Florida: Ancestral Home of New Urbanism
ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    JUN. 1, 2002
The tenth Congress for the New Urbanism is meeting in Miami Beach, and for good reason. Florida is home to an astounding number and quality of new urbanist projects. Cataloging these projects is a new book, A Guidebook to New Urbanism in Florida, financially sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and assembled by the Florida Atlantic University-Florida International University Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems. It documents 56 of Florida’s over 60 new urbanist projects. The projects are drawn from throughout the state and from every scale of the Charter of the New Urbanism. Florida has been front and center in the new urbanist movement since Seaside broke ground over 20 years ago. Even before that, Florida was a pioneer in state and regional planning with its mandatory comprehensive planning, regional planning districts, and statewide land preservation schemes. Meanwhile, population and built-up area in the state have grown at shocking speed over the past 25 years. The combination of supportive public policy, public awareness of alternatives, and endless demand for new construction has made Florida the hearth of New Urbanism. Among the projects covered in the Guidebook, readers can learn about and explore whole community projects like Abacoa and Avalon Park or small but influential projects like CityPlace. Fitting with this Congress’ examination of reinventing postwar sprawl, the book includes new downtowns for Kendall, Cape Coral, Miami Springs, and Stuart, among others. And, since this Congress will examine the revitalization of dead malls, the book covers two such projects —Winter Park Village Center and Mizner Park. The Congress is one part of the state’s ongoing education in alternatives to sprawl. Florida’s sprawl is legendary — as one might expect from a place hosting 49 million tourists a year and a population growth of almost 600 percent since 1950. Despite this, residents have learned from the presence of projects and charrettes, from a sophisticated mass media, and from active local groups. The mass media in Florida reports consistently on growth issues as well as innovative new projects. Educational groups in the area, such as the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, have brought in public speakers, taught schoolteachers, and produced publications. Being in Florida will make the discussion at this Congress especially sophisticated, as it will be the first Congress where local professionals and lay-people alike are already quite familiar with New Urbanism. The Congress will take advantage of this immersive environment in many ways. On Thursday, June 13, there will be tours of Miami neighborhoods and nearby cities. In addition, look for sessions on “The South Florida Experience: Resort to Suburb to Metropolis,” “Lessons from Miami Beach,” and “Florida Developers on the Future of New Urbanism.” Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the most new urbanist state in the Union. Register today.