Florida’s Future: Crafting Dynamic Communities through Thoughtful Placemaking

When you think of an old area of Jacksonville, how old is ‘old’?

In the heart of Jacksonville lies San Marco, a historic neighborhood that began to flourish in 1921 after the Acosta Bridge. The area transformed into a vibrant community by 1938. Centered around its iconic ‘Square’, it became a hub for social and economic activity created through deliberate placemaking efforts. This thoughtfully planned community demonstrates the profound impact of placemaking on the quality of life for its residents. San Marco’s success is a testament to how intentional design can create spaces where people connect, thrive, and build lasting memories.

Placemaking is about creating environments for communities to thrive. If you create a place well, it will dynamically affect the lives of those who use it every day. From the width of sidewalks to the management of stormwater systems, placemaking involves meticulous planning of elements that may seem trivial, but greatly impact our daily lives. As we witness our state’s population grow by historic numbers that the University of Florida BEBR estimates as high as 1.1M individuals in a 2-year-period, the concept of placemaking has never been more critical.

When thoughtfully designed, infrastructure goes unnoticed. But its absence or poor execution is immediately felt. For example, without proper placemaking, you may experience the discomfort of navigating a too-narrow sidewalk next to a busy street, or the frustration of low water pressure during your morning routine. Placemaking is the art and science of designing spaces that support the needs of the community.

As we navigate Florida’s growth, it’s crucial to align the profitability of real estate with the development of sustainable communities. Representing more than mere construction, these projects become homes, which become communities that serve as the foundation for future generations. A balanced approach to growth is required for these spaces to flourish long after their initial construction, and must remain affordable and accessible to a diverse population. The challenge lies in incorporating valuable features without escalating costs, addressing the issue of affordable housing. The goal is to create spaces that are not only functional and beautiful but inclusive.

As experts in infrastructure planning and design, we, at England-Thims & Miller, understand how the foundations of a project, from regulating traffic flows and ensuring pedestrian safety to locating utilities and effectively managing stormwater, impact lives, daily. When placemaking, the smallest details often have the most significant impact. Thoughtful considerations, such as the strategic placement of benches in a playground or the inclusion of a path around a stormwater pond at an apartment complex, can profoundly enhance interaction and resident satisfaction. These elements foster connections among neighbors, transforming a collection of houses into a cohesive community.

Florida is relatively young in the grand scheme of human history, yet it is rapidly evolving. As we continue to grow, the importance of paying attention to small details cannot be overstressed. Each decision in the development process affects the daily lives of thousands, shaping the kind of communities that will stand the test of time. The question for us, as stakeholders in Florida’s future, is clear: How will we channel this engine of economic activity that we call growth to create communities that are not just livable, but thrive for generations to come?

About the Author, Tyler Mathews

Tyler Mathews

Tyler Mathews is the President of England-Thims & Miller, Inc. (ETM). In his role, Tyler oversees the overall operations and management of the firm, responsible for steering ETM toward its strategic goals, ensuring operational efficiency and maintaining financial stability. From Tyler’s prior role as a Land Development leader, he brings specific expertise on land entitlement, real estate development strategy, and project management for complex real estate transactions.

About England-Thims & Miller

ETM, founded in 1977, is Florida’s leading infrastructure and development consulting firm. Their services include planning, development consultinggeospatial technologiestraffic and transportation engineering, water and utilitiesconstruction management and surveying. Focused on serving as “Trusted Advisors, Creating Community,” they provide solutions to public and private sector clients throughout Florida. For more information, visit www.etminc.com

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