2007-01-01, 15:47

The old becomes new again

By: Jonathan Groner

A December 27, 2006, editorial in the Florida Times-Union (a Jacksonville newspaper) has an interesting perspective on mixed use. It is a return to fashion of an older form of development, and zoning laws need to be changed, if necessary, to allow it. Here is the full text of the editorial.

ZONING CODE: Mixed-use virtues

What do clothing, furniture and development have in common?

They're all ruled by the age-old principle that everything old eventually becomes new again.

In the development world, that means communities of the past are back in fashion.

Pedestrian-friendly streets, retail shops with living quarters on the second floor and closer distances between home and work are in demand from a growing segment of home buyers.

But does Jacksonville's zoning code allow for this?

Sort of.

St. Johns Town Center, River City Market Place and Kendall Town Center are examples of successful retail developments with apartments or condominiums on site.

And there are others.

Through overlays, special categories and urban designations, the city allows mixed-use development, said John Crofts, deputy planning director.

But the city's upcoming zoning code rewrite is an opportunity to make it easier to combine uses, Crofts said.

And promote infill, which is critical to older neighborhoods under revitalization.

That's good news, especially when considering Florida Coastal School of Law Professor Michael Lewyn's recent discussion on zoning and urban sprawl in Jacksonville.

Lewyn offered the following data:

About 93 percent of residents drive to work.

Most zoning districts are designated for a single use.

Higher density has been discouraged in suburban areas, causing sprawl.

Parking space requirements reduce land that could be used for homes.

Streets are too wide and block lengths too long, a deterrent to walking or biking.

Lewyn pointed to San Marco, Riverside and Avondale as models.

"I would suggest to you that all we have to do to have more streets like [San Marco Boulevard] is to legalize them," he said.

Lewyn's point is timely.


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