A Guidebook to New Urbanism in Florida 2005
Edited by Jean Scott
CNU Florida Chapter, 2005, 172 pp., paperback $21.
n the Sunshine State, where the seeds of New Urbanism were first planted, a slew of developments and communities designed on new urban principles has grown up during the past few years. Whereas the 2002 edition of A Guidebook to New Urbanism in Florida presented 56 projects, the thoroughly revised second edition provides images and information covering 101 — plus 27 historical antecedents, such as Coral Gables, Winter Park, Key West, and St. Augustine.
Though the Florida CNU chapter lacked the money to publish in color, the latest Guidebook is a remarkable production, twice the thickness of the first. It provides thoughtful examinations of four “legacy” projects: Seaside, Mizner Park, Haile Village Center, and Celebration. Charles Bohl of the University of Miami identifies, for example, both the achievements and the unevenness of Celebration. “As one travels from Celebration Village outward through Celebration’s successive neighborhoods, one cannot but notice the relaxation of the pattern book guidelines and drift towards a more production built character,” Bohl observes.
A dozen “featured projects,” including two HOPE VI developments, the Aragon mixed-use redevelopment near downtown Pensacola, and the conversion of the Orlando Naval Training Center into the extraordinary Baldwin Park, are covered in two pages each. A region-to-region gazetteer then summarizes all 101 developments in a half-page per project — generally a few paragraphs and one or two illustrations. My only qualm is with the inclusion of AQUA, a “private island neighborhood” in Miami Beach. I don’t see how AQUA qualifies when Windsor, the gorgeous, well-known gated community in Vero Beach, is, in my opinion, properly excluded. An important principle must be upheld: New Urbanism is about places open to the public.
Essays create depth
What gives extra depth to the guidebook is a series of essays by Bruce Stephenson, Don Martin, David Brain, Peter Katz, Doris Goldstein, and Tim Jackson. “New Towns, Private Governments” by Goldstein, a Jacksonville lawyer, highlights the conflict between building appealing public settings and controlling them through homeowners associations (HOAs), which tend, as she says, to “foster exclusivity.”
Goldstein argues that a new urban community’s commercial common areas should not be under the jurisdiction of a homeowners association. But she notes that drawing boundaries between the areas controlled by the HOA and those outside it can be difficult, because residential and commercial uses in a new urban development often intermingle — and ought to. She says a new trend in Florida development — the rise of community development districts (CDDs), which levy taxes to maintain roads, sewers, parks, and other facilities within limited areas — might help some new urban communities to function a bit more like real towns, where every adult rather than every property owner has a vote. A CDD’s power is sharply circumscribed, however, so this is not a panacea. Goldstein’s discussion of whether new urban developments are sufficiently public and democratic is a breath of fresh air.
More information and an order form are available at the CNU Florida website, www.cnuflorida.org.