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Thread: Celebration, Florida (scary)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Celebration, Florida (scary)

    So, I was in Florida for a week and decided to visit Celebration while we were in the Orlando area. It's basically an entire New Urbanist town created by Disney. I know, that's a bit scary, but we drove over to see what the fuss was about.

    I have to say, while there were things I liked about it (cool homes, alleys, awesome town square, very walkable), it was also quite terrifying. It didn't seem real at all... it was the most squeaky-clean place I've ever experienced. It looked like something straight out of "The Truman Show" or "Pleasantville". It was quite obvious that only the wealthy could live there (I didn't see anything for even middle-class folks). Also, there are these little "weather machines" downtown. Yes, "weather machines". They spit out leaves during the fall and fake snow during the winter

    I appreciate the effort, but if this is what New Urbanism is about, then I want no part of it.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  2. #2
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Weather machines? LOL. I'm not sure how things in Florida are, but out here in California "New Urbanism" is now most often used as a buzzword in advertising for new developments, and most of these new developments bear little resemblance to anything that I like about New Urbanism.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread View post
    It looked like something straight out of "The Truman Show" or "Pleasantville".
    Of course, "The Truman Show" was filmed in New Urbanist icon Seaside, Florida.

    There is something rather Stepford-ish about those places.
    SOME say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate
    To know that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.

    Robert Frost (1874–1963) (From Harper’s Magazine, December 1920.)

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    In 2000, when I moved to Orlando, I looked at houses in Celebration. Smaller houses were actually affordable ... well, sort of. The cheapest new house was $180K. I doubt ayyhing in Celebration sells for less than $350K now.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DecaturHawk View post
    There is something rather Stepford-ish about those places.
    They have seemed that way to me as well. One of my critisms of the new urbanism movement is that it spawns places like seaside et. al. I have yet to see a "new urbanism" development that did live up to the movement's ideas. They have ended up being high end subdivisions.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Both Celebration and Seaside have a very museum-like feel when you walk through them. Like you're supposed to just look but not interact.

    When I was in Seaside, it was deserted. I'm not so sure about Celebration, but Seaside has definitely become a seasonal/tourist town, not an actual community.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I'm not so sure about Celebration, but Seaside has definitely become a seasonal/tourist town, not an actual community.
    I could never imagine Celebration becoming one of these. Afterall, look at the location and devlopers!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I've only been to Celebration once. Access is horrible and of course the people who can afford to live there are usually commuting into downtown Orlando. There are lots of apartments over the "downtown" shops and as I recall, these were not too expensive when first built.

    My main impression was the poor finish quality of interior details in the model homes my mom and I walked thru. Wobbly bannisters, electric outlet covers askew, etc.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    My co-workers's in laws live in Celebration and they love it. I asked him if it was expensive and he said there are homes- single family, condo, etc, in all sorts of price ranges. His in-laws have a reasonably priced condo.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    When I was in Seaside, it was deserted. I'm not so sure about Celebration,
    We saw some people shopping in the downtown area, but the actual neighborhood areas were deserted except for the landscape crews mowing all the lawns, etc. I got the feeling that nobody actually did their own yard work there.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  11. #11
    Cyburbian dominimami305's avatar
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    It sounds/looks like the suburbs hiding behind the New Urbanism movement. I wonder why planners and "new urbanist" are letting this masquerade continue?? Is this another victim of POLITICS AND MONEY???
    "Good judgment comes from experience. And where does experience come from? Experience comes from bad judgment.------Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)"

  12. #12
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dominimami305 View post
    It sounds/looks like the suburbs hiding behind the New Urbanism movement. I wonder why planners and "new urbanist" are letting this masquerade continue?? Is this another victim of POLITICS AND MONEY???
    All these "new urbanist" communities are nothing more than quasi-gentrification on a grand scale.

    Sure, they offer many of the amenities that can be found in an existing urban neighborhood, but are located in places where the market naturally drives up the price. Affluent urban residents are able to leave the "evils" of the city and move to a "new urbanist" community that has many of the amenities that their old neighborhoods had. The only downside is that they may have a longer commute, but they can usually afford it.

    Now, are they better than a typical suburban subdivision? Yes, if designed properly. But unless you incorporate price controls, they'll never be anything else than affluent enclaves.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    All these "new urbanist" communities are nothing more than quasi-gentrification on a grand scale.
    Not quite. If building weird New Urbanist towns away from cities is what it'll take to get developers to leave the urban core undeveloped, then I'm all for it.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JayEM View post
    Not quite. If building weird New Urbanist towns away from cities is what it'll take to get developers to leave the urban core undeveloped, then I'm all for it.
    I assume you mean "redeveloped" since the urban core would already be developed, but why would you not want any redevelopment in the urban core?

