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Bay area noted for sprawl

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 25, 2002


HOW SMART ARE WE? Last week, Smart Growth America released a report that evaluated the level of urban sprawl in 83 metropolitan areas that account for nearly half of the country's population. The study is the result of a three-year effort by professors at Rutgers and Cornell universities.

How did Tampa fare?

Let's just say we've spread like Jello melting in an August sun, like the hips of a middle-aged couch potato, like blue ink on your favorite white cotton shirt.

The Tampa area ranked as the 22nd worst offender. We received particularly low marks for our downtown areas and town centers and a favorable ranking for the accessibility of our street networks.

Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., ranked as the most sprawling overall, followed by Greensboro, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Atlanta.

According to the study, high sprawl areas suffer higher traffic fatality rates, more traffic and worse air quality than low sprawl areas.

Smart Growth America is a nationwide coalition of nearly 100 organizations that advocate for the environment, affordable housing, farmland preservation, transportation reform and community reinvestment. The group was founded in 2000. It aims to promote growth that protects open spaces, revitalizes neighborhoods, keeps housing affordable and provides more transportation choices.

You can see the full report on the Smart Growth America Web site at www.smartgrowthamerica.com.

* * *

THERE ARE QUITE a few builders and developers in Hillsborough County attempting to embrace the progressive principles championed by Smart Growth America.

New Millennial Homes, for example, specializes in infill building in urban areas, and townhomes are becoming as much a part of the Hillsborough County landscape as palm trees. West Park Village, in northwest Hillsborough, surrounds a town center and village green within walking distance of homes.

And construction has begun on the town center of Winthrop, a neotraditional community in Brandon. The community was designed by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, the Miami-based firm that is considered the originator of the New Urbanism movement.

The transformation of Tampa's SoHo area into a pedestrian friendly retail and entertainment district surrounded by residential areas is another step in the smart growth direction.

If the trends continue, perhaps when the next Smart Growth study is released, Tampa will move to the head of the class.

* * *

MORE RANKINGS: David Weekley Homes ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the Tampa Bay home-building market, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2002 New Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Survey, which surveyed people who bought homes from the area's 17 largest builders.

David Weekley was followed by Suarez Homes and Pulte Homes. The study, now in its sixth year, was conducted in 16 of the country's largest markets. Tampa Bay was included in the survey for the first time this year. Overall, Tampa home builders ranked fourth in customer satisfaction among all markets surveyed.

BUY BEFORE THEY'RE BUILT: Inland Homes recently started a preconstruction sales program at the residential community of Northwood on County Line Road in central Pasco County. Presales are under way for 53 single-family homes priced from the high $120s including home site, many of which border heavily wooded conservation areas.

Inland offers 11 floor plans ranging from 1,267 to 2,398 square feet of living space. Among its designs is the Vinoy II, a 2,020-square-foot home with a neotraditional style front porch, four bedrooms, two baths, an optional den and a two-car garage.

-- Write to Janet Zink in care of the St. Petersburg Times at 1000 N Ashley Drive, Suite 700, Tampa, FL 33602; or by e-mail, janet.zink@gte.net.

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