Retrofitting Suburbia

Some interesting ideas here. What do you think?

13 replies
    • Keri
      Keri says:

      Interesting. Want your housing values back? Create a livable environment where people feel comfortable using active transportation. Got no tax base for 2-million-dollar-a-mile-facilities? Simply change your behavior. Another civility hook.

      Seriously, all the impetus to build facilities comes back to one simple concept. As a culture, we expect our community members — neighbors, friends and family — to become the equivalent of predatory beasts when they operate a motor vehicle. And predictably, some live up to those expectations. WTF already! Why is there no will to change that?

    • Laura M
      Laura M says:

      You can’t discount Florida’s property tax structure in terms of property tax revenue. We saw how after about a dozen years of the Save Our Homes amendment taking effect, people decided not to move and stay put, less they take a huge property tax hit. Amendment 1 will only exacerbate this issue and now there’s a move to put similar caps on commercial properties. Local governments are giving up a lot in terms of potential revenue and even if housing prices recover, they’ll never see those gains.

  1. Eric
    Eric says:

    I find it rather depressing that Winter Park’s entire annual revenue would only pay for 22 miles of streets since they collect about $44M a year. They have a lot more than 22 miles of streets to maintain.

    Still, they seem to keep the streets in repair much better than Orange County or Orlando. In areas where streets change back and forth between responsibility, the ride is noticeably better where WP maintains the streets. In fact, my own street is soon to be R&R’d and it is by no means as bad as many streets I travel in Orlando, which are often just patches over patches.

    I think that it is beginning to seep into the Winter Park Commission conscience that their very popular bricking projects were a bust since the bricked streets are requiring three times the maintenance that asphalt did.

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    We have had several retrofits of dead malls, but not the way as described in the video. Colonial Plaza Mall got turned inside out and is well on it’s way to being a “discount” center.

    Same happened to the Winter Park Mall.

    I was down in Saint Lucie County and, for the life of me, I couldn’t find their school board office. Drove past it a couple of times. I had the address, but it kind of looked like a shopping center and that couldn’t be right . . . wait a minute, it IS a shopping center.

    An old Sears that had closed up was re-purposed into their school board offices. Lots of free parking and I got my security badge is what was the tire department.

    • Carlos
      Carlos says:

      I’ve been wondering about this mall problem. Where are people shopping? Are they buying everything online? Are we becoming less materialistic or buying more cheap stuff at walmart.

      • rodney
        rodney says:

        Forget the cheap stuff….spend the extra few dollars and get the good quality stuff. It’s less expensive in the long run.

  3. Carlos
    Carlos says:

    I can’t wait for the “economy” to get back on it’s feet, so some of the urban development projects in Orlando can start again. I’m curious to see how the Mills Park project will turn out and how downtown will look when all those condos get filled up and perhaps more get built. I know some people who are against the idea of higher density when it’s “retrofitted” in their community, such as the multi-story condos on Edgewater and Princeton, but I’ll
    probably take that over more sprawl and knocking down of trees. Maybe I’d feel different if I lived their my entire life. Now all we need is better public transportation to prevent more cars coming from these.

    Here in Baldwin Park, they’ve had to halt construction of some of the higher density housing, although they are still managing to build and sell out of townhomes. Part of the reason we moved here was the walking distance to the village center from our house, all the open spaces, smaller yards and not feeling like we were trapped in a walled/gated community separate from everyone else. We do have the “private company managing a community” example she gave going on here, but I haven’t felt any adverse effects from it. I felt more pressure from HOA’s when I used to live in a sprawling community out by Waterford. BP is a pretty open community for anyone to enter and enjoy….although maybe too open because of some traffic issues. I know some people were against BP when it started and still are, and it’s not perfect, but I am enjoying it.

    Btw, A radical idea I like is to close the right lane on both sides of 50 and put a light rail system on it instead. It can go from Alafaya to Ocoee. This should force people to “park and ride” it. Then it can loop into downtown or even connect to another along I4. Do the same on 436 from Apopka to the airport and University. The possibilities are endless. Not sure how it will work though for businesses that are spread out….maybe bus shuttles running on natural gas?

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      I lived for a few years in a “real” city where people walked to work, walked to school and walked to the stores (an A&P grocery store) to shop. People did have cars, but there was not much of a lure to leave the city other than to go to stores that had cheaper prices, since the small downtown merchants tended to overcharge.

      Knowing that, I wonder how people in BP see things. I ride my bike all the time to use the Publix and I ride my bike to use a few of their simulated “Downtown.”

      I don’t get any motorist hostility there, unlike when I use Winter Park and Orlando streets. People smile and wave at me, but they do that in WP and Orlando, too.

      But I don’t see the promised social interaction in BP. Back when I lived in the real city, we had to interact with each other since no central air conditioning meant people sat out on their front porches until the mosquitoes got “too bad.”

      In BP. they built the streets and the sidewalks, but nobody came.

      • Carlos
        Carlos says:

        I’m actually originally from Queens, NY, and moved to Florida when I was 15 back in ’91. I walked 15-30 mins to school, shopping, movies and parks. Most of my friends lived on the same street as me or it took no more than 15 mins to get to their house. We used the train to go to “the city” and for a couple of years I took it to school everyday. Most people didn’t talk or even make eye contact, unless they were neighbors you regularly saw.

