I grew up in North Carolina in the 1980s which meant we ate up ACC basketball like most families eat cereal. It was during this time that Dean Smith, the legendary coach of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reigned. Known mainly for coaching Michael Jordan and the eponymous Dean Dome, he is also invented the shot clock with his famous Four Corners play. Four Corners was basically the lowest order of basketball strategy – staking men at four corners with a pivot in the middle to wear down the clock. It led to technical wins but was not a sustainable way to go about business.
What does “four corners” have to do with crappy suburban planning? Well, it’s how a lot of mixed use development and redevelopment is taking place. As local governments begin to issue more permits where arterials meet, it feels like it should be coordinated planning, but it’s not – it’s rezoning of quadrants. It’s the lowest level of planning strategy – a player on each corner and crosswalks at the pivotal intersection.
This may not seem like an important story, but it is. I want to tell with an example on the Sarasota-Manatee county border. I used a nifty app called Doodlecast Pro to make this 4 minute presentation. (I made one blunder, noting 1500 square feet instead of linear feet in one place).
What are the main takeaways and why are they important? The obvious:
- Florida’s Development of Regional program has turned out to be more of a phasing and impact fee program – not a coordinated planning program. The DRI for this project is here.
- Form based codes (FBCs) would really have helped this project address the street.
- Walkscores for the housing are 14 – 26, even with the rich mix of uses and higher density housing.
The not so obvious:
The photo above shows where the cross walks are (green) and where they are not (red).
- Form based codes only work where the street is the connective tissue. In this project, the street design along Tuttle serves as a barrier (even to cars).
- My observation from suburban Florida is that asking a developer to design his or her project to address the design of another developer’s project is still an uncertain (and in some cases hostile) concept.
- This project was designed and approved when the Growth Management Act was in its smart growth heyday. As the DRI phases came in, reviewers likely ticked off the boxes. Sidewalks – check. Use mix – check. Multi-family housing- check. We've got to do something better.
- The skill set for coordinating various parcels and streets is key to actually getting walkability, safety, mobility and economic outcomes. And in places like suburban Florida, it is a skill that never developed for many reasons. I think planners and land owners want to get better stuff, but the structure of the Growth Management Act, decades-old DRIs, transportation concurrency and the chase for retail as highest and best use spit out pods. I am interested in hearing from other Florida planners on this.
- The new provisions for sector plans in Florida start at 5000 acres. Yet great sprawl retrofit will be in much smaller increments. We need tools nationwide with a focus at 50- 150 acres in urbanizing areas and 150- 500 acres for sprawl repair.