Viewing entries in
Trends and Issues

More TIGER in the Tank? Time for a renewed policy and advocacy focus

Comment

More TIGER in the Tank? Time for a renewed policy and advocacy focus

The City of  Asheville, N.C. was among the 72 recipients of nearly $600 million invested in 46 states and the District of Columbia. The City earned a $14.6 million award covering half the cost to implement key pieces of its East of the Riveryway Multimodal Plan designed to link lower income residents to jobs, enable access to fresh foods and improve public health.

Comment

5 Steps for Enhancing Downtown Orlando's Northern Gateway

Comment

5 Steps for Enhancing Downtown Orlando's Northern Gateway

Cities are places to enjoy being in the presence of other people, creating with others, sharing ideas and transacting business. Those all depend on easy access and connectivity, comfortable and attractive public space and inviting gateways, which are key elements of Project DTO, Orlando's downtown vision and new redevelopment plan. A key part of the emerging Project DTO vision is of an "awesome outdoor city with highly connected neighborhoods and districts; a city with an iconic visual identity, built for the future so that open space supports recreation, air quality, tree canopy cover and water quality needs." Downtown Orlando's relationship with its lakes, a signature feature of the City Beautiful, is a centerpiece of that vision.

Downtown Orlando's northern boundary offers a wonderful opportunity to support the vision. It lies along a series of small to mid-size man-made lakes, known collectively as Lake Ivanhoe, created for fill as part of the 1960 construction of I-4 from Lakeland through Orlando, and used for stormwater retention for most of the downtown basin. Interstate 4 bisects Lake Ivanhoe, bringing commuters and freight to and through Downtown Orlando. Across its tranquil shores lie the tidy neighborhoods of College Park, Orlando's 1920s and 30s first ring suburb, and Ivanhoe Village, a dynamic mixed use district of bungalow homes, industrial uses, warehouses, specialty retail, bars and restaurants along North Orange Avenue. Gaston Edwards Park, on the lake's eastern shore at the intersection of Virginia Drive and N. Orange Avenue, offers a boat launch, an Italian restaurant with outdoor dining, exercise trails, volleyball courts and a fishing pier.

The boat launch at Gaston Edwards Park serves many types of users.
The boat launch at Gaston Edwards Park serves many types of users.

The lake is in the Lake Jesup drainage basin, a part of the Middle St. Johns River Basin, drawing from some 16,000 acres in central Florida, from Lake Dot in Downtown Orlando to Lake Jesup in Seminole County. The basin, principally Lake Jesup itself, is trying to recover from decades of growth. Each rainfall flushes lawn fertilizers, motor oil and other contaminants into the streams and lakes, fostering undesirable, mucky sediments that degrade habitat quality and reduce sport fish populations. Efforts to restore Lake Jesup occur through the Lake Jesup Interagency Restoration Strategy, of which the City of Orlando is a participant to improve water quality through its Greenworks Orlando sustainability initiative.

The turn on I-4 at Lake Ivanhoe is the first opportunity for southbound travelers to take in the full grandeur of Orlando's lakeshore skyline. Lake Ivanhoe also offers a scenic vista for those able to take the slower surface street routes, such as along North Orange Avenue linking Florida Hospital Orlando's Health Village and the Ivanhoe Village Main Street District with Downtown, or Edgewater Drive and Lakeview Avenue, connecting Orlando's venerable College Park neighborhood to downtown. Their confluence is at the mini Statue of Liberty, amid a sea of flowers. Gaston Edwards Park shimmers under a canopy of Live Oaks and other trees, a winding path offering convenience and comfort through the park to connect offices, hotels, antiques and restaurants.

The historic Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center building - a former OUC plant - is in dire need of a rehab.
The historic Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center building - a former OUC plant - is in dire need of a rehab.

But Downtown Orlando's northern gateway could be so much more. The I-4 Ultimate makeover will offer some opportunity to brighten up the dark and dreary overpass above Lakeview Street, but it really feels like Downtown Orlando has turned its back on its front door. Letting a disjointed convergence of interstate highway ramps, one-way surface streets, discontinuous off-road paths, disconnected commercial buildings and impenetrable flora dominate the landscape hinders the creation of publicly accessible and visible space that could serve as an iconic gateway for Downtown Orlando. Stemming from mostly unintentional actions, there is a significant barrier to access and connectivity of adjacent northern neighborhoods to Downtown Orlando.

