April 24, 2014

Municipal Planning: Driving Design- Southeast- Nov. 2003

Pat Dunnigan | 11/1/2003
As executive director of the regional planning council in the late 1980s, Daniel Cary was responsible for distilling the growth and development plans of the entire Treasure Coast into the meticulously detailed reports required by Florida's Comprehensive Planning Act.

It was an enormous undertaking that produced a plan that did everything it was supposed to. But Cary couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing. It struck him again shortly after the comp plan was completed as the agency prepared to sign off on a regional development of homes, office buildings and retail centers.

"It had all the components of a town, but it wasn't a town," Cary recalls. "I just knew it wasn't right."

On a hunch, Cary made a telephone call to the Miami offices of a pioneering urban design studio. Andres Duany and his wife, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the University of Miami's architecture school, were making a name for themselves in a rising new school of urban planning dubbed "New Urbanism."

A holistic approach that favors traditional designs in compact, pedestrian-friendly urban settings, New Urbanism was making headlines across the country at the time as an alternative to sprawl.

Duany agreed to make a presentation, and within days New Urbanism had its newest converts.

"We realized it was possible to do a dramatically different job," Cary says. "We started hiring a different kind of planner -- designers who had a good sense of history."

Following Duany's model, the planning council created its own in-house design studio, then pitched its services to Stuart and Lake Worth, where local officials were looking to revitalize dying downtowns. Master plans for both areas were produced in weeklong brainstorming sessions.

Stuart, in particular, has been an "outrageous success," Cary enthuses -- a completely remade downtown from an area that had more than half of its buildings vacant in 1989.

Since then, the studio has produced 49 other master plans in four counties, following the principle that "the government should drive design, not the private sector, so that all the pieces of the whole town fit together," Cary says.

Today, Mike Busha, Cary's successor at the regional planning council, says the design studio has become "sort of the culture of the organization."

Demand for its services has spread. Last year, after twice bringing in the Treasure Coast design studio, Miami-Dade County officials asked the agency to help create its own design studio.

"It has created a huge impact," says Shailendra Singh, who left a private design studio to head up the Miami-Dade effort. "Everyone is surprised for a government agency to take that kind of step."

IN THE NEWS

Boca Raton -- ADT Security Services will lay off 400 people and close a Bradenton alarm-monitoring system this month.

Broward County -- County officials say work on the $1-billion Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport expansion will proceed despite threats by the city of Fort Lauderdale to force construction to stop. Fort Lauderdale residents fear that they will bear the worst of the noise, pollution and traffic generated by the project now that neighboring cities have won concessions.

Deerfield Beach -- The Florida Attorney General's Office has charged three business supply companies operated by Jeffery W. and Lisa H. Meyer with deceptive and unfair trade practices for allegedly luring customers with promises of discount office supplies then billing them for more than the products were worth.

Fort Lauderdale -- Moody's Investors Service placed the city on its "watchlist." The designation has no impact on the city's current bond ratings -- considered high grade -- and will be re-evaluated after three months.

A divided City Commission has voted to seek the resignation of City Manager Floyd Johnson amid a budget crunch that will likely mean residents will pay higher taxes and fees and see some services cut.

Hollywood -- The city has given developer Lojeta Group final approval for an $80-million mixed-use development on beachfront property. The project includes town homes, condominiums, restaurants and shops.

The 165-foot SunCruz V gambling boat has moved from its Intracoastal dock in Hollywood Beach to Jacksonville, following a long battle with residents who disliked the noise and traffic generated by the boat and a court battle with city officials. The boat has been replaced by a slightly smaller version.

Martin County -- Commissioner Susan Valliere has sued a former commissioner, a commission candidate, two citizens and their attorney over the lawsuit they filed against her last year alleging she wasn't a resident of the district to which she was seeking election. Though a circuit court judge ruled in Valliere's favor, it cost her more than $50,000 in legal fees. Valliere is seeking $2 million in damages.

North Palm Beach -- Former Perkasie, Pa., City Manager Paul A. Leonard is in line to replace Dennis Kelly, who resigned in February after 13 years as manager.

Palm Beach County -- County government spending has swelled out of proportion to the population it is serving, a local tax watchdog group charges. Citizens for a Sound Economy told the Palm Beach Post that while the county budget grew from $1.8 billion to $3.1 billion since 1997 -- a 65% jump -- population grew by only 21%. County officials say the group's analysis doesn't take into account inflation or voter-approved taxes for special projects.

Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services will convert all criminal and traffic court records to an internet-based system in a deal worth $6.8 million.

The school district has failed to reach new contract terms with the county's 10,000 teachers and has asked for state help in resolving the impasse. The district had offered teachers a 4% salary increase.

Palm City -- Groundwater contamination from old gas station sites is threatening residents in hundreds of homes that draw from private wells, Martin County health officials say. The county hopes to use state funds to connect all the affected homes to the county water supply.

Port Salerno -- Construction has begun on a 150,000-sq.-ft. industrial park on a 20-acre Superfund site last occupied by Solitron Microwave, which moved to Riviera Beach in 1987. Though 1999 groundwater tests revealed the presence of cancer-causing chemicals, an Environmental Protection Agency official says the site has been almost decontaminated.

Port St. Lucie -- Wayne Huizenga's Stuart Land Holdings is seeking to build a 158-acre mixed-use development east of Florida's Turnpike. The project includes 680 homes, a hotel and 95,000 square feet of commercial space.

Riviera Beach -- Port of Palm Beach commissioners and county commissioners have launched an effort to boost shipping and tourist business at the port and perhaps lure some smaller cruise lines.

West Palm Beach -- A dozen restaurant owners who say city officials are too focused on CityPlace have organized to lobby for more promotion and assistance for downtown eateries. The owners say downtown restaurants are struggling with a drop in weekday business.

Aviation
PLANE GAINS

VERO BEACH -- New Piper Aircraft has added 40 employees and introduced two new plane models -- the Piper 6XT and the Piper 6X -- its first new designs in three years. The company, which was sold to Bethesda, Md.-based American Capital Strategies in July, employs 720.

Research
PALM BEACH LANDS SCRIPPS INSTITUTE

PALM BEACH -- Scripps Research Institute, the top-funded research institute by the National Institutes of Health, plans to build a major research facility in Palm Beach County. The institute will eventually employ up to 2,800 and add $3.2 billion to the state's gross domestic product in the next 15 years, Gov. Jeb Bush said in making the announcement. In Southern California, Scripps has been responsible for creating 40 biotech spinoffs and building an industry cluster of 500 biomedical/pharmaceutical companies.

Tags: Southeast

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