Strong Growth Lessons To Be Learned

"Towns must develop organically."

"The build-it-and-they-will-come model doesn’t work. Private investment must lead and then public investment and infrastructure can follow. We have been doing it the other way around."

“Our current development models have not served us well and we know that. We must move forward in a different way.”

"We must humble ourselves to see things differently. Too many of our  neighborhoods are in disrepair. We have the capacity to energize a whole  generation to pitch in and help. They want to be engaged and they are  hungry for change. The neighborhoods that make sense fiscally are the  ones they want to live in. They want a vibrant downtown and to be  connected in a meaningful way. 

Bigger and newer is not better.

 We  have to change that conversation. Our conversation now has to center  around how to develop and sustain communities that serve all of us and  satisfy our human desire to be connected, all without placing unfair  liabilities on future generations."

Quint Studer 

Supporting Quality of Life.

Residents and businesses both value a community with a good quality of life. A variety of factors can improve quality of life, such as a thriving downtown or commercial district with neighborhood-serving shops and restaurants; green and open space; a variety of transportation choices, including options for walking, biking, driving, and public transit; artistic, cultural, and community resources such as museums, public art, community centers, religious institutions, and other community gathering spaces; and medical, technical, and academic institutions. 

Aesthetic improvements might include green infrastructure such as trees and other vegetation that help improve the pedestrian environment while absorbing rainwater and improving water and air quality. This smart growth economic development element also includes identifying key locations for development and redevelopment in the city’s core, including brownfields and infill sites.


Desperate Development

"In nearly every city I’ve visited, there is a seemingly unavoidable pattern whereby developers and investors look to capitalize on downtown development projects, promising an abundance of jobs, increased vibrancy and higher revenue for surrounding local establishments. Often, developers have the city’s best interest in mind when proposing these large-scale

projects in an effort to generate revenue for themselves, as well as improve the surrounding community. Just as often, developers and investors sell local governments and citizens on

projects that horribly inflate job and economic impact projections in an effort to win the bid."

Arian Horbovetz

New Urbanism

"New Urbanism is an urban design philosophy that holds that "neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population;  communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as  the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and  universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban  places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that  celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice."

Legislated Waterfront Definition

“Recreational and commercial working waterfront” means a parcel or parcels of real property that provide access for

water-dependent commercial activities or provide access for the public to the navigable waters of the state. 

Recreational and commercial working waterfronts require direct access to or a location on, over, or adjacent to a navigable body of water. The term includes water-dependent facilities that

are open to the public and offer public access by vessels to the waters of the state or that are support facilities for

recreational, commercial, research, or governmental vessels.

These facilities include docks, wharfs, lifts, wet and dry marinas, boat ramps, boat hauling and repair facilities, commercial fishing facilities, boat construction facilities, and other support structures over the water."

Section 342.201, Florida Statutes,

Waterfronts Florida Program

Resilient Cities

“A Resilient City is one that  has developed capacities to help absorb future shocks and stresses to  its social, economic, and technical systems and infrastructures so as to  still be able to maintain essentially the same functions, structures,  systems, and identity.”

"To increase their capacities for resilience, we believe that cities  will need to adopt urban planning and building design strategies that  allow them to increase their abilities to better respond and adapt to  the economic, social, and physical stresses they will face as  they confront the challenges of increasing energy scarcity, climate  change, and population change."

Examples of Strong Communities


Seaside, Florida

Universally considered The Gold Standard, Seaside is an unincorporated master planned community on the Gulf Coast Florida Panhandle in Walton County. One of the first communities in America designed on the principles of New Urbanism,  the town has become the topic of slide lectures in architectural  schools and in housing-industry magazines, and is visited by design  professionals from all over the United States.

credit Wikipedia

"I believe that the story of Seaside lies not only in the fact that over  a million people have stayed there, that many tourists continue to  visit there every year, or that the average real estate value has  increased twenty percent each year, but in what did and did not get  built." says Thadani. "At Seaside the constituent parts that commonly  support daily life are included in an integrated mix — housing, office,  retail, and civic institutions such as schools, churches, post office,  and community meeting hall — all arranged in a memorable block structure  with walkable streets where pedestrians are given priority over cars."

Dhirhu Thadani VISIONS OF SEASIDE per Joseph Flaherty DESIGN 12-29-2012

Dunedin, Florida

While Dunedin, Florida has a  small town image, it is actually a bustling city of 37,000 residents.  One of the oldest cities on the West Coast of Florida, it has a wooded  and subtropical setting with almost four miles of picturesque  waterfront, a relaxed lifestyle, and activities for all ages, making  Dunedin a truly delightful place to live or visit.

