Thursday, December 14, 2017
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

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., Dec. 13, midday:53 738 7036e_SRit10321Wed., Dec. 13, evening:57 775 2681e_SRit55890LottoWed., Dec....
Updated: 3 hours ago

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Alex Colome claimed he was just showing good social media manners Tuesday night in following four Cardinals-related Instagram accounts since they were saying nice things about him.In doing so, whether for that reason or another mor...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s difficult to call a volleyball program that has been to the Final Four eight times an underdog, especially the way Florida rallied to beat Southern California and punch its latest ticket. Yet of the four schools descending on ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 13

Wednesday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 3, St. Petersburg 1Girls basketballPalm Harbor U. 42, Largo 25
Updated: 4 hours ago
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida Toys for Tots charity raffles off AR-15 rifle. Gun debate ensues.

Florida Toys for Tots charity raffles off AR-15 rifle. Gun debate ensues.

SPRING HILL — Hernando County Commission Vice Chairman Steve Champion wanted to do something to help raise money for the annual Toys for Tots drive. So he donated the grand prize for the Nov. 18 raffle:It was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.That led to ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Lost cell signal recently? The culprit could be a 40-year-old Ruskin man who deputies said stole thousands of dollars worth of the equipment that powers cell towers. The theft interrupted cell tower signals on at least two occasions, deputies said, i...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Foot washes ashore in Canada, again; Abbas wants U.S. out as Mideast mediator; 12 sentenced to life for gang-raping kids; more in world news

Foot washes ashore in Canada, again; Abbas wants U.S. out as Mideast mediator; 12 sentenced to life for gang-raping kids; more in world news

CanadaJust another foot washing ashoreAnother human foot has been found on British Columbia’s coastline, the 13th such grim discovery since 2007. Police said a man was walking on the beach in Jordan River on Vancouver Island when his dog found the fo...
Updated: 5 hours ago