Building Better Communities
Saving Special Places • Building Better Communities
Inefficient sprawling development wastes our taxpayer dollars, destroys Florida’s natural lands, and diminishes our quality of life. Since its inception,1000 Friends has promoted state, regional and local efforts to support smart and sustainable development and fight sprawl.
Instead of using our taxpayer dollars to pay for new roads and water lines sprawling out into the countryside, we can invest in better schools and parks in our existing communities. With convenient and affordable transportation alternatives, families can rely less on driving and have more money left over to buy a home or save for college. Our physical and mental health benefit as we walk more and drive less. Our pockets and our planet benefit too, as we make our communities more energy efficient and cost effective. Find out more about how smart growth, effective comprehensive planning, form-based codes, regional visioning efforts and more can improve the economic vitality and quality of life in communities across Florida.
Photo by Vivian Young
Smart Growth vs. Sprawl
Smart growth refers to well-planned communities that include a blend of housing, shops, and offices. Neighborhoods include homes and apartments for residents with varying incomes and lifestyles. Walkable in scale, they often feature bike paths, sidewalks and accessibility to public transit. Many have permanently protected open space for recreation or other uses.
Smart growth includes revitalizing downtowns and older neighborhoods. New smart growth projects can be located on underused parcels of urban land or adjoin existing communities. Channeling new growth to already developed areas helps revive older communities and protect open space and farmland in rural areas. It also helps save taxpayer dollars by eliminating the need for extending water and sewer lines and additional roads out into the countryside.
Photo by Vivian Young
Sprawl generally refers to low-density, residential development on the fringes of settled areas. Sprawl eats up our open space, rural natural areas, and productive farmland and detracts from community life. Sprawl spawns strip shopping centers surrounded by seas of parking. It results in sterile office parks, isolated from shopping and homes. Cars are required to get from one place to another–home, work, school, shopping, etc. This in turn forces ever greater numbers of cars onto our already crowded roads. It increases the demand for more and wider roads, which tend to attract even more traffic, further increasing congestion.
Not only does this kind of development damage the environment, but it is expensive. Taxpayers and local government end up subsidizing the extension of roads, water and sewer lines and other infrastructure to serve sprawling, poorly planned development. Check out Florida 2070 to find out how more compact development patterns can save this state’s lands and waters.
Preserving historic resources is an integral part of smart growth and essential to maintaining a community’s authentic sense of place. While smart growth focuses on locating development in appropriate locations, it also connotes respecting and protecting those natural and historic features that make a community special. It includes ensuring that new development harmonizes with – rather than destroys – an area’s unique assets and sense of place.
The preservation of older and historic buildings is often more sustainable than new development – preserving the energy already invested in historic buildings (or “embodied energy”) instead of expending additional energy to tear the older building down and build a new one. Preserving key resources can also serve as an anchor or catalyst for the redevelopment of a historic downtown or older neighborhood.
Photo by Vivian Young
Believing that housing that is affordable – as well as close to workplaces, schools, and shopping – is a key element of a sustainable community, 1000 Friends led the establishment of the Sadowski Act Coalition. This coalition secured passage of the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Act of 1992, creating one of the nation’s largest dedicated funding sources for workforce housing. 1000 Friends supports public policy and the use of workable community planning measures that prevent NIMBYism and support inclusionary housing and community land trusts in Florida.
Walkable, livable communities provide many health benefits. People living closer to shops, schools and work can spend less time in their cars and more time walking and biking. Instead of paying to go to the gym for regular exercise, physical activity is built into their daily lives. Communities with well-planned parks, sidewalk systems, bike trails, greenways, and other natural amenities can help address obesity, diabetes, heart disease, attention disorders and depression in children and adults alike. Such communities are also more supportive of Americans who can’t drive or don’t have access to cars — including older residents and children. Walking and biking, and visiting nearby parks, shops and restaurants also provide important social and mental health benefits as residents may have more opportunities to interact with each other. Complete Streets is one strategy to promote public health. Please visit 1000 Friends’ webpage on Transportation to find out more.
Photo by Vivian Young
Aging in Place
A quarter of Florida’s population is now 60 and older. Studies have found that most older Americans want to “age in place,” staying in their homes and communities as long as possible. To support this desire, Florida’s communities need to address housing, land use, transportation and other community design issues to allow older residents to remain independent in smaller homes and apartments that are accessible to doctors, shops, and social interaction. Not only are these communities supportive of older adults, but they can improve the quality of life for kids and all residents who want to live in walkable, livable communities. Promoting community design that allows older Floridians to age in place is should be an important consideration in the planning process.