The Ivanhoe off-ramp creates a visual and physical barrier to Downtown Orlando.
The Ivanhoe off-ramp creates a visual and physical barrier to Downtown Orlando.

The enjoyment of Downtown Orlando's iconic Lake Ivanhoe should not be limited to those who live along the lake or who can launch a boat to fish, paddle around or ski across its surface.  It should also welcome those who want to experience the lake habitat from the shore. There are more than 30 acres of publicly owned land, including right-of-way, on Lake Ivanhoe's shoreline. It may be time to open up access to Lake Ivanhoe as part of an overall strategy to better connect Orlando's neighborhoods with Downtown, create an awesome outdoor city, celebrate Orlando's iconic visual identity, and sustain the city and its natural resources for future generations. With the idea that more visibility and access goes hand in hand with better understanding and sustainability, here are five ideas that could help further that vision:

Lilly pad flowers blooming adjacent to I-4.
Lilly pad flowers blooming adjacent to I-4.
  1. Expand Gaston Edwards Park to include a lakeshore beach and public swimming area.Bring back a prime public spot for beach blankets, wading, kayak launching and swimming, drawing people from surrounding neighborhoods. Perhaps Winter Park's Dinky Dock shoreline provides an example. Access from nearby hotels, residences and businesses would make this a popular draw.

2. Re-new efforts to create a shared use path around Lake Ivanhoe. 

This city initiative died about 10 years ago amid vociferous neighborhood opposition, but maybe it's time to try again. The linkage between College Park and Downtown Orlando is difficult at best, and the lack of well-defined and comfortable path around Lake Ivanhoe is a huge missed opportunity. A growing retail, jobs and entertainment destination on the east side of the lake is an increasing draw for residents of all parts of the city and visitors. Creating continuous linkages between neighborhoods, retail and downtown, with Orlando's Urban Trail as the spine, is critical for shared success.

3. Create interpretative wayfinding signage to convey habitat and resource information.

Providing interactive visual and informative clues about natural character, distances to other destinations and a display of  historic and cultural or artistic resources is the connectivity lubricant of a city. This could help create an emerald necklace among all Downtown Orlando parks and natural areas, from Lake Ivanhoe to Lake Eola, Lake Davis and Lake Lucerne.

A Florida Snowy White Egret feeding among the shore grass.
A Florida Snowy White Egret feeding among the shore grass.

4. Establish public access/fishing areas underneath I-4 as part of the Ultimate I-4 makeover.

A fishing pier underneath I-4 linked by a walking path would be amazing.
A fishing pier underneath I-4 linked by a walking path would be amazing.

Lake Ivanhoe is a stocked lake and part of Fish Orlando! intiative of Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Walking/cycling paths to enable people to fish under the I-4 bridge, perhaps with a pier out into the lake, would add destination appeal.

5. Encourage and support events and festivals along the shore.

Opportunities abound for surprise and delight. Acoustic concerts beneath gangly Live Oaks and Cypress trees at the water's edge; rehabbing and repurposing the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts building for performance and recording space; restaurants showcasing their menus with an "A Taste of Ivanhoe Village" event; water craft and ski shows on select days and times, and street parties on N. Orange Avenue between Ivanhoe Row and the lakeshore with the street closed could make this a more visible and attractive downtown destination.

The future is beckoning. Let's make it happen, Orlando!

Comment

Where Seniors are Moving: Migration Patterns Among Baby Boomers and Other Seniors and What It Means for Planning and Economic Development

Comment

Where Seniors are Moving: Migration Patterns Among Baby Boomers and Other Seniors and What It Means for Planning and Economic Development

Photo1-e1407345226656.png

Baby Boomers are a demographic force that holds sway over politics, economics, and city planning. Americans over the age of 55 are a hot topic in planning circles, and their future location decisions are the focus of much debate and speculation. Many big cities are anticipating seniors will downsize their homes, moving to more urban locales where walking, transit, and culture replace big lawns, automobiles and long work commutes.  Elsewhere, retirement meccas are banking on age-restricted housing or other senior-focused amenities as a lure for people 55 and up looking for active living environments. Everywhere, economic development agencies recognize seniors as a group with disposable income and an interest in high quality health care (which itself creates better paying jobs), and are hoping to lure seniors away from other states as a way to improve their community’s economic well-being. These are all great theories, and ones with a great deal of developer money behind them. But a key question arises:

Are seniors moving? And if so, where?

