Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Is this Developer Confused or Reformed?

I recently read an article about Henry Rodriguez, a self proclaimed "civic investor," who is currently working on his first new urbanist development in Osprey, Florida. The development is called Bay Street Village & Town Center, and if built it will include a library, a town square, 30 shops, and 532 condos, villas, and town homes.

Rodriguez admits that he calls himself a "civic investor" because he believes that the term "developer" conjures up heinous mental images of the sprawlscape that has decimated much of Florida's natural beauty. Smart man. However, developer or otherwise, Rodriguez's 41 acre new urban project is quite the departure from his most recent effort in Osprey, which is a Super Wal-Mart sited on route 41 in Florida that is slated to open later this month.

Yes, you read that correctly, a Super Wal-Mart. If you ask me, that's not much of a civic investment. In fact, I would actually call that one hell of a civic disinvestment. Nevertheless, according to the Florida Herald Tribune article, found here: http://www.planetizen.com/news/item.php?id=17438 , Rodriguez belives that the suburban sprawl that has persisted for 60 years is responsible for road congestion, environmental problems, and antisocial behavior. He says, "Everybody is isolated. Our social systems are breaking down to a point where you don't know your neighbor."

Though he is absolutely right, please forgive me for not being totally convinced that Mr. Rodriguez is truly worthy of his civic investor title. It's more like he has caught on to the fact that new urban communities are high in demand, and high in profitability - especially in the south. And though it seems like he has reformed his ideas to include new urbanist principles with Bay Street Village, we'll have to wait and see how this development actually pans out.

Yet regardless of his intent, if a recent Sprawl-Mart developer (not civic investor) wants to abandon that approach to development, in order to create smart growth and new urban projects, then I say that is a step in the right direction. I hope we see more developers change their tune, like Mr. Rodriguez, so that they include the new urbanism in future developments.

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