Metro Jacksonville Presents to the City of Lakeland

December 7, 2006 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Last week, a delegation of 14 city officials and corporate leaders from Lakeland, FL spent a few days in Jacksonville for their annual Economic Development Council trip. Although the busy agenda included presentations by Ron Barton, Jerry Mallot, Ed Burr, John Delaney and Wayne Weaver, the delegation also invited three members of Metro Jacksonville to give a presentation on the importance of attracting and retaining high-skill talent for quality economic development in today?s highly competitive world.

The PowerPoint presentation focused on three things that the City of Lakeland could do to create a sense of place, which would enhance its image, improve the quality of life for its citizens, and aid the city's efforts to attract and retain members of the “Creative Class.” These three key points were:1. Revising restrictive, suburban-oriented zoning ordinances that limit urban infill development.2. Facilitating Urban Connectivity.3. Addressing the lack of a concentrated nightlife and entertainment district.

Revising restrictive ordinances

Over the past year, Metro Jacksonville has identified and targeted several zoning ordinances in Jacksonville’s Land Development Code that continue to have a negative effect on downtown development. Two of the most detrimental ordinances relate to parking and signage. In Lakeland, the most detrimental ordinance is the city’s 40’ height limit downtown, enacted to help keep buildings pedestrian scale.

This image contains examples of various scenes taking place at street level, ranging from parking decks and office uses to retail and sidewalk cafes. The question is, does height really matter?



This image illustrates the height of the buildings shown in the previous picture, most of which exceed Lakeland’s 40’ limit. The point being stressed is that height limits have nothing to do with the idea of being pedestrian scale. The more important issue is what happens at street level. However, strict height limits do discourage urban density and mixed-use structures, which are critical elements in creating urban synergy.




Connectivity is one of the major ingredients necessary to attract today’s high-skilled worker. The scene in the image shown below isn’t possible without connectivity, in the form of building fabric and pedestrian-oriented uses that complement one another.

While everyone loves open public spaces, they can sometimes limit urban connectivity as well. This image shows a portion of Downtown Lakeland’s recently completed Overlook Park. Although the space is attractive, there is no reason for residents to visit this public space on a daily basis. Unless more creative urban design is incorporated, this space will sit empty most days that special events aren’t taking place.



A solution to this problem would be to provide a built-in use that attracts a revolving door of activity around the clock. In this image, an example would be issuing an RFP for a small sidewalk café, such as a Panera Bread or Au Bon Pain, that would have the ability to draw daytime office workers and downtown residents to the space on a daily basis.



Concentrated nightlife and entertainment districts

The last issue Metro Jacksonville addressed to the Lakeland delegation is the need for a concentrated, pedestrian-friendly nightlife and entertainment district. From South Beach to San Diego’s Gaslamp District, it's no secret that the buzz and social atmosphere associated with urban entertainment districts has always been attractive to the “Creative Class." In Lakeland’s case, the city’s conservative outlook on drinking has worked to prevent this type of atmosphere from developing. Because the idea of bars and clubs in Lakeland’s downtown district conflicts with downtown’s Antiques Districts, Metro Jacksonville suggested that officials look at areas adjacent to, but outside of, the downtown core to compensate. One example given was a pedestrian-friendly warehouse district located between the Lakeland Center (convention center) and the downtown core, yet nowhere near any schools, churches or residential areas.

In the end, without easing restrictive zoning ordinances, embracing connectivity, and encouraging concentrated entertainment districts, you can have no density. If there’s no real density, there’s no synergy created from complementing uses being located next to each other. If there's no synergy, a city will continue to struggle attracting and retaining the young, educated workforce needed for today’s first-rate company.


Where does Jacksonville come in to play?

Of the three major points presented to the City of Lakeland, the most damaging to Jacksonville is the idea of Connectivity. Comparatively speaking, Jacksonville already has many of the ingredients necessary to create a powerful hub of inner city activity (urban colleges and universities, historic public markets, urban parks, entertainment and retail districts, etc.). However, the influence of these critical elements has been limited by locations or structural layouts that keep the activities taking place on these sites from growing into the areas around them to create lively urban districts.

This week, Metro Jacksonville will take a look at how several other cities have successfully handled the idea of connectivity, and next week we’ll present a plan that endorses the idea of connecting Springfield and Downtown to create one large, vibrant inner-city hub of commerce and activity.

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