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Urban Land Institute's 10 Principals


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Urban Living Gains Appeal


By Cari Boyce

Special to the Times-Union

Urban areas are enjoying the benefits of renewed interest spurred by a modern shift toward in-town living. This interest rests upon close-knit neighborhoods where people live, work, shop and play all within a few city blocks. Jacksonville's urban areas are no exception. People are re-populating center-city neighborhoods, choosing an urban environment over suburban sprawl. As people return, so does the economic base to support neighborhood retail leading to urban renewal, healthy neighborhoods and strong communities.

Myrtice Craig with Prudential Network Realty has been an advocate of downtown revitalization for 25 years. She worked with the Downtown Development Authority during the early 1980s. She served as executive director of Riverside Avondale Preservation during its formative years. Craig recently has become involved with the Springfield Preservation and Restoration Council. Craig also lived in and renovated a home in Riverside before the area attained the popularity it has today. "Urban living crosses generations and lifestyles," Craig said. "It appeals to a broad mix of people including empty nesters, singles, elderly and non-traditional families. They enjoy the sense of community that is prevalent in such areas."

This return to urban lifestyles has been the focus of study and extensive documentation as evidenced in the *Urban Land Institute's Ten Principles for Rebuilding Neighborhood Retail*, as well as, the *Florida Department of Community Affairs' Handbook for Holistic Neighborhood Revitalization.*

The *Handbook for Holistic Neighborhood Revitalization* offers a step-by-step guide to revitalization along with a case study and tools for community leaders hoping to implement urban renewal programs in their own areas.

Differing in scope and specificity, the documents are similar in philosophy. They both recognize the requirement for long-term commitment, aggressive action and cooperation on the part of both public and private sectors to achieve successful rejuvenation of declining inner-ring neighborhoods.

The Urban Land Institute's 10 principles capture the essence of the requirements for rebuilding neighborhoods to the benefit of homeowners and business owners alike. The presiding philosophy is that without a strong residential base, retail cannot survive -- infrastructure, residential density and retail success and diversity are dependent upon each other.

Sam Morgan with Lifestyles Realtors moved to the area in 2003 from Atlanta, where he was a resident and Realtor in transitioning neighborhoods. He now lives in Springfield and is active in that area's revitalization endeavors. Morgan's involvement in New Urbanism is due largely to the efforts of developers such as SRG Homes and Neighborhoods. "As 2005 draws near, all of Jacksonville is focused on civic improvements in preparation for Super Bowl XXXIX," Morgan said. "Recent changes, while sweeping and highly visible, were accomplished because the groundwork had been laid over many years, thanks in large part to the efforts of community action groups."

The first of ULI's 10 principles is that great streets need great champions. This is a person or group who initiates the renewal process, maintains a commitment to the long-term goal, fights for common community resources and sees the project through to its eventual completion. "Successful neighborhood champions such as those in San Marco, Riverside/Avondale, Murray Hill and Springfield, were established years ago. They work in conjunction with government and business leaders and are key to successfully rebuilding neighborhoods," Craig said.

It takes a vision, ULI's second principle, recognizes that urban renewal is an incremental process requiring years of hard work and commitments of time, funds and resources. It is also important to blend the goals and visions of homeowners, business owners and government entities for the overall good of the neighborhood.

ULI's third directive, think residential, is perhaps the most difficult to achieve. This first step toward rebuilding recognizes the residential requirement for neighborhood growth. The neighborhood must attract and retain residents who are interested in actively pursuing the goal of a vital, thriving residential and retail environment even when this goal is but a glimmer on the horizon. "A successful revitalization program starts with residents moving into the neighborhood and stabilizing the area, building community bonds and taking responsibility for the state of the streets on which they now live," Craig said.

Honor the pedestrian is the fourth in ULI's top 10. Neighborhoods should be built for pedestrian traffic rather than automobile traffic. This is accomplished through the addition of pedestrian amenities such as landscaping and street furniture. Well-lit streets are also important as they relate to visibility and safety. This point underscores the importance of the much-debated lighting upgrade for the downtown area.

The fifth principle, parking is power, addresses the need for adequate parking. On- and off-street parking should be available, allow ease of access to local businesses and offer convenience and personal security. Parking areas should remain unobtrusive to avoid detracting from the overall experience.

Merchandise and lease proactively, sixth on ULI's list, requires commercial property owners to work together while considering the needs and desires of area residents. They must coordinate their leasing efforts in a manner that is mutually beneficial. Quality and diversity are important characteristics for potential commercial tenants, as they will give the street its unique character.

In many communities, conditions that contributed to the decline of the neighborhood still exist. Residents, business owners, government officials and law enforcement agencies must commit themselves to aggressive action in order to address negative influences and promote the area's positive aspects. In other words, make it happen, ULI's seventh principle.

Keep it clean, secure and friendly is important to increasing consumer traffic for local businesses. This eighth principle, suggests adherence to a high standard of street maintenance, cleanliness and security will draw customers to the street to shop even if the area is still in transition.

"Committed residents are very important, but are only part of the equation," Craig said. "Revitalization means improvement in all aspects of life in the neighborhood. This requires commitment of government and law enforcement resources. The [Jacksonville] Mayor's Office and Sheriff's Office deserve much credit for their work downtown and in Springfield. Their commitment has had a tremendous impact on renewal efforts in those areas."

Extending day into night is the ninth principle. This goal is best achieved through the development of mixed use properties. This can boost the area economy by extending the shopping day. Civic, cultural and entertainment venues serve as neighborhood anchors and attract high numbers of visitors throughout the day and into the evening.

The Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art relocated to 33 N. Laura St. near Hemming Park in the spring of 2003. The influx of cultural venues that followed may indicate that the area is quickly becoming the new center for arts in Jacksonville. "In recent years the area has become home to several new galleries, restaurants and cultural events with more on the horizon. Included among these are several mixed-use buildings such as 9th and Main, which houses a theater, art gallery and Henrietta's restaurant. This has become known as Springfield's town center," Craig said. The area also hosts cultural events such as Art Walk. This monthly experience has grown exponentially in popularity since its inception.

"Most new developments in downtown Jacksonville, Springfield and San Marco are mixed use, combining office space and retail space at the entry level and living spaces such as lofts on upper levels," Morgan said. "Rental property is also important to areas in transition because it attracts residents who may not be interested in buying initially. However, once they become a part of the neighborhood, they see its potential and eventually become homeowners in the area."

Finally, ULI's 10th principle, manage for change, considers the need for flexibility when planning neighborhood revitalization projects. The long-term nature of revitalization means the area will undergo changes even as renewal plans progress. The ability of those involved to constantly assess the state of the community, monitor emerging trends and resolve conflicts will impact the outcome of any urban renewal project greatly.

Successful neighborhood revitalization efforts in one part of town inspire, influence and encourage similar efforts in the surrounding neighborhoods much like downtown renewal in Jacksonville influenced projects in inner ring communities like Springfield. Homeowners downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods have benefited from their hard work and commitment to improvements in the area.

"Not only have homeowners gained a sense of community pride, but property values have increased significantly," Craig said. "Houses I sold several years ago for $35,000 have been renovated lovingly. When they are resold in today's market, they can fetch upward of $150,000."

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I thought I'd post this article. It's very interesting, and it makes sense. If Jacksonville continues to follow these principles, like they already have been doing, downtown might become one of the most vibrant urban areas in the South.

BTW, I just noticed that I misspelled "Principles" on the Topic name. And I can't change it. Drats, lol

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