Thoburn Reinvents?

June 2, 2007 9 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Consider this recent piece by Mary Kelli Palka of the Florida Times Union. Brad Thoburn, the controversial appointee of Mayor John Peyton to head the Planning Department, has emerged as a newfound stalwart of New Urbanist design ideals.

Thoburn's appointment was opposed by many in the local blogosphere on the grounds of his inexperience in planning.   (Especially here)In his first public foray, however, Brad has surprisingly chosen to adopt remarkably sensible design concepting into the city planning process: Here is the article:As Jacksonville residents began fleeing from the urban core to the suburbs decades ago, shopping centers followedNow, a drive along parts of Beach or Atlantic boulevards or many other major thoroughfares reveals row upon row of strip malls.      

City officials want to change that landscape

We have to think of these corridors, and many times they really are, the front door of our neighborhoods,  Planning Director Brad Thoburn said. Thoburn is hoping to shift from the strip mall concept to designs similar to the St. Johns Town Center, where buildings are clustered, parking isn't a focal point and walking from store to store is encouraged. With help from a planning contractor, the city has developed a set of draft guidelines for new commercial developments. Though the city has the authority to approve zoning changes, Thoburn said he isn't sure yet if the guidelines eventually will become mandatory or simply be recommendations. (, - Some buildings in urban developments should be close to the main roadways and be arranged so they limit the view of large parking areas.    

- Vary the store heights in suburban centers; include set-backs of the second floor and above of buildings higher than 40 feet.    

- Encourage a mix of retail, commercial, office, restaurant and high-density residential spaces.     - Cluster buildings in large scale developments to allow for patrons to park in one area and walk among the shops.


- Vary wall heights, roof pitches and other architectural designs to reduce the scale of large buildings.    

- Entrances, awnings, display windows and other similar features should comprise at least 60 percent of the ground floor exterior in urban shopping centers.    

- Hide Dumpsters and service areas behind screens or walls.


- Feature canopies, seating areas or fountain displays in developments.    

- Include walkways in parking areas and plazas in the middle of developments.    

- Set back buildings with uncovered storefronts far enough from the curb to provide 4 feet of landscaping and 8-foot-wide walkways. If outdoor dining is included, the walkway should be 6 feet wide.


- Place overhead utilities underground when possible. But when overhead lines are in a development, don't put large-canopy trees nearby.    

- Use plants as buffers on the outside of buildings and in pedestrian areas.    

- Include planter islands and other landscaping in the parking medians.


- Place lighting and electrical connections underground.    

- Use shields on lights or recess lighting and don't use lights that cause a glare.    

- Place lighting near building entrances; don't point lights toward the sky.                  

This is a very encouraging move, frankly.