To help answer that question, we turned to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), which has data on migration by county. What we found suggests that big cities and communities with a senior-friendly quality of life are indeed attracting seniors, but not in the quantities these areas are hoping for and expecting. If this trend persists, it will have far-reaching impacts on planning and economic development.

 

Photo1

This phenomenon has been true for as long as the ACS has kept records:

Years % Population 55+ % Movers 55+ Ratio of Movers 55+
2005-07 23.4% 9.7% 41.52%
2006-08 23.8% 9.8% 41.22%
2007-09 24.1% 9.8% 40.64%
2008-10 24.8% 10.0% 40.55%
2009-11 25.3% 10.3% 40.75%
2010-12 25.8% 10.9% 42.04%

The percent of movers aged 55 and up has increased, but only in relation to total senior population increases. The proportion of seniors moving relative to the total senior population is essentially unchanged. It seems, therefore, that moving out is a young person’s game, and this could put a crimp in many plans.

While fewer seniors are moving than may have been expected, the locations to which they are moving are unsurprising. The map below shows the total number of people 55 and older who moved to a new county between 2010 and 2012.

Photo2

The areas in red are the places that had the most in-migration among people 55 and over. For the most part, they are major population centers, with Florida, California, Texas, the Midwest and the Northeast Corridor all highlighted. In this respect, the assumption that seniors would move to big cities seems to have been a good one. But the map makes some telling changes when you dissect the dataset further.

The ACS migration data can be broken into interstate and intrastate migration (i.e. moving to a new state vs moving within the same state). Further, the dataset provides interstate and intrastate migration by age group, allowing for an analysis of relative migration. The relative migration patterns may offer more clues to why seniors are moving, and also offer some pessimism about the role big cities are playing in senior migration.

photo3

The areas of the map in red are those with the highest proportion of seniors moving there from out of state. Florida, Arizona, the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast, and the Upper Midwest are all major attractors for seniors, as are pockets of Texas, Missouri, and the Carolinas. But the big cities of the Midwest, Northeast, and South are not. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami are capturing a much smaller proportion of seniors moving from out of state than total senior migration suggests, portending trouble for Baby Boomer lifestyle housing pushes in those cities. And still, barely 10% of counties have senior migration rates of 25% or more, despite seniors comprising 25% of the population. As a result, there are a few “winners” throughout the country and a large number of counties that will see very little impact from senior in-migration from other states.

Interestingly, the map changes in subtle but important ways when looking instead at people who moved within their home state.

photo4

It seems that seniors moving within their own state are limiting themselves to an even smaller portion of the country, with the coastlines attracting the largest proportion of in-state senior movers. Areas like Phoenix, Southern California, and the central counties in Florida are all attracting a smaller percentage of the 55 and older set from within their own state than from other states.

So why the difference?

Certainly, there’s a chance that this is just random noise from a 3-year period of time. But it may also signal a different rationale for seniors who move from out of state versus those in-state. Perhaps seniors moving within their own state are moving more often for quality of life reasons, but are not willing to move as far to do so. Seniors who are compelled to move longer distances may be doing so for more complex reasons, like work or family obligations, but are reluctant to relocate to big cities. And most importantly, far fewer seniors are moving than are needed to support the large increase in senior-friendly housing throughout the country.

More data will be needed to validate these theories. But if this general pattern proves to be true over time, it may signal a need for a shift in the way we attract and plan for seniors. The data suggest that efforts focused on aging in place are as important as those focused on attracting new senior populations. While synergies exist in making a community senior-friendly for existing residents and attracting new residents, local expectations about the impact of senior in-migration need to be appropriately tempered – at least for now.

By Jeremy Goldstein and Alan Steinbeck

Comment