Dunedin offers something for everyone including a quaint and active  downtown, beautiful parks, beaches, recreational activities for all  ages, history, culture, educational opportunities, a wide range of  housing choices, and much more. Begin your exploration with a visit to  the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, located at the west end of downtown,  301 Main Street, in its beautiful, historic building.  You’ll find all  the information you’ll need to discover Dunedin.

The Dunedin area enjoys near perfect weather, with an average summer  high of 85 degrees and a winter low of 62 degrees. Average rainfall is  50 inches per year with the usual summertime afternoon showers.

Dunedin Citizens Advisory Committees:

Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee

This Committee acts as a liaison group and conduit of public  opinion from the citizens of the City; coordinates with the work of any  single purpose project or program, advises the City Commission and the  Director of Parks & Recreation as to its interpretation of the  community needs and desires as to the types of leisure programs and  facilities; prepares, and from time-to-time amends and revises, a  general plan for meeting present and future leisure requirements of all  areas of the City and for all of its citizens.

 Youth Advisory Committee

This Committee addresses issues affecting youth and teens of our  community, and to provide an opportunity to enhance the leadership  skills and civic involvement among Dunedin’s youth. 

 Hammock Advisory Committee

This Committee helps analyze environmental and ecological  conditions in The Hammock and make recommendations to protect and  preserve it’s as a unique remnant of the original hammock forest.  Members of this Committee frequently walk The Hammock and report on  areas that need attention, as well reporting positive findings, such as  seeing an eagle perched in the treetops. 

 Marina Advisory Committee

This Committee’s primary duties are to assist the City Commission  in the operation of the Marina as a self-sufficient enterprise. 

 Stadium Advisory Committee

The purpose of this Committee is to study issues relative to  conduct of operations of the Field Facility, with particular emphasis on  the impact of the operation of such facility on the immediate  neighborhood. 

Emporia, Kansas

Emporia is in eastern Kansas between Topeka and Wichita, just over 100 miles from Kansas City. The population has been relatively stable in the past decade, decreasing from 26,760 in 2000 to 24,799 in 2013.  Emporia is the county seat of Lyon County and the largest city in the county.  Emporia is the home of Emporia State University, with approximately 6,000 students, and Flint Hills Technical College, with approximately 750 students.

Historically, Emporia was primarily an agricultural and manufacturing town. Due to the decline of agricultural prices in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many factories and businesses that depended on agriculture moved out of town, starting the city’s decline. At the same time, jobs created by the construction of a regional power plant drew local workers out of Emporia. Emporia’s downtown vacancy rate eventually reached 30 to 40 percent.

A. Economic Development Strategies

The city and county governments joined with the Downtown Association and Chamber of Commerce to create a Main Street Program in 1991. The Emporia Main Street Program provides promotion, design, business enhancement, and organization services to current and potential downtown businesses. It also helps to connect businesses to a variety of federal, state, and local funding sources, including:

• Zero-interest loan programs from the Kansas Department of Commerce; the privately funded Trusler Foundation; and Network Kansas, a statewide organization established by the Kansas legislature to provide entrepreneurial support.

• Historic preservation tax credits and competitive grant programs.

• Loan guarantee programs.

• Tax-increment financing.

The city has also been involved in downtown revitalization efforts. The city partially funds Emporia Main Street (40 percent of its funding comes from the city’s general fund and 60 percent from private sources). The city and Emporia Main Street worked together to create a “code team” in 2005 to help facilitate development approvals. The team brings together code officials, firefighters,engineers, and zoning staff to meet with new or expanding business owners at the business site to clarify requirements expeditiously.

The city and Emporia Main Street also worked together to create and adopt downtown design guidelines to promote mixed-use development and reinvestment in downtown Emporia that contributes to the area’s existing historic fabric and character. The design guidelines address the street grid, architectural detailing, construction materials, design principles for adaptive reuse and infill construction, signage, integrating multiple transportation modes into the existing streets, parking design and placement, lighting, street trees, and street furniture.

The city created the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan in 2008, along with a tax rebate program, to encourage improvements to residential and commercial properties in distressed areas. Emporia’s 2008 comprehensive plan includes goals to help create a vibrant downtown, including promoting downtown investment and redevelopment, providing incentives for redevelopment and infill in blighted areas, restoring and preserving the original façades of downtown buildings, improving pedestrian and bicycle connections throughout Emporia, creating a park for downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, and providing a wide range of housing options throughout the city. In 2011, Emporia established a downtown historic district that gives property owners access to historic tax credits to help with renovation costs.

In addition to being the county seat and having a historic downtown, the city has Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College and can draw educated workers from nearby Kansas State and Wichita State universities. As well as providing the city with access to a skilled labor force, Kansas Small Business Development Center, One of eight regional centers in Kansas, it provides counseling, training, and resources to entrepreneurs and small businesses in a nine-county area.

