Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

What do we do in the exurbs, now that the exurbs aren't cool?

I happen to be sitting in one of Hernando County's most visible symbols of a time, not that long ago, when exurbs looked like the future.

Ten years ago this month, what was then the St. Petersburg Times opened a new building on State Road 50 near the Suncoast Parkway.

You've almost certainly seen it and probably been impressed, which was the point. It was intended to be a billboard of a workplace, a Hummer even — 30,000 square feet of floor space and a 40-foot-high entryway.

It didn't matter that it was more than an hour's drive from the paper's namesake city. With the recently completed parkway, commuters would make Hernando County the next big thing. Being close to that new road and all of the development it was supposed to bring seemed even more important than maintaining a base in the seat of county government, Brooksville. Heck, we could always just drive.

As much as I hate to admit it, I was as caught up in this kind of thinking as anyone. A story about the opening of the office back in February 2003 quoted me as calling it "gorgeous."

Still is, in a way.

But I miss being able to drop in to county offices a short walk from my old cubicle in Brooksville, picking up a few minutes of conversation, and maybe a tip, along with the documents I needed. I'd even go so far as to say these casual interactions helped make the job seem worthwhile.

Apparently, I'm not the only person who feels that way.

Exurbs are not the future anymore, not cool.

Cities are.

The latest proof comes in a report from state Bureau of Economic and Business Research released at the end of January: bebr.ufl.edu/population.

It shows what sales and building permit figures have already indicated — that the housing markets in Pasco and Hillsborough counties started heating up more than a year ago. And Hernando's did not.

Between the 2010 census and April 1, 2012, the BEBR report says, the population has grown 2.2 percent in Hillsborough, 0.8 percent in Pasco and 0.2 percent in Hernando.

Or, looked at another way, a county with a population of 173,000 added just 326 new residents.

Mostly, the story was the same throughout the state.

During this very slow period of growth, major cities added population. Counties farther from metro areas grew more slowly or not at all. Citrus County, to the north of us, actually lost population; Levy County, to the north of Citrus, lost at an even faster rate.

There are some exceptions to this pattern. Sumter County, for example, was the fastest-growing county in Florida during this period, mostly because of the massive Villages retirement community. Osceola County, with a surge of immigration from Puerto Rico, grew faster than nearby, more urban, Orange County.

It's also important to remember that although this is a comprehensive report, it's not that up to date. The housing market could have changed a lot since April 2012, and year-end sales statistics indicate that it almost certainly did.

The volume of sales in Hernando had increased by the end of December, and prices had either started to stabilize or even rise.

Some people have even told me that the hordes of investors who have been buying up lots in Hillsborough will be coming up here soon.

Maybe so, but rising gas prices are working against us. So are other market forces.

Factors that helped drive the flight from cities after World War II — crime and heavy industry — are no longer such big factors in urban areas.

Rates of home and car ownership among young people started dropping before the recession and have dropped even faster since, according to a story in last February's Atlantic magazine.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that home-building giants such as the Lennar Corp. are putting up mid-rise apartment buildings to meet increased demand for city living.

And the post-recession pattern of urban areas growing faster than suburbs is not just a Florida phenomenon, according to the census, but a national one.

So we're doomed, right?

No.

We should still get our fair share of retirees. We can build industry and try to attract tourists. And, even out here in the exurbs, we can encourage the growth of the urban cores we do have, Brooksville and Spring Hill.

New construction in those two areas would, and should, get deep discounts in impact fees, a consultant told the County Commission last month. Because the infrastructure there is already in place, it makes economic sense.

And other kinds of sense — a few more people in, say Brooksville, a few more restaurants, enough offices that you might be able to conveniently do more business on foot and face to face.

To me — to a lot of people — it sounds pretty cool.

Follow @ddewitttimes on Twitter and read his Quick Hits column Mondays at tampabay.com.

Comments
The Daystarter: Game 7 for Lightning, Capitals; shoppers begin Publix boycott; pair pitch bipartisan ticket for governor; meet TV's Black Lightning

The Daystarter: Game 7 for Lightning, Capitals; shoppers begin Publix boycott; pair pitch bipartisan ticket for governor; meet TV's Black Lightning

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.   • Today’s forecast? If you guessed more rain, congratulations. The forecast calls for scattered showers in the morning and then numerous showers in the afternoon with is...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A 6-day baseball tourney in this weather? Good luck, AAC

A 6-day baseball tourney in this weather? Good luck, AAC

Weather permitting, the American Athletic Conference baseball tournament begins this morning at Clearwater's Spectrum Field.When it ends — or if it ends — depends on the extent of Mother Nature's mercy.With the bay area forecast...
Updated: 1 hour ago
CentCom’s Votel: U.S. will stay in Syria to fight ISIS and keep an eye on Iran

CentCom’s Votel: U.S. will stay in Syria to fight ISIS and keep an eye on Iran

TAMPA — In March, President Donald Trump said he would be pulling U.S. troops out of Syria "very soon." But they’re still there, and will stay there, to defeat what’s left of the so-called Islamic State, says the man in charge of military efforts in ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Artist Robert Indiana, known for ‘LOVE’ series, dies at 89

Artist Robert Indiana, known for ‘LOVE’ series, dies at 89

PORTLAND, Maine — Pop artist Robert Indiana, best known for his 1960s "LOVE" series, has died at his island home off the coast of Maine. He was 89. Indiana died on Saturday from respiratory failure at his Victorian home in a converted Odd Fellows hal...
Updated: 1 hour ago

How to watch Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals Game 7: Game time, TV, live stream

There will be a Game 7 in Tampa Wednesday because the Capitals "were the more desperate team," because Alex Ovechkin was running over Lightning players all night Monday in Washington and because Caps goalie Braden Holtby played to perfection.Washingt...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Border agent detains 2 citizens for speaking Spanish; SCOTUS decision could hurt workers fighting sexual harassment; Yale honors St. Pete native Angela Bassett; more in U.S. news

Border agent detains 2 citizens for speaking Spanish; SCOTUS decision could hurt workers fighting sexual harassment; Yale honors St. Pete native Angela Bassett; more in U.S. news

MontanaWhat, is speaking Spanish illegal?U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are reviewing an encounter between a Border Patrol agent and two women who were speaking Spanish at a gas station, the agency said Monday. The two U.S. citizens sai...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Grenfell inquiry centers fire victims; stars urge Indonesia to ban cruel dog meat trade; more in world news

Grenfell inquiry centers fire victims; stars urge Indonesia to ban cruel dog meat trade; more in world news

BritainGrenfell inquiry centers victimsSurvivors of a devastating high-rise fire in London wept Monday as relatives paid tribute to some of the 72 victims at the opening of an inquiry into Britain’s deadliest blaze in decades. The Grenfell Tower inqu...
Published: 05/22/18
State You’re In: When fiction becomes fact

State You’re In: When fiction becomes fact

TAMPA — History can easily be distorted. If wrong assumptions are made and repeated often enough, falsehoods have a way of becoming "fact.""It happens," said Andy Huse, a librarian with the University of South Florida Special Collections Department. ...
Published: 05/22/18
Five ideas for cooking with lavender

Five ideas for cooking with lavender

Lavender is almost as pretty to smell as it is to look at, but as far as taste goes, the results aren’t always as appealing. A little like cilantro, lavender can taste soapy to some people, making it a tricky plant to use properly. But, when used the...
Published: 05/22/18