        My family moved to Cape Coral, FL in ’91. It was a big culture shock. We couldn’t go anywhere without a car. Sidewalks were minimal. There wasn’t anyone my age for miles to interact with. I depended on my parents to drive me anywhere. It was rather depressing. I moved to Orlando to attend UCF in ’94. In’ 96 I visited friends in NY for the first time. I realized again the freedom I lost not being dependent on a car. I also realized how much more energy I had when I was walking everywhere. I longed to move back, but never took the chance and since most of my and my wife’s family is here, we wanted to stay closer to them.

        How do I see things compared to the city in BP? Well…BP only offers a small fraction of what I knew in NYC, but I can’t really compare it to a big city like that, except that maybe it resembles a smaller neighborhood. They seemed to have planned BP so you got a variety of eateries (Italian, Mexican, Irish, Asian and some fast food joints). I question some of the small shops, since they are pricier than their bigger counterparts, which you seemed to experience yourself in your city. It is easier to leisurely bike here with the trails along the lakes and I have easy access to Cady Way from my house, which I take to work without having to get on the road. Riding on the streets with bike lanes is mostly in door zones, so I usually avoid those and use side streets.

        I’m not sure what you mean by “In BP. they built the streets and the sidewalks, but nobody came” and “the promised social interaction”. I see plenty of people walking with their children, dogs, biking, jogging….especially around the lake and the main street, and they usually wave and say hi. Kids ride their bikes to the schools or hang out in the evenings and they come from surrounding neighborhoods. When the weather is nice, in the evenings and weekends, sometimes there are too many people out here. Blue Jacket Park always has something going on. The pools and gyms are always used. During lunch time on work days, there are lines out the door at Subway and long waits at some sit down eateries. My wife and I occasionally eat on our porch and walk to the restaurants about 2x’s a week….and we see some of our neighbors doing the same. I’ve even run into some old friends who happen to live here or hanging out, walking around the lake and downtown. BP hosts mutiple events each month, welcoming residents and others, some with moderate to large turnouts. My wife and I also ride our bikes out to the Audobon and Winter Park farmer markets.

        Wow…I didn’t mean this comment to be so long. Sorry if it sounds like I’m defensive about where I live, but this is really what I’ve experienced living here for the better part of 9 months now.

        • Keri
          Keri says:

          I use the Cady Way to get to Baldwin Park on a regular basis. I love the spur around Lake Susannah. I shop at that Publix, eat at the Mexican place and the pub. I love that you can sit outside with a lake view and have no traffic noise. When the weather is nice I see a lot of people around Lake Baldwin, lots of kids, lots of bikes, people coming into that area with kid trailers on their bikes, people hanging out at the gazebo on the lake.

    • Laura M
      Laura M says:

      “I can’t wait for the “economy” to get back on it’s feet, so some of the urban development projects in Orlando can start again.”

      Me too Carlos! My office overlooks the Pizutti property which is the largest vacant tract of land left in the CBD. I’m thinking that when SunRail begins operations, the property might actually get developed.

      Retrofitting existing development is extremely difficult to do. My neighborhood is struggling with this issue now. SODO on South Orange has been a nice catalyst and it seems that project is really beginning to fill up. There are some nice restaurants opening up in there and the Target is fairly busy. But we have a vacant Albertson’s and some pretty tired looking strip commercial along Michigan Ave. The City is attempting to put some zoning controls in place to allow for an easier conversion. But it can be a painful process. Many of my neighbors have lived here since their homes were built in the 50s. They’ve seen their property values decline and then go up again (our house had bars on all the windows when we moved in). Unless parcels can be consolidated, it really isn’t practical to attempt to redevelop the commercial properties along Michigan – in fact, it’s practically impossible.

  4. Eric
    Eric says:

    You guys are proving my point. People use the “designated” areas in BP. There is a designated area to take your children with special equipment, designated places to walk and designated areas shop (co-incidentally the same to congregate). All other time seems to be designated spending it in or around the house working on the small yard. Those are the people I see if I don’t go to the designated areas, the ones weeding or mowing.

    Hardly anyone works and lives there — you think that those guys working at the Chop Suey joint can afford to live there?

    That’s not how things were before central air and cable TV. We had wealthy parts of town, poor parts of town and everything in between. There was a real economy and people usually didn’t have to travel far to work.

    Rather than designated congregating places, people talked to each other when they saw each other walking to where they were going. Most kid’s houses were open all the time to the kid’s friends. No need for “play dates” where the kids are chauffeured to a designated house at a designated time for a specific amount of designated play time.

    Additionally, there were small stores scattered about in what people would call the “residential” parts, since zoning wasn’t as tight. These were what became the convenience store of today (minus gasoline sales). While you wouldn’t want to do a major food shop there, it made it very convenient to pick up a quart of milk or a loaf of bread. While the new supermarkets may have been within walking distance — this was before they moved way out there in the stix (sic) — it was hard to walk home with all the stuff even with a pull behind folding cart.

    In other words, while infrastructure can be built simulating a small city, such a BP or Celebration, it takes a lot more than that to really have one.


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