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"The Junk Food Attitude Toward Place "

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http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2012/07/junk-food-attitude-toward-place/2633/

Sarah Goodyear posts some interesting thoughts on her visit to south Florida recently and of what is frequently a lack of "quality" in the places we occupy.

From that, I begin to wonder, why do people still choose to inhabit such places 60 years after the Levittown modern version of suburbia first sprang forth from the potato fields of eastern Long Island.

Even as a kid living in west Orlando in the 1960s and '70's I didn't much care for the typical suburban life; first of all, EVERYTHING was on the other side of I4 in those days (any shopping more upscale than Monkey Ward, parks, libraries larger than a shoebox, outdoor events, etc.); second, as a kid, it was a pain to get anywhere since I couldn't drive; third, even then I noted the total lack of a sense of community that existed in older neighborhoods like College Park. As soon as I could, I was out of there and gladly jumped into the effort to bring downtown back to life starting in the early '80's.

Oddly, though, people continue to choose to live in places like Hunters' Creek, Lake Mary, etc., which even today have virtually no sense of place. After all these years, it can't be that they don't know alternatives exist. Do folks choose such places because they simply don't care about what they're giving up? It can't be simply economic - my income has always been modest but I have willingly made the tradeoffs required to remain downtown. I know that in some places education makes a difference, but in Orlando there are "A" public schools and great private/charter schools available even right downtown. Is a larger McMansion so important that it is worthwhile to give up the cohesion of community for maximum square footage?

Let me say that I value diversity and my interest is meant not to flame anyone who has made such a choice and may be quite pleased with it. It is more of an attempt to understand a lifestyle I willingly admit, even though it is the one from which I grew, I have never understood.

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Is a larger McMansion so important that it is worthwhile to give up the cohesion of community for maximum square footage?

Sadly, yes. Although I feel that the mentality regarding this is slowly shifting, there are still a large number of people that need to display trophies and showboat. They want their neighbors to understand where they are in life with their larger square foot house and their slightly newer car proudly displayed in the driveway. Plus, being that much closer to the bosses country club doesn't hurt either. Ya know, in case that highly coveted golf invitation materializes. And when children are brought into the mix the thought of sending them to an "inner city" school is just down right frightening, no matter how good the district's grades might be.

I find it quite sad that some people trade vibrancy for arduous commutes just to keep up with the Jonses. I also have a slight chip on my shoulder because this is the type of lifestyle that, since it is typically found on the edges of a metro, increases traffic and stretch resources along with tax dollars increasingly thin.

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It's important to note that the switch from traditional neighborhoods to the worst forms of sprawl didn't happen overnight everywhere. While Levittown is certainly an example, there are plenty of 70s and 80s residential neighborhoods that maintained a decent street grid and only required a straight walk to a main road that had retail. I grew up in a neighorhood like this in Coral Springs and most kids rode their bikes to school, the mall, movie theater etc. The only cul-de-sacs were where necessary due to the canal system. Of course, everything built in the 90s and later was walled-in and not walkable at all. It's amazing how those walls invite the transportation agencies to widen a road into a 4-6 lane divided highway. The wall pretty much says that the community is giving a blanket "thumbs up." Now, my cousin in Windermere, isn't allowed to bike or walk home from school (less than 1/2 mile away) due to safety concerns along 535.

Inventory is part of the problem in Orlando. I believe in the tradeoff of square footage for public space, but even then it's not an even exchange all the time. I'm looking to buy a home in the SoDo area and have friends that are interested too but face these problems:

- Aside from overall sqft, certain rooms are too small (ie closets, kitchen) for modern convenience/expectations. "Cute to visit, wouldn't want to live there"

- Concerns over quality of older homes. Fear of asbestus (sp?), crawlspaces, even no warranty.

- Only one bathroom?!

- Not walkable enough outside of the CBD - still need car, so might as well move further away

- Perceptions of higher crime

- Bad experiences trying to park/find parking

Those are just some. The affordability is another one. Who wouldn't want to live in a nice home in Baldwin Park? There's just not enough of it.

I think we're more likely to see good suburban retrofit and walkable activity centers that actually have a shot at being connected by premium transit than a mass exodus to downtown. Not all areas or facilities will survive the switch.