B. Results

Around 2000, Emporia completed a $2.3 million downtown streetscape project, helping to spur the renovation of hundreds of buildings. Every public dollar spent led to a return of $33 in private investment. As of 2012, Emporia Main Street’s initiatives since the early 1990s resulted in $57 million of investment in downtown and a decline in the vacancy rate from 30 percent to 7 percent. Emporia Main Street won the 2005 Great American Main Street Award. At the time of the award, efforts to improve downtown Emporia had resulted in 637 new jobs, new businesses, and 23 new housing units. Since 2005, major downtown revitalization projects include the restored historic Granada Theatre and the Emporia Arts Center, which spurred the formation of a new arts and entertainment district. In the three years after the establishment of the downtown historic district, property owners invested $3.8 million in historic renovations. New development also occurred. The Granada Plaza and Lofts, Broadview Tower, and Kellogg Plaza and Lofts were completed between 2009 and 2012, adding new mixed-use development downtown that further increased the number of residents and businesses in the area. Investment in the town’s core between 2009 and 2015 has totaled $32 million, including the opening of Emporia’s first brewery since before Prohibition. 

source: EPA 231-R-15-002

May 2015

Douglas, Georgia

Douglas is in southern Georgia, approximately 115 miles northwest of Jacksonville, Florida. The city of almost 12,000 people is the county seat of Coffee County and the economic center of the region. It is home to South Georgia State College, a two-year college, and Wiregrass Technical College.

Historically, Douglas’ economy was based predominantly on agriculture, but in the late 1950s, leaders in Coffee County recognized the importance of diversifying the economy to be more resilient to changes in the agricultural sector. As a result, the Douglas-Coffee County Economic Development Authority was formed in 1959. At first, the authority focused on recruiting large industrial employers, including PCC Airfoils and a Wal-Mart distribution center in the 1980s. Despite these successes, manufacturing jobs declined from 33 percent of all employment in 2000 to 14 percent in 2013, representing a loss of almost 700 jobs.

A. Economic Development Strategies

Douglas’ strategy for economic development is grounded in cooperation among the city, county, business community, education institutions, and civic leaders. The Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Authority works for a regional economy stabilized by small, local businesses.53

To regain lost jobs, Douglas reoriented its approach to economic development to include support of small businesses and entrepreneurs. City and county leaders recognized that small business development would not only directly support a diverse economy but also could provide more services that might attract industrial employers. To launch the new small business strategy, the city provided funding for the Chamber of Commerce to hire a full-time director of entrepreneur and small business development in 2002. One of the director’s first initiatives was creating A Helpful Guide to Starting and Growing a Business in Coffee County, which outlines local resources, permitting and zoning processes, tax policies, and steps to get business loans. The chamber also offers programs to connect experienced business owners with new ones, give community members discounts at participating businesses to encourage their patronage, and train budding leaders in workplace and community leadership skills. Douglas has also invested in preserving its architectural heritage and making downtown an attractive place for businesses to locate. In the late 1980s, downtown Douglas had a high vacancy rate, and people from the community rarely visited. A Main Street Program was started in 1987 to revitalize the area. One of the program’s first activities was a façade grant program to restore Douglas’ storefronts. Initially, $10,000 from the city and the Industrial Development Authority (now the Economic Development Authority) provided matching grants for 20 façade improvements, and 20 more façades were improved a decade later. Around the time the Main Street Program was formed, the city applied for and received a federal Transportation Enhancements grant of $850,000. Combining the grant with a local match of $321,317, the city began a one-year streetscape project, adding street trees, patterned brickwork sidewalks, pedestrian lighting, landscaping, a gazebo, and a brick archway at the main downtown intersection. Thanks to the façade improvements and the streetscape project, the downtown area is now a gathering place for the community. A downtown market with local vendors, artists, and farmers is held on the second Saturday of the month. In addition, a walking and biking trail connects downtown with the campuses of Wiregrass Georgia Technical College and South Georgia College. Maintaining downtown’s mix of uses and historic character and redeveloping vacant sites are components of the city’s 2007 comprehensive plan update, ensuring that new development continues to support downtown.

B. Results

Efforts to revitalize downtown reaped rewards for the city. After completion of the downtown streetscape project in 1995, the downtown vacancy rate started falling from its high of 25 percent, a change that city officials attributed to the streetscape improvements. At the end of 2012, 12 newly opened businesses dropped the downtown vacancy rate to 6 percent.

In 2004, Douglas-Coffee County was the first community in Georgia to be designated as “entrepreneur friendly” by the state in recognition of its commitment to develop strategies that support local entrepreneurs. The efforts to attract entrepreneurs were credited with creating 800 new jobs for small business and entrepreneurial startups and expansions by 2006. Joanne Lewis, president of the Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Authority, strongly believes that the focus on small businesses helped Douglas to weather the economic downturn later in the decade because, although many small businesses in Douglas did close during this time, there were also new businesses opening. 

source: EPA 231-R-15-002

May 2015