged in the area. His technical education is in Computer Information Technology with Certifications as a Business Specialist and Operations Management. His drive for education and personal development have resulted in his expertise in the nuances of Finance, Entrepreneurship, Real Estate and Land Acquisition, Credit Restoration, Mortgages, as well as Loan Modifications. His background has given him the opportunity to inspire and empower people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds to reach their full potential.
He is husband to a beautiful wife and father to two lovely children.
Quote of the Year: “If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time."-Zig Ziglar
Favorite Food Right Now: Banana Walnut Caramel Waffle with a Dollop of Whip Cream
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 is the lead on the Gainesville East marketing campaign and she also makes a mean pot of coffee.
Tricia attended the University of Florida and then moved to Philadelphia to attend graduate school, where she would stay for 11 years. In Philadelphia, she disovered her passion for working in human services and eventually became an Assistant Director for a nonprofit, 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 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