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City Planning

Suniland Magazine


One of Florida's greatest opportunities today lies in the direction of city planning. With new cities springing up over night and numerous developments planned and executed under the direction of one organization or individual, there is a chance to avoid many mistakes made by established cities and towns, and to profit by the experience of those who have made a special study of city planning.

There should be many ideal cities in Florida, and if our developers and builders will give some serious thought to the future and to the value of scientific city planning, Florida will some day have advantages in the way of ideal living surroundings and conditions enjoyed by no other state in the country.

In this connection we have asked John Nolen, nationally known town and city planner, to give us a few thoughts on city planning in Florida for this issue—these will be found on page twenty-eight and will be followed later on by an illustrated article showing some of John Nolen's work in Florida, with suggestions and ideas that should be of value in the future development of the State.

John Nolen is president of the National Conference on City Planning, is the author of numerous books and pamphlets on city planning, and has planned or re-planned a number of cities in the United States. John Nolen is well known in Florida and his work in this state includes the following: the general planning of West Palm Beach, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Clearwater; town or suburb planning in the following: Clewiston; Belleair; Venice-Nokomis; Bay Point; Venice; Maxonio Estates, near St. Petersburg; St. Augustine Beach; San Jose Estates, near Jacksonville; Belmont-on-the Gulf; Bryant Park, Gainesville; Bay View, near Jacksonville; the Gulf of Mexico and the beautiful Anclote River.

President of the National Conference on City Planning, Mr. Nolen has made plans for over forty American cities, including many in Florida.

Florida is the last frontier of the United States, and naturally its development has been accompanied by unusual interest. The settlement of other sections was brought about by great personal sacrifice and often danger, but Florida is being settled under modern methods, with almost unlimited resources of capital, experience and business enterprise.

Florida's physical location and climatic lure are bringing people of all types and classes for recreation, business, or both.

Many who come for a short first visit remain for a prolonged stay or become permanent residents. Travel facilities by water, rail and over the road are increasing apace with the public demands. Greater variety of situation, natural advantages and resources exist, so that almost every desire may be met and places of varied popularity developed.

Many centers of population, some of them already well established, but many of them newly projected, are growing with marked rapidity. This expansion, especially in the older settlements, has crowded the hotels, congested the streets, and caused a shortage in business, residential and recreational facilities. This vigorous spirit of expansion is evident in all parts of the state, and the influx of visitors during the summer this year has made the need for preparation for the new population more and more apparent.

It is now quite generally recognized that this urban expansion and the provision for new and larger populations can best be met through modern city planning, which includes all problems of civic growth of physical character. These problems are studied not only in themselves, but as related to one another, and to other urban problems, so that the result is a unified community.

The many factors which go to make up the life of a community are working simultaneously, but in various forms. The occasions on which they are in harmony are constantly changing, however, and as a result, municipal effort is often expended in vain. Coordination of the efforts of different factors of a community into common lines of endeavor in the function of a city plan, with its accompanying problem of development. Such a plan would ordinarily include main thoroughfares, parks and parkways, schools and playgrounds, a civic center, and the proper location and development of railroads, industry and business districts.

Such comprehensive city planning studies include the area undeveloped, as well as the built-up sections, thus presenting a framework over which the city may spread in an orderly, practical and attractive manner. The city plan is also a stabilizing influence in developments and in property values, and furnishes a definite program for improvements and expansions.

A city plan does not attempt to bind the city too far in the future, but is subject to amendment from time to time according to new conditions. While it deals primarily with the every day practical requirements of the city, it also encourages civic art, a feature that is of great importance in a resort community.

The method of producing the plans for the growth of a city, whether in Florida or elsewhere, whether in new territory or where a settled community is confronted with the problems of rapid expansion, are practically the same.

First, a survey of local conditions is made, including the many factors which go to make up community life. This survey begins with knowledge of the historical background. It includes a study of the physical conditions as shown in the topography, resources and climate; the social conditions, expressing themselves in housing, health, education, recreation, welfare and safety; the economic conditions embodied in streets, transportation, public utilities, real estate and administration. The result of this planning survey is a comprehensive report and the production of an Existing Conditions Map showing graphically the city or region at the beginning of the city planning work.

Second comes the preparation of the Regional Plan. Cities and the open county about bear very close relation to each other, and this relation is becoming intensified by modern conditions. Where the country was once simply an agricultural region, producing food for the cities, it has now become, through the use of motor transportation, part of the city, by the increasing number of city workers who can live in the suburbs or rural districts. The potential urban possibility is rapidly becoming a reality. It is to direct this inevitable trend that regional plans are necessary. The Regional Plan treats the city and its surrounding zone of influence as a unit, and seeks to determine the uses to which the different parts of the area are best adapted, following which the best means of planning these related parts must be discovered.

The Regional Plan gives the setting for the preparation of the comprehensive City Plan itself, which is based on the Existing Conditions Map. It takes into account, of course, the public opinion of the community and must always find ways of applying successfully the fundamental principles of city planning. If the work went no further it would do much good. Elihu Root in an address delivered in New York speaking of a city plan, said, "I think that the existence of plans known to everybody will give just enough direction to the movement of the multitudes of separate impulses to lead the growth of a city or region along the right lines."

Another important phase, in fact an integral part of city planning, is zoning. Zoning determines the right use of land and protects the owner of the land in that use. But zoning is not retroactive, and the present use of property for stores or industry or other purposes outside of the zone proposed is not affected. A Zone Plan shows diagrammatically the logical locations for business, industry, and different classes of residential property for the various parts of the city.

This statement of city planning is but a brief outline of methods that are now being followed by a number of cities in Florida, and will be followed by many others, because city planning is a means of safeguard and protecting the property values of Investors and stabilizing all the best interests of the community. The general influence of city planning, therefore, if carried out wisely and deliberately throughout the state, will be very helpful to the rapid, Bound and permanent development of Florida.

There is already an enlightened public sentiment supporting better planning manifesting itself in all parts of the state, which makes it certain that program in civic development in Florida will be much more rapid and thorough than in the other commonwealths.

Excerpt from: Nolen, John. "City Planning in Florida."
Suniland, Nov. 1925, Vol.3, No.2., Pg. 28.


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