Florida

Pollution: An Off – Road Guide to Environmental Hot Spots

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Not all pollutants are created equal, nor do they necessarily hang out in the same hot spots. Rankings of the most polluted cities — you know who you are — have become depressingly familiar. But those standings almost always represent a statistical stew of assorted toxins in the air and water, averaged together. The list that follows may surprise you: A quick look at a handful of cities, each with the unfortunate distinction of being the worst in the U.S. for a specific environmental health hazard.  read more »

Subjects:

Pimp My Stripmall, Please!

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If anything characterizes the face of Florida’s landscape, it is the proliferation of shopping malls of all types. Generation by generation, as population swelled, country roads widened into highways and each intersection seemed to blossom into four parking lots framed by strip centers decorated with small, freestanding stores and restaurants. These malls represented the prosperity of the American middle class. Now that consumerism has slowed and been rechanneled online, new malls aren't being built and the existing ones are looking a bit dog-eared, with shuttered stores, empty parking lots, and aging facades. Repurposing the American mall is a huge opportunity waiting for the right moment, and represents an opportunity to heal much of Florida’s economic stagnation.  read more »

Florida Goes Underground

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By Richard Reep

Last year’s report that Florida had lost people marked a new low in our state’s boom-and-bust history. But this autumn’s news seems to surpass even that sorry milestone with a combination of sluggish tourism, empty state coffers, and a reputation as one of the top real estate foreclosure states. Florida just can’t seem to get out of its own way, and with the fourth highest population in the country, it could have competed with Texas to replace California as one of the best business climates in the nation. Instead, Florida, which boasts one of the lowest tax rates in the nation, continues to see businesses and citizens depart  read more »

Health Care Development in Central Florida

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By Richard Reep

In this still cooling economy, Florida seems to be continually buffeted by a perfect storm of unemployment, record foreclosures, and stagnant population growth. As the state continues to suffer, the health care industry has unfolded two planning efforts aimed at building some economic momentum.  read more »

Florida: Amendment 4 Pushes the Reset Button on Development

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by Richard Reep

Like a heroin addict going cold turkey, Florida appears poised to get off the growth drug this coming fall. If massive overbuilding, unemployment, depopulation, and a tourist-chasing oil slick weren’t enough, Florida’s voters are in the mood to vote yes on a referendum called Amendment 4, which would make every future change to the state’s comprehensive plan subject to voter approval, rather than be reviewed through a representative public process. The referendum capitalizes on short-term voter outrage over everything. But in the long term, Florida will likely languish in the twilight of missed opportunities as businesses relocate elsewhere to avoid risky, lengthy public campaigns to build their presence in this state.  read more »

Florida and Oil

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By Richard Reep

Some say it took Mrs. O’Leary’s cow to make Chicago the city of great architecture that it is today: after the fire of 1871 that destroyed many of its buildings, leading citizens recognized the critical importance of their built environment. Today, we have a city that boasts some of the world’s best architecture. If BP’s oil disaster is a new millennium cow starting another conflagration, the nation may ironically benefit from seeing the ominous oil slick spreading across the gulf, spelling the end to our dependence on oil as the dominant energy source for the nation.  read more »

How Tough Times May Lead to Better Architecture

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By Richard Reep

While Ben Bernanke fantasizes about the Recovery, most people in the building industry – especially in overbuilt Florida – will correct this gross error immediately and emphatically. The recession may be over for the Fed Chairman, but unemployment in the design and construction professions is probably in the 25-30% range, matching that of the Great Depression.

Even so, tiny glimmers of light shine in what many design professionals call the “microeconomy” of building – small commercial renovations, house additions, tenant improvements, and other projects normally too small to even be counted.  read more »

New Urbanism, Smart Growth, & Andres Duany: A Critique From Suburbia

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In 1998 Hollywood introduced us to a new star when it released The Truman Show, shot on location at Seaside in Florida. No I’m not talking about Jim Carrey, Laura Linney or Ed Harris. I'm talking about none other than Andres Duany.

A few months ago, I stayed at the magnificent WaterColor Inn, which is in the neighborhood adjacent to Seaside.  read more »

Biotech Research No Silver Bullet for Florida

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By Richard Reep

Until recently, Florida was the king of growth, agriculture, and tourism. Growth – at 900 immigrants a day from other states – characterized Florida’s landscape for over 30 years, and growing cities were in perennial battle with agriculture up until the watershed year of 2009. As a tourist destination, Florida claimed world-class status, which once served the state just fine. Now, gasping for breath and facing financial uncertainty, Florida’s leadership frantically seeks a new silver bullet to create jobs, focusing on biomedical research. This focus is timely and important, and can truly move the state in a new direction, and the state leadership’s resolve to diversify the economy should stay strong, even with a short-term lack of results.  read more »

Who's Dependent on Cars? Try Mass Transit

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The Smart Growth movement has long demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of rhetoric. Terms like livability, transportation choice, and even “smart growth” enable advocates to argue by assertion rather than by evidence. Smart Growth rhetoric thrives in a political culture that rewards the clever catchphrase over drab data analysis, but often fails to identify the risks for cities inherent in their war against “auto-dependency” and promotion of large-scale mass transit to boost the “sustainability” of communities.  read more »