Monday, November 2, 2015

Follow-up to Symposium on Walkable Urban Communities

 As we said in our Oct. 15th blog post, the Oct. 15th Walkable Urban Communities symposium sponsored by Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, Council and staff was an outstanding opportunity for local elected officials, developers, real estate professionals, planner, bankers, government staff, and advocates to learn from the national experts about how to create walkable communities in Florida.  As a follow-up to the symposium, the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency has posted the excellent PowerPoint presentations by the three national keynote speakers, which are provided below.  The City also plans to make videos of the symposium available and we will share them when they are posted.  In addition, this week's SW Spotlight Magazine published Ann Pierce's commentary about take-aways from the symposium, which is also provided below.

Mayor's Symposium on Walkable Urban Communities
Three National Keynote Speakers:Symposium PowerPoints:

Chris Leinberger: 
 former investment banker, CEO LOCUS, Brookings Institute Fellow, land use consultant, principal Arcadia Land Company

Jeff Speck
 Jeff Speck, founder of Mayor's Institute of City Design and Governors' Institute on Community Design, former Director of Planning w DPZ & Co., author of Walkable City

Joe Minicozzi
principal Urban3, urban redevelopment consultant developer of ROI estimating tool for local governments and development agencies

Speaker Bios

SW Spotlight Magazine 11/1/15
A dollars and sense argument for a walkable economy
By Ann Pierce, Smart growth and complete streets advocate

Last Thursday over 400 citizens, elected officials, developers, lenders, planners and realtors gathered in Fort Myers for the “Making Dollars and Sense of Walkable Urban Communities Symposium.” They heard from three world-class speakers and expert panelists from around Florida, all with experience in successful multimodal, urban form, mixed use, infill and redevelopment.

Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 Consultants in Asheville, N.C., hewing true to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s dictum, “In God we trust; everyone else bring data,” delivered compelling data making the economic case for investing taxpayer money in existing communities and neighborhoods over services to new greenfield building (on previously undeveloped land), as we see across southeast Lee County.

Annual taxpayer ROI in property and sales taxes from a small downtown mixed use, six-storied building on .2 acres was eight times that of a large suburban Walmart on 34.0 acres, generating traffic congestion, requiring wider roads and traffic signals.

And the all-important metric — jobs created? Thirteen times as many jobs, of all varieties, grew from the one downtown investment.

Urban3 has discovered similar results across the country – the existing cities and close-in neighborhoods supply the bulk of county tax revenues. Here in Lee County, property tax revenues received from the single mixed-use building housing a Fort Myers’ restaurant — Ford’s Garage — are three times per acre more than those from the Miramar Outlet Mall.

Christopher Leinberger, of Brookings Institute and George Washington University, walking through the history of human development, illustrated drivable sub-urban development as the anomalous form. Millennials and boomers alike, now 50 percent of the total U.S. population, are voting with their feet in a return to walkable urban places or “WalkUps,” where the basic needs of life are within easy distance and all amenities are reachable by bike or transit so there is freedom to choose auto ownership or not.

Again, making the economic case, Leinberger’ s data showed a tax revenue per acre from these WalkUps at 12 times those from far-flung suburban commercial areas and six times those of typical, drive-only suburban neighborhoods.

Jeff Speck, of Speck and Associates Consulting and author of “Walkable City,” outlined the four qualities of thriving walkable areas: a reason to walk, a safe walk, a comfortable walk, an interesting walk. All diminished when transportation and land use decisions are separated. Walkable choice is greatly determined by the surrounding land uses.

Purposeful walking needs useful destinations. A safe walk needs a lot of activity and people, as well as thoughtful infrastructure engineering. A comfortable walk requires good sidewalks away from traffic, with shade and places to sit. An interesting walk requires shop windows, restaurants, greenspaces and inviting public places.

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