Urban infill development is getting hot across the country.  Driven by high gas prices and smaller and less traditional families, Americans are rediscovering the benefits of living in a walkable urban environment.  USA Today covered this phenomena earlier this week in an article titled Subdivisions go urban as housing market changes.  A noteworthy paragraph from the article and one that gives me hope that interior of Florida from I-75 to I-95 won’t all be filled in with gated country clubs is:

“For the first time in history, Americans have stopped pushing development to the edge,” says Robert Lang, professor of urban affairs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and author of Megapolitan America. “The shift is from the old crabgrass frontier to the new Main Street.”

The Fort Myers downtown core area is prime for significant infill development.  While the riverfront high-rises were a start, it has always been disappointing to me that a public riverwalk wasn’t a required element of these residential towers.  I do applaud the City of Fort Myers leaders for having the vision to continue with the streetscape improvement project despite the poor economy and also moving forward with the waterfront project.

There are many opportunities available in Fort Myers right now for private urban development.  The parcel on West First Street adjacent to Publix and High Point Place is a natural spot for new development…..hopefully First Street Village or something like it will eventually get built.  The site of the Ramada Inn on Edwards Drive is another natural spot just waiting for redevelopment.  If Lee County is unsuccessful in attracting the Washington Nationals or another baseball team to City of Palms Park, this would be a great spot for an outside-of-the-box-thinking redevelopment project…education…medical…..research.

A revitalized urban Fort Myers represents one of the brightest and best chances we have to create a better the future for this entire area.  I am hopeful that some of the deep-pocketed national developers that are currently building single-family homes in Fort Myers edge subdivisions will one day soon take a look inward for their next investment opportunity.

Megapolitan America (Hardcover)

By (author): Arthur Nelson, Robert Lang

With an expected population of 400 million by 2040, America is morphing into an economic system composed of 23 "megapolitan" areas that will dominate the nation’s economy by midcentury. These megapolitan areas are networks of metropolitan areas sharing common economic, landscape, social, and cultural characteristics.

The rise of megapolitan areas will change how America plans. For instance, in an area comparable in size to France and the low countries of the Netherlands and Belgium—considered among the world's most densely settled—America's "megapolitan" areas are already home to more than 2.5 times as many people. Indeed, with only 18 percent of the contiguous 48 states’ land base, America's megapolitan areas are more densely settled than Europe as a whole or the United Kingdom.

Megapolitan America goes into spectacular demographic, economic, and social detail in mapping the dramatic—and surprisingly optimistic—shifts ahead. It will be required reading for those interested in America’s future.

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