The intersection between community design and public health
What role does community design play in public health? University of Miami School of Architecture Professor Joanna L. Lombard discusses the elements of healthy communities and how they can enhance physical and mental wellness through social interaction, physical activity, and connection to nature. She addresses how healthier design can help ameliorate the impacts of climate change, and the impacts on disadvantaged communities. She and Victor Dover, FAICP, principal / cofounder of Dover, Kohl & Partners and coauthor of the landmark book Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns, then have a conversation on strategies to integrate healthier design into communities, followed by a question-and-answer period.
The Economics of Development in Florida, Part II
In a follow up to his popular 2020 webinar for 1000 Friends of Florida, Joe Minicozzi, AICP, provides a refresher on assessing the economic impacts of development and sprawl, including the associated costs and ability of local governments (and taxpayers) to foot the bill. He also covers new topics including Transit Oriented Development, tax policy and more. Drawing on data from communities in Florida and beyond, Joe demonstrate how to understand the impact of development on a community’s economic health. His case studies illuminate how cities and regions can better forecast fiscally sustainable development patterns, in the process protecting sensitive natural lands and waters. He is the founder and principal of Urban3, a real estate economics firm that maps the financial health of built environments to inspire communities of all sizes to think differently about development, land use, and public policy.
Lessons from Lake Wales with Victor Dover, FAICP
Incorporated in 1917, Lake Wales is a small Main Street community with a rich legacy. In the 1930s, the City of Lake Wales retained the noted Olmsted Brothers firm to develop a “garden in a city” landscape plan, which was soon implemented. But more recently, recognizing the need to support downtown and neighborhood revitalization, increased affordable housing, stronger community linkages and more, the City of Lake Wales retained Victor Dover, FAICP, principal / cofounder of Dover, Kohl & Partners and coauthor of the landmark book Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns, to develop a Downtown Revitalization Planand a Northwest Neighborhood Plan. Victor and his team are now working on implementation strategies for these plans. Victor and Mark Bennett shared planning approaches to respect a community’s rich character while addressing 21st century needs.
Rethinking Sprawl with Galina Tachieva
Florida has been described as “the poster child for sprawl.” Galina Tachieva, Managing Partner at DPZ CoDESIGN in Miami and author of the award-winning Sprawl Repair Manual, discusses strategies to enhance suburban communities to meet the needs of today by introducing connectivity, a sense of place, mixed uses, greater housing choices, and more. Galina starts with an overview of urban design principles and recent development trends. She covers the retrofitting of large areas such as shopping centers, as well as opportunities to bring smaller-scale, incremental changes to the suburbs through lean sprawl repair tools. The session finishes with a question-and-answer period.
The Economics of Development in Florida with Joe Minicozzi, Part 3
Back by popular demand, Urban3 founder and principal Joe Minicozzi provides Florida-specific information on the types of analysis to undertake to determine the true economic impacts of new development and redevelopment in communities. Drawing on new data from Collier County, West Palm Beach and other communities in Florida and beyond, he explores the types of short and long-term public costs associated with development and anticipated revenue through property taxes and other measures. A pioneer of an approach to planning and city design called Geoaccounting, Mr. Minicozzi demonstrate how cities can use local data and simple math to understand the impact of development on their community economic health. His case studies illuminate how cities and regions can better forecast fiscally sustainable development patterns, in the process protecting sensitive natural lands and waters.
Victor Dover on “The Car-Optional Neighborhood: How should it be designed?
The Economics of Development in Florida, Part I
Drawing on data from Collier and Alachua counties, West Palm Beach and other communities in Florida and beyond, Joe Minicozzi, AICP, focuses on the economic impacts of development and sprawl in one of the fastest growing states in the nation. A pioneer of an approach to planning and city design called Geoaccounting, Mr. Minicozzi demonstrate how cities can use local data and simple math to understand the impact of development on their community economic health. His case studies illuminate how cities and regions can better forecast fiscally sustainable development patterns, in the process protecting sensitive natural lands and waters. He is the founder and principal of Urban3, a real estate economics firm that maps the financial health of built environments to inspire communities of all sizes to think differently about development, land use, and public policy.
Character Towns: Positioning Small Cities and Towns for the
What makes a “character town” – a small city or town with friendly and inviting neighborhoods and an engaging business community; a society that is proud of its hometown, protective of its heritage and committed to its well-being? Discover action strategies to transform Florida’s cities into livable and economically vibrant communities of the 21st century.
Sprawl Repair for Florida’s Communities
How can form-based codes and other planning and design tools help Florida’s communities re-purpose and revitalize their most auto-dependent zones into walkable and vibrant mixed-use nodes?
Victor Dover on Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns
What design, planning and legal strategies can be used to promote livable and walkable communities in Florida? Case studies and photos of streets old and new, showcase what works and what doesn’t, and reveal the secrets to designing beautiful, charming streets and walkable places where people want to be.
The Economics of Smart Growth
See Florida-specific examples of how to assess the revenue generated from various land development patterns, in the process providing a compelling argument supporting compact design. Click here to view an informative article by Peter Katz in Government Finance Review.