Should Tampa Bay Embrace New Urbanism?
By Christina Sturgis
Many in the Tampa Bay region are exploring new urbanism, the belief that compact developments could efficiently combine workplaces, homes, stores and gathering places connected by sidewalks and public transit instead of super highways.
These principles, however, are difficult to implement because they conflict with the single-use zoning codes that emerged in the 1950s, and created suburban sprawl and made the automobile a centerpiece of our economy. Now, many planners believe sprawl squanders resources, causes pollution and creates a stressful lifestyle, but critics say these ideas are elitist and drive up housing prices.
New Urbanism is a key issue for Florida, which the U.S. Census Bureau calls the nation’s fourth most densely populated state -- only California, Texas and New York have more people per square mile. The Tampa-St. Petersburg region has 2,551 people per square mile, similar to Orlando, which has 2,327 and Jacksonville, which has 2,008. Miami is more urban with 4,442 people per square mile.
Despite Florida’s density, getting around can be difficult without a car. Website Walk Score gives the Seminole Heights neighborhood a “somewhat walkable” rating, but Courier City is the most pedestrian friendly.
After Florida, the nation’s most densely populated sates are Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina. The three most urban regions in the nation are in California where the number of people per square mile is 6,999 in Los Angeles, 6,266 for San Francisco-Oakland and 5,820 for San Jose.
The Tampa Bay group of the Florida Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism is one resource for learning about new urbanism and getting involved in the dialogue about what development styles are best. Another principle that helps people live with less reliance on cars is transit-oriented design, or locating homes and businesses near transportation centers.