Historic Districts: The Past or The Future?

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Preservation seems like an easy idea to support. Who would be against it? History, character, and a sense of place are what great communities are all about. They generate tourism and makes us all culturally richer. Landowners in historic districts even enjoy higher land values than nearby landowners in newer, usually blander developments. What’s not to like?

Apparently, a lot. Cities unilaterally impose ordinances from time to time, regulating building size, shape and use, and rarely are there complaints, although the changes affect everyone in the city.  read more »

Small Towns: The Value of Unique Places

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Rural and small towns suffer from a loss of faith in their place, and seem desperate to be recognized in our new, standardized world. Plenty of our developed land remains specific and even unique, but the highway does not go to it. Outside the cities, unpretty feed stores, the availability of tractor parts, and the presence of cattle hardly contribute to scientifically measured success. The refuge of the individual, the ability of a person to see his or her life as meaningful while it is separate and apart from a larger mass, is crippled.  read more »


The Simulated City Vs The Urban Downtown


While the city’s star is rising in popular literature, it has fallen in popular usage. Where have our sidewalks gone—and why is sidewalk activity disappearing?  read more »

Central Florida: Stepping Into Deep Density

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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 »

Orlando Arts Scene: It's an Urban Bus Trip


Artists are bus riders. With day jobs to keep food on the table, they often forego luxuries, using feet and bicycles, as well as buses, instead of cars. They travel alongside many people for whom the bus is an absolute necessity. Too often, the bus is a class marker in America, and a racial marker in the South. Many do not want to cross the threshold of the bus. With artists increasingly passing through this doorway, the Transit Interpretation Project began, first in Orlando, Florida and now in Roanoke, Virginia.  read more »

What College Gowns Bring to Towns

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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

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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

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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 »


The Reinvention of Sanford, Florida

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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 »


Forget What the Pundits Tell You, Coastal Cities are Old News - it’s the Sunbelt that’s Booming


Ever since the Great Recession ripped through the economies of the Sunbelt, America’s coastal pundit class has been giddily predicting its demise. Strangled by high-energy prices, cooked by global warming, rejected by a new generation of urban-centric millennials, this vast southern region was doomed to become, in the words of the Atlantic, where the “American dream” has gone to die. If the doomsayers are right, Americans must be the ultimate masochists. After a brief hiatus, people seem to, once again, be streaming towards the expanse of warm-weather states extending from the southeastern seaboard to Phoenix.  read more »