Florida

The Gilded Age Makes A Comeback

Edith Wharton portrait.jpg

The historian Carl Degler, who recently died, studied the rapid urbanization and industrialization of the late 19th century. That period has striking parallels to our country at the beginning of the 21st century. Between 1880 and 1915 the country’s face changed, and today the same phenomenon is occurring. The polarization of society and the divisive politics of that time were resolved, according to Degler, only by the rise of progressivism, which returned America to a sense of balance. The lack of a progressive “third way” today is startling, given that the concentrations of wealth and power are higher than ever existed in the Gilded Age.  read more »

Subjects:

Central Florida: Stepping Into Deep Density

Retail Space Avil-Florida.png

Florida is on track to break the 20 million population mark by 2016, or possibly even this year. The Sunshine State will displace New York as the third most populous state in the country, just behind California and Texas. Nationally, rural counties absorb a lot of newcomers of modest income or fixed income seeking affordable places to live. Here in Orlando, however, banks and developers are betting big on a newfound taste for the urban lifestyle, beckoning new arrivals with hip-looking apartments and parking garages, often coupled with shopping plazas full of pricey, name-brand retailers.  read more »

What College Gowns Bring to Towns

Downtown Gainesville.jpg

The college town, one of America’s most appealing and unique features, grew out of the Age of Reason, and the concept of a regional, liberal-arts college nurtured by a small town has been intertwined with American history. Today, with enrollment dropping, the small, private college seems to be going the same way as the typewriter, the newspaper and the independent bookstore. While some colleges struggle to survive, the institution of the college town lives in suspended animation, ready to support whatever form its major employer may take.  read more »

Florida: When Density is Destructive

Winter Park Lyman Avenue Home;Betsy Owens.jpg

Brick streets, mature old oaks, and a sense of history imbue Winter Park, Florida with a sense of place that is the envy of many small cities and towns. The tony Park Avenue brings shoppers and visitors, who soak up its ambience and enjoy the street life of this quaint southern town. On the east side, bounded by blue lakes, lie gentrified historical mansions, while the west side is a neighborhood of smaller, affordable homes with multigenerational Winter Parkers.  read more »

Florida: How Fine Art Became Local

Museum of Art - DeLand Downtown Satellite.jpg

Fine art resides not only in the cosmopolitan cities. It lived, as we saw in the recent movie “The Monument Men”, in the many villages of Europe. Right now, we are seeing it living on the periphery of Orlando, Florida.  read more »

Subjects:

The Reinvention of Sanford, Florida

Sanford, Fla porch with kids.jpg

Sanford, Florida was in the midst of reinventing itself. Then the calamity of Trayvon Martin’s violent death turned this sleepy Florida town into a poster child for everything that's wrong with the state. Now that the media frenzy has moved on to other troughs, the residents must sweep up the mess. As is often the case, compassion and healing have been operating quietly in the background.  read more »

Subjects:

The Private Business of Public Art

Cedar of Lebanon by Jacob Harmeling.jpg

Like many cities coming out of the downturn, Orlando is jonesing for a recovery. To promote a sense of new prosperity, City Hall leaders recently added eight works of art to its downtown core, amidst much fanfare. Before we start whistling “Happy Days Are Here Again,” however, we would do well to examine the circumstances of this renewed interest in public art. Its surprising return was trumpeted as a new way to enrich the city and benefit its residents; many, including this author, applauded the effort. This has certainly happened. But has the result been a barrier, as much as a connection, to its citizenry?  read more »

Orlando, Florida: East End Market & the New Localism

East End Market looking out.jpg

Getting meat and potatoes from the farm to the table depends upon a smooth, even flow. The smaller farmers' markets are mostly absent in the city these days, with a few vestigial exceptions: Reading Market in Philadelphia, Pike Place in Seattle, and Greenmarket in Manhattan, to name a few. Now, East End Market on Corrine Drive in Orlando has taken its place alongside these venerable exchanges.  read more »

Subjects:

Why Trayvon Martin Defines Sanford, Florida

Sanford, FL by Christine Wood.JPG

For other rural cities in America, Sanford, Florida, home of the George Zimmerman trial, is useful as a cautionary tale: Define yourself now, before an incident like the shooting of Trayvon Martin defines you.

All of Florida is once again in an uncomfortable position, this time with the Zimmerman verdict. The state has by now earned a solid last-place position in its contribution to America’s culture. Its poor history was topped by its performance in the 2000 presidential election, but it includes lurid crimes going back well over a century. Most Florida residents quickly change  read more »

Subjects:

Florida's Pinellas County: Growth Gone Wild

Northern St. Petersburg; Pinellas County, Florida.jpg

In the seventeen years since my last visit, Florida's Pinellas County hasn't much changed. It's still a low-grade carpet of commercial junk space from coast to coast, and the edges - where the value really lies - aren't very different than they were in the 1990s. There's more, but not better. A county that has consistently avoided growth regulation, Pinellas could have been a model for cooperative public/private real estate development, unimpeded by pesky government regulations. Instead, it is a living example of the atrocious results when leaders focus on quantity, not quality.  read more »

Subjects: