The Future They Foresaw, 1967. Suburbs, Office Parks

May 5, 2011 16 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

In the Fall of 1967, shortly after the passage of the Act of Consolidation, the following article was printed in Jacksonville Magazine. Jacksonville Magazine was (and is) the official publication of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and was the undisputed leader in community opinion of the times. The essay is by John C. Gould and it outlines the expectations and planning mindset of the early Consolidated City. It was part of a series of articles advocating Planning initiated by its brilliant and surprising editor Eve Heany. At times prescient, and at times tragically flawed, it set the DNA for the previous 50 years of planning and redevelopment strategy. Join us as we parse where these plans were right and where they were wrong.

Area Planning....What Can We Expect Now?

A new momentous day was written in Jacksonville's history on August 8, 1967, when Consolidation of the city and county governments won, 2 to 1!  In importance, the day may rank with May 3, 1901, when the great fire consumed the whole downtown and charged the people with a new determination.

Now with this single vote, voters jumped their city years ahead of the other centers which are only beginning to face up to the necessity of evolving new forms of government to deal with complex urban problems---problems which cannot be contained within the boundaries of political jurisdictions that make up most of our metropolitan areas.

The overwhelming "YES" moved Jacksonville into the ranks of the top thirty cities in terms of population size---and the largest in the nation in terms of land area encompassed by corporation limits.

With careful planning now to assure a sound government structure, it is not unreasonable to expect that Jacksonville will see  doubling of its population within the next 20 years.  In other words, the City of Jacksonville (as defined by the corporate limits) can expect to pass the 1,000,000 mark sometime around 1987.  (In the entire nation, only six cities have 1,000,000 or more population at the present time)

Mire important than mere figures, however, is the physical reality of what a doubling of population will entail.  It means that developers in Jacksonville will have to build again, within this very short time span, the equivalent of all the existing physical plant currently in use by Jacksonville residents---all of our houses, hotels, and motels, schools, churches, industrial plants, hospitals, libraries, fire stations, offices, shops, and stores that currently make up the Jacksonville urban area. It means adding to existing Jacksonville the combined physical development currently represented by Tallahassee, Gainesville and Orlando!

This may prove to be ultra conservative.  It does not take into account the substantial gains in real income and buying power ahead---gains that will mean larger houses, more cultural, recreational and entertainment facilities, more restaurants, shops and stores.  nor do the estimates take into account the tremendous redevelopment during the same period as obsolete homes and other buildings are replaced by newer units, which would be necessary if no more people were added.

Fortunately, Jacksonville heads into this growth period at a particularly favorable time.  During the first industrial revolution, little regard was shown for aesthetics or amenities in construction of industrial plants, warehouses, shops, and homes.  Regulation for controlling location, design and construction were almost entirely lacking.

As a result, the established industrial centers of the East are saddled with old, obsolete industrial structures---four story, walk up mills; smoke spewing factories, and an unsightly mixture of residential and nonresidential uses.  (Jacksonville has some of this in old sections of the central city of course, but not on the scale which gives many of the cities of the East and Midwest an all pervading, generally depressing character.  Also enforcement of the new Minimum Housing Code is cleaning up those sections)

By contrast, much of Jacksonville's new industrial and office growth will be taking place in planned districts in which compatible activities are grouped in park like settings with suitable landscaped buffers between residential and non residential developments.

Shopping centers and planned retail districts will provide similar amenities withe special attention to access and parking needs on the periphery and to easy pedestrian movement in a comfortable climate controlled environment within.  Overall appearance will be a major consideration in all of these planned developments.

There's even a strong possibility that at least part of Jacksonville's growth will be in entirely new communities located beyond the current leading edge of development.  Here, the aim would be to provide for total community living in a protected environment and traffic generators would be determined in advance to provide maximum convenience to shoppers and employees and minimum conflict with nearby residential areas.

Residential Sections would, in turn, be developed along the neighborhood principle with quiet, gently curving streets designed to discourage heavy volumes of pass through traffic.  A high level of community services---schools parks, recreation, facilities, libraries and health centers---would be part of the original construction.  Frequently scheduled minibuses, possibly on their own rights of way, would serve all community facilities and connect all neighborhoods with the downtown shopping district.

No matter what form Jacksonville's new growth takes, however, it is essential that community leaders and private citizens join now to give emphasis to quality of development.

Jacksonville enjoys a beautiful setting on one of  America's great waterways.  Unique natural and scenic assets add greatly to the city's attractiveness as a place to live and do business.  Properly publicized, these assets can draw fine people.  Leaders should protect and preserve this natural beauty, which combines with Jacksonville's mild climate and sheltered coastal position to make it a geographical gem.

A strategic location within the Southeast and a port that is commanding world wide attention are other blessings, giving the new city options for growth not possessed by older, inland centers.  In our opinions Jacksonville now has the potential for adding substantial number of new type, higher pay, higher skill jobs in modern office and industrial structures.  It has the wherewithal to add 'brains' not just bodies, to its economic base.

the problems of growth remain, of course, but the way has now been cleared for their solution.  A new spirit of resolve is in the air for getting on with the job.  There's a growing awareness that most of Jacksonville's problems are man made ---school dis-accreditation, sewage disposal, air and stream pollution, crime control, tax base inequities, services to fringe areas outside the central city: and as such, they lend themselves to man made solutions.  We know they can be resolved through rational plans and programs developed by a knowledgeable, informed, dedicated leadership.

Consolidation talk, as a way of resolving area wide problems consumes an increasing share of the attention of business and political leaders in most of our major cities today.  Atlanta, for example is beginning to consider consolidation of the city of Atlanta and Fulton County, but this would account for less than half the total population, and only two of the more than 50 political units currently comprising this fast growing metropolitan area.

Jacksonville has had its share of such problems in recent years, in fact, the success of the recent vote can be attributed at least in part to the growing awareness by local citizens of the extent to which Jacksonville had outgrown the local government structure when it came to coping with these problems.

Jacksonville's streamlining of it governmental structure takes place at a particularly opportune time in its development.  Lagging in recent years, Jacksonville appears to be heading into a new period of rapid growth and development.  The new government can ensure that this expansion will be qualitative in nature as well.

Our optimism is based on clear trends already established in both regional and national economies and on specific developments in the local area.  Also there is recognition of Jacksonville's unique position as Florida's gateway city, of its favorable climate, its dramatic site on the St. Johns river, its proximity to beaches and large water areas for boating, fishing, swimming, and other recreation.

This unique combination of amenities gives regional trends added significance.  The Southern Region, which Jacksonville serves through its port and related economic activities, is beginning to stir and prosper, but the full impact will be felt only in selected growth centers which are in position to attract particular plants and people.

Regional growth trends now are in full sway from Memphis to Miami, from Norfolk to New Orleans.  They're part of the nation's second industrial revolution that, unlike the first, has not bypassed the South and has brought tremendous changes to the regions economy.

Southern cities which formerly served as little more than agricultural trade centers for a long depressed agrarian economy are beginning to boom as they add basic manufacturing , processing and distribution to their economic base.  Cities, such as Atlanta, which also enjoy unusually favorable locational and amenity advantages, have been in position to capitalize on the thrust of this growth to project themselves into positions of national influence as well.

Conditions which caused cities to prosper in the first revolution are not necessarily the same as for this second, although availability of natural resources and superior transportation facilities are still of major importance.  Increasingly more important in recent years, however, is the role that natural and man made amenities play in the total picture.

As industrial production increasingly is characterized by automation, computers, electronic testing devices, etc., the increasing competition is for a limited supply of highly mobile trained or trainable skilled workers and technicians.  These people want an attractive total living environment.  Cities offering fine recreational activities in a mild climate, such as Jacksonville does, will be in a position to maximize the benefits of regional prosperity.

Already these conditions have propelled Florida to position as one of the fastest growing states.  In fact, during the period 1950 to 1960, no state had a more rapid rate of gain.  The population virtually doubled in this single decade.  Florida moved from an economy highly dependent on tourism and agriculture (primarily, citrus and cattle) to a highly diversified economy which includes manufacture of sophisticated electronic equipment, aircraft, ocean going ships and chemicals plus an extensive distribution network.

Jacksonville has shared in the attraction of these new economic activities.  In the post war period the growth has been marked particularly in services and in finance, insurance and real estate.  Employment in government and in retail and wholesale trade also has steadily expanded.  

Now in our opinion, Jacksonville is ready to move up to a new plateau of growth and prosperity.  Consolidation is only a first step, which served to clear away and correct old growth problems noted earlier.  As a focal point of transportation, education, recreation and general 'good living', Jacksonville can bring together at one point a broad spectrum of business services  specialized printing, freight forwarders, packaging specialists, marine insurance and banking specialist, consultants of all types and other individuals and groups to serve a growing economic region.

The Transportation function, already important in Jacksonville will be strengthened with 1) completion of the huge new jet airport complex north of the city in June 1968.  2) construction of Interstate 95 which with Interstate 10 and its connection with Interstate 75 some 65 miles to the west will further enhance Jacksonville's role as a distribution hub.  3)  completion of the Port Authority's expansion program which will greatly increase the volume of goods passing through the port.  4)  completion of the Cross Florida Barge Canal (by the mid 1970s) which will tie Jacksonville directly to the Gold Coast and Midwest markets and make Jacksonville a major breakpoint between intracoastal barges and ocean going ships.

The Education function  will receive new impetus with the continued expansion of Jacksonville University and with the completion of two new campuses for the Junior College at two separate location in North and South Jacksonville.  Plans for a new state supported, four year college at Jacksonville are progressing.

Jacksonville's emerging role as a convention city with important tourist and recreation potential will receive major support from trends well established at national and regional levels.  Sharp gains in population, income and buying power, leisure time (longer vacations and shorter work weeks) and recreation oriented travel inevitably will focus attention of Florida's well developed recreational facilities.

The gains from "keeping pace" will be impressive enough ( new tourist oriented hotels, motels and services) and, though the impact will be felt primarily in South and Central Florida resort areas, Jacksonville can expect a significant share of from travelers passing through the area.

Two other major developments planned for Central Florida will stimulate tourism throughout Florida. The new Moonport Museum and tourist reception center under construction on the Florida East Coast about 50 miles south of Daytona is one of these.  The other is the huge new Disney World Development near Orlando.  Each will attract millions of visitors and add substantially to the economy.

Interstate 95 will, on completion funnel increasing numbers of these out of state visitors into and through Jacksonville, greatly adding to support of existing tourist oriented facilities here.  Construction of larger, newer and more modern facilities along approach routes and in the central city will also be stimulated.  Opportunities will be presented for development of many points of historic and scenic interest in Jacksonville and vicinity.

All these advantages will make Jacksonville a tough competitor for higher type industries seeking strategic relocations in the South.

(From the essay introduction in Jacksonville Magazine, Fall 1967.)
John C. Gould, a former Senior Planner with the Atlanta Metropolitan Planning Commission, wrote this second article in the area planning series.  His firm, Gould Associates, is doing the economic base analysis for the Jacksonville Duval Area Planning Board.  An Authority on city planning, he's also associate professor of the Program of City Planning at Georgia Institute of Technology.  His Bachelor and Masters degrees in Sociology and Regional Planning give unusual depth to his understanding of urban growth patterns.

researched and transcribed by Stephen Dare