Making Great Communities Happen
2018 Great Places in Florida Finalists


Click on the button to the right to submit your vote. Poll ends Friday, October 19th at 5pm.

The Plaza de la Constitución | St. Augustine

As the longest continuously inhabited European-founded city in the 50 United States, St. Augustine is known as The Nation’s Oldest City. But what is the oldest feature of the oldest city?

The oldest structure is the very design of the city’s historic core, the town plan, a grid system with a plaza in the center of its parallel streets. By 1596, St. Augustine had its town plan in place, and that plan, including its plaza, has remained a sacred element of the city ever since.

Known as the Plaza de la Constitución since 1813, the plaza serves residents and visitors by hosting cultural, historical and traditional ceremonies and commemorations with every event and activity in the Plaza being free and open to the public as it has been for centuries.

That’s what makes St. Augustine’s Plaza de la Constitución a great place.

The plaza received its name and its first monument after the enactment of a new Spanish Constitución when the city built a monument in honor of the document and named the plaza in its honor.

The plaza features unique sculptures commemorating the Civil Rights marches held there in 1964, memorials to St. Augustine’s war dead, a public market pavilion built in the early 19th century and in the center, most prominently, a gazebo, erected in 1914.

The gazebo is literally the city’s center stage. For 28 years it’s been the setting for Concerts in the Plaza, the city’s free weekly summer musical series. It is the stage for the ceremonies of Light-Up! Night, the start of the city’s Nights of Lights, a 10-week long event during which the entire downtown is illuminated with small white lights. And every Fourth of July entertainment from the gazebo precedes the city’s annual event Fireworks Over The Matanzas.

During its four centuries, the plaza has hosted religious and political gatherings, celebrations and commemorations of all descriptions, and for generations has played host to some of the city’s longest running traditional and cultural events.

Lastly, even when there is no special event and the gazebo sits empty and quiet, the plaza remains the heart of the city, providing a place of reflection and quiet in the cool shade of the ancient oak canopy. And those who enjoy the plaza at any time know they have an experience shared with others who for hundreds of years have known this is a great place.

Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts | Barberville

The Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts is in Barberville, Volusia County, Florida. It is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization registered with the State of Florida. The Barberville Pioneer Settlement lies on the Florida Black Bear Byway, a designated National Scenic Byway. In it’s Designation Application, the Byway noted “The most significant cultural resource found within the limits of the [121-mile long] Byway is the Barberville Settlement for the Creative Arts.”

The Settlement has been the recipient of grants from the Florida State Department for Historic Preservation and is also supported by Volusia County ECHO and cultural programs. Most of its financial support, however, is derived from school fields trips, visitors, memberships, and individual donors.

The Settlement campus comprises 30 acres with 18 historical buildings and over 10,000 historical artifacts. Volunteers provide thousands of hours as demonstrators for educational programs, teachers of music workshops, organizers of the five special events, and fundraisers.

The centerpiece of the Settlement is the original Barberville Central High School (1919), a National Register of Historic Places site, and the heart of many special events, music, dancing, craft demonstrations, and workshops. Many of the historic buildings on campus have been brought from neighboring towns and one even from Georgia, but the Settlement is the original home of the Joseph Underhill House, Volusia County’s oldest two-story brick residence, built in 1879.

Some of the structures moved in include the railroad depot from Pierson with a large working model railroad setup run during special events. A turpentine still was moved from Daytona Beach. The Astor Bridge Tender’s House, Lewis Log Cabin, a church, firehouse, quarter’s house, commissary, post office, and are among others.

The Settlement is also home to farm animals from pioneer days: chickens, geese, peacocks, mules and donkeys.

The Pioneer Settlement is truly a Great Florida Place!

Downtown Lake Mary Central Park

The City of Lake Mary Central Park, located in the heart of Downtown Lake Mary, provides the community with an unmistakable center for a growing City. At approximately 8 acres in size, Central Park is the most versatile park within the City. In the areas adjacent to N. 4th St. and Lakeview Ave., the park is flanked by urban elements such as on-street parking and 0’ setback buildings. However, as you walk within Central Park, and become lost in the large number of trees that act as hosts, it is easy to lose sight of the surrounding urban environment. The internal walkways of the park are buffered from the more busy street life by a large stormwater pond and fountain. In addition, speakers are spread throughout the park playing popular and classic music, appealing to all generations of residents. In the evening, the street trees that line N. 4th St. and Lakeview Ave. are lit in white LED lights, adding both a unique design flare and an extra piece of safety by providing additional ambient lighting for pedestrians.

Every Saturday, Central Park plays host to the City’s Farmers Market. This event, which has continued to grow each year, would not exist without this Park space. The same could be said about the City’s monthly Wine Art Wednesday event. By including a safe fenced area and brick paver parking, the City is able to host its residents to a variety of Food Trucks and adult beverages in a safe, family friendly manner. All the while, live local musicians and artists entertain those who come out to enjoy their community.

The Park is adjacent to a pedestrian bridge that serves community residents to the south as well as a safe route to Lake Mary Elementary. On any given school day, dozens of students cross over the bridge and race through the park to meet their families.

During the Holiday season, the City lights every square inch of trees in Central Park in an amazing display of community spirit. November and December are easily the busiest times for the Park because of this display as the entire region will come to Lake Mary just to enjoy the extra special ambiance of the park.

The preceding description highlights the importance of Central Park to the City. However, to fully understand the impact of Central Park would be to visit and co-mingle with the community

Downtown Winter Garden

Established in 1903, Winter Garden is a former citrus town that’s now home to over 40,000 residents and offers a wealth of historical and natural assets. Nestled on beautiful Lake Apopka and roughly twenty minutes west of Orlando, Winter Garden is well known and recognized for its many recreational amenities, events, and historical charm that make it a Great Place to live, work and visit.

The Historic Downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a favorite destination for West Orange County residents and those who travel the award- winning West Orange Trail. In 1992, the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency established strategic outdoor areas to create energy and activity along the main corridor – West Plant Street. This started with the bike trail, the West Orange Trail, which is soon to be part of the 250-mile continuously paved multi-use Coast-to-Coast Connector. The trail segment that runs directly through the middle of Downtown was developed as a linear park on land formerly used as a railway. The Downtown route is pedestrian-friendly and provides an “outdoor living room” feel, featuring the City Clock Tower, Centennial Plaza Fountain, a Gazebo with benches, and swings: all elements that help create an outdoor environment that is constantly filled with people and energy. A parking garage was recently constructed in Downtown to provide hundreds of free parking spaces to both residents and visitors.

Regional amenities that are popular include the Garden Theatre, the SoBo Art Gallery, historic icons, boutique shops, restaurants, museums, and the Pavilion which is home to the Splash Park, the Winter Garden Farmers Market, and a plethora of micro events held throughout the year. Open every Saturday, the Farmers Market is a regional farmers market and has been recognized nationally year after year. The Blues and BBQ festival pairs the hottest Blues and Roots musicians with award-winning local BBQ connoisseurs, creating incredible energy when the smooth sounds of blues and barbecue fill the air.

Downtown is an urban garden with colorful planters, landscaping and lots of trees. This is an integral part of Winter Garden’s heritage and name. When you visit, the buildings and streets are softened by the green landscaping. Known for brick mercantile buildings and masonry vernacular storefronts with varied colors and facades, Downtown Winter Garden exudes a perfect blend of warmth and energy, leaving you with a feeling that you truly are experiencing a great place!

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