La Casita and the Institute of Black Culture have been part of the cultural fabric of the University of Florida for decades. Both houses were torn down in 2016 and Wednesday evening brought the groundbreaking ceremony to renew that legacy.
Samuel Santos said, “[La Casita is] like a home away from home.”
He has heard the stories of La Casita, a gathering spot for Hispanics students since 1994, from his friends.
La Casita took over a home on University Avenue right next to the Institute of Black Culture, which was established in 1971.
The two old homes were destroyed in 2016 to make way for new facilities.
“Not having them right now, there’s certainly a void that’s felt on campus and within the community, we’re looking forward to these houses, these institutes bringing communities together, even closer than before,” said William Atkins, senior director of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs.
The old wooden buildings were falling apart and weren’t up to code with space and accessibility.
“At a certain point it was determined, with as many renovations as the university tried to do it was just the right time to rebuild,” Atkins said.
The original plan, two wings with a common kitchen and elevator, gave way to separate buildings as next-door neighbors, just as before.
“They wanted to make sure the black community and LatinX community had their own spaces because they were the only spaces on campus like that,” Atkins said.
The groundbreaking ceremony will lead to the start of construction, with an expected opening in fall 2019.
“I’ll be able to use it my senior year which will really exciting and a good send off for me,” Santos said.
Atkins said he can’t wait to celebrate with the community.
“It’s going to be an amazing time to reflect, to celebrate, to honor the history and the legacy that so many Gators from the past, present have advocated for and have fought for. We are looking forward to doing this right,” Atkins said.