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.
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.