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Growth may help improve city life

An architecture professor says Florida's cities will expand. To thrive, they must reinventthemselves.

By JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 6, 2001


INVERNESS -- While urban growth is inevitable, it shouldn't always be seen as bad news, according to a noted growth expert who spoke at the Historic Citrus County Courthouse Museum on Saturday.

Dr. James Moore, an architecture professor at the University of South Florida, currently on a leave of absence to consult with developers, gave his views on the communities of tomorrow. Moore was invited to speak as part of the museum's Smithsonian Institute Yesterday's Tomorrows exhibit.

Moore's main point was that as cities grow, the change can bring about more desirable lifestyles and housing.

"In Florida, we're trying to decide how we're going to grow. We have to grow; the big question is how," Moore said.

Moore told the audience of about 25 people that the post-World War II concept of large housing developments is nearing the end of its life cycle.

"In the next 20 years, about 70-million baby boomers will retire. But their retirement will be different than that of their parents," he said. "It won't be 'retire at 65, move to Florida at age 66 and have a heart attack at age 67,' " he said.

Moore said baby boomer retirees will be younger, with a more active lifestyle, will most likely own more than one home and will travel.

He said the big developments of nearly identical three-bedroom homes are on the verge of a change. Moore said 26 percent of households in the country have but one occupant. Another 24 percent have just two occupants.

"That's about half the country that's either living by themselves or with a partner," Moore said. "That's deteriorating the present urban lifestyle."

Moore said that neighborhoods will survive by reinventing themselves with new concepts.

He said the most desirable inner-city neighborhoods have a variety of housing styles, with condos and apartment buildings sharing the same streets with single-family residences. These neighborhoods will also have retail space, usually on the first floor of multistory buildings, along with wide, tree-lined sidewalks and outdoor recreation areas and sidewalk cafes.

"You'll have everything you need within walking distance. In many of the suburban neighborhoods, you have to drive several miles just to buy a newspaper," he said. "I know young professionals who live in upscale inner-city condos who barely put 600 miles a year on their car."

Tracing the history of suburban development, Moore said the suburbs contain "the worst of both worlds".

"You're far away from the big city, but you are still stuck in a congested housing development," he said.

Moore encouraged citizens to become more involved in the growth process.

"The trouble with government is that one entity doesn't realize the other exists. Tampa doesn't recognize Hillsborough County, which in turn doesn't recognize the existence of St. Petersburg.

"But people don't live that way. They drive across towns and counties, and they live in Tampa Bay, but there is no government for Tampa Bay."

Moore praised St. Petersburg for its development, calling it a "prototype community for the 21st century." He said that areas such as the Old Northeast and Coffeepot Bayou are beautiful, diverse communities very close to downtown.

"It's within your rights to dictate what things will look like in the future," he said.

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