It sure would help if we didn't spend money on infrastructure projects that greatly subsidizes the transportation costs for the few. Widening roads in east Orange County costs much more than the return from property taxes will ever bring in. And building things like the Wekiva Parkway, that went through with no protests or concern from our "tax watchdogs" that were ever so vocal during SunRail's wait for approval, is very telling.

The area could use a good advocacy group for building sustainable places that won't drain our resources, environment, or wallet. We have little pods of this here and there, but no collective voice that carries any weight.

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The question is: What is it that we really hate about developments? There is no one answer to a layout or style that pleases everyone. Yeah, we like the more urban style city living versus the walled community. But that does not reflect what everyone else wants. For a lot of people, they like the comfort and security of their little walled off corner of the world. That big house also brings with it to them comfort and room to spread out and do things. I think it says alot that it's primarily (nuclear) families which tend to live in the 'burbs while urban living is dominated by singles and couples. For us it is comfortable to walk to a small store and pick over a few vegetables. For someone who has to cook a weeks worth of meals for 5 and drive all their kids to every sporting event in the city, they dont want to spend their time picking over their vegetables. YThey just want in and out quickly and affordably.

I don't think you will ever get everyone to want to live an urban lifestyle, and I think it's better to stop trying to. Instead focus on attracting those people who want to live in that kind fo neighborhood. Thats where the groth force is going to come from.

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I'd bet that 9 out of 10 families would rather live in Lake Eola Heights, Delaney Park, or Thornton Park than in Hunter's Creek or Poinciana. Truth is, I think a lot of it comes down to what developers are allowed to do rather than what the average person actually wants. The new urbanism community is prime example that there is an ever increasing awareness in the value of space, or more importantly, place. People want to be somewhere, not anywhere. Last I heard, Baldwin Park fared the slump better than nearly all its neighbors. Unfortunately most families are priced out of traditional style sections of Orlando and are left with very few options, most of which can clearly be labeled as sprawl.

Sure, you are going to get your families from the Northeast and Midwest who want nothing that even remotely resembles the triple decker they moved away from -- those people will move to Lake Mary. There is a market for that.

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There are two types of suburbanites. Those that live there because they love it, and those that live there because that is all that they can afford. We should not question or care about those that love it. Those that cannot afford anything else are a concern. Part of it is salary, part of it is that they have five people in one house.

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For someone who has to cook a weeks worth of meals for 5 and drive all their kids to every sporting event in the city, they dont want to spend their time picking over their vegetables.

I do agree with your post - though promoting walkable livable communities is not the same thing as everyone move to one activity center.

...but had to point out that in a highly walkable area, they wouldn't have to drive all their kids to sporting events :)

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I do agree with your post - though promoting walkable livable communities is not the same thing as everyone move to one activity center.

...but had to point out that in a highly walkable area, they wouldn't have to drive all their kids to sporting events :)

Ah, but therin lies the difference. I am usually the one against "developments" but on Urban Planet I am always the one to point out the opposing view. Anyways, as much as I hate to say it this way, there is a difference of what I guess I will call "peripheral vision". For people who tend to live in urbanized areas, they see either everything realy local or over great distances. Ironically they see a great deal more of, and are more comfortable with, diversity. Those who tend to live in the burbs see things a little wider - to them they dont just think about only playing soccer on the one field down the street with the one group of local kids. They see a much wider world - one which you need a car to get to. And yet ironically they only see that one area because they tend to be sheltered from everything between their home and their destination. That's one reason why urbanites just dont "get" the suburbanites, and the suburbanites just don't "get" the urbanites. They see things differently, have different wants, needs, and likes.

New Urbanism. Intersting comparisson, as you have perhaps the proto-typical New Urbanist development just down the highway. Celebration by definition fits all those arguments. Yet, is that also not a walled community? What difference does that have against one of the other developments besides more amenities? If anything it is even more selective.

I think that one of the misunderstandings we have is that it is not about the looks or the layout, but the content and how it all works together. What I think urbanists really ike about their environment is the diversity, individuality, and social lifestyle of the city. These are in many ways the very thing that suburbanites don't like - they were never brought up to be comfortable dealing with a diverse population or deviation from the norm - unlike many urbanites they fit in quite well with the majority and feel comfortable there.

As a cuture matures and people get more and more comfortable with those differences, I wonder how a neighborhood will change. And, in the case of these walled off neighborhoods, where that diversity is kept out, will that create more strife?

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