  15. #15
    Check out the NY Times article today about Columbia's expansion into Manhattanville here in NYC. The Tuck-It-Away warehouse is a prime example; the owner of the building wants to stay there, Columbia threatens to use eminent domain to seize it for themselves. This kind of "redevelopment," put bluntly, sucks.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JayEM View post
    Check out the NY Times article today about Columbia's expansion into Manhattanville here in NYC. The Tuck-It-Away warehouse is a prime example; the owner of the building wants to stay there, Columbia threatens to use eminent domain to seize it for themselves. This kind of "redevelopment," put bluntly, sucks.
    Perhaps that one case, but all redevelopment within the core? There are thousands of examples of infill development across the country that didn't require the usage of eminent domain.

  17. #17
    Right -- and yet the net economic effect is the same. While this is, admittedly, a prejudice of mine based mostly on conjecture, I think the next few decades will show that taking any area comprised of small-scale property owners and replacing that ownership with large-scale ownership, like that of Vornado or Forest City Ratner, can only result in a loss of vibrancy and a disturbing vulnerability lest the mortgage market truly burst, the stock market crumble, or should any other financial catastrophe befall us. While many landlords are more than happy to pocket the money they stand to make by selling to make room for new infill development, I think cities at large stand to benefit only for a few more years before a new set of urban problems emerge from underneath all the glass towers.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JayEM View post
    Right -- and yet the net economic effect is the same. While this is, admittedly, a prejudice of mine based mostly on conjecture, I think the next few decades will show that taking any area comprised of small-scale property owners and replacing that ownership with large-scale ownership, like that of Vornado or Forest City Ratner, can only result in a loss of vibrancy and a disturbing vulnerability lest the mortgage market truly burst, the stock market crumble, or should any other financial catastrophe befall us. While many landlords are more than happy to pocket the money they stand to make by selling to make room for new infill development, I think cities at large stand to benefit only for a few more years before a new set of urban problems emerge from underneath all the glass towers.

    I think you're looking at New York and applying what you see there to everywhere else. New York is a city where most land being redeveloped is already in use in some way. In most areas of the US, most infill is occuring on pieces of land that are covered with abandoned buildings, many of which are former industrial or commercial sites no longer used.

    In San Francisco, one of the few cities in the US that never had a huge exodus (and thus more likely to need to knock down active buildings to build taller ones), the vast majority of infill (around 95% of infill units scheduled to be built in the next few years) is on former military land, railroad land, and freeway land. Currently, some of that land is completely vacant and some has uses such as parking lots - not exactly helping bring vibrancy to the area.

    I've seen much the same in many other cities. I really don't think most places are tearing down 6 story buildings in vibrant districts to build 30 story buildings - it will take several decades to build on all of the unused sites before there is a huge need for that.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    I think you're looking at New York and applying what you see there to everywhere else. New York is a city where most land being redeveloped is already in use in some way. In most areas of the US, most infill is occuring on pieces of land that are covered with abandoned buildings, many of which are former industrial or commercial sites no longer used.
    Yeah, I'm definitely referring to New York, Boston, D.C., Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, the kinds of older, larger American cities where redevelopment is more than getting rid of vacant lots and empty storefronts.
    Stil, I think keeping businesses local, privately owned, and in competition with each other can be the difference between creating Ithaca, NY and creating Celebration.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I can scarcely believe, form the posts above, that I'm reding this thread in the thoughtful, reflexive, balanced Cyburbia....
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    I can scarcely believe, form the posts above, that I'm reding this thread in the thoughtful, reflexive, balanced Cyburbia....
    That Cyburbia's dead. Died about two years ago.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    I can scarcely believe, form the posts above, that I'm reding this thread in the thoughtful, reflexive, balanced Cyburbia....
    I don't get it? I've had mostly good experiences on here -- and I'm a hothead.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JayEM View post
    Yeah, I'm definitely referring to New York, Boston, D.C., Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, the kinds of older, larger American cities where redevelopment is more than getting rid of vacant lots and empty storefronts.
    Stil, I think keeping businesses local, privately owned, and in competition with each other can be the difference between creating Ithaca, NY and creating Celebration.
    What is your worry? Gentrification? Displacement? Big business killing small business? Monotony in neighborhoods? I'm having trouble pinpointing what it is about infill or redevelopment that you don't like.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    What is your worry? Gentrification? Displacement? Big business killing small business? Monotony in neighborhoods? I'm having trouble pinpointing what it is about infill or redevelopment that you don't like.

    Sounds like you're having trouble making a sweeping generalization about my arguments!

    In the context of Celebration, I'm proposing one theory of how a place might end up being homogenous --- and the economic factors which threaten to turn other, not purpose-built places, into such zones.

    What I don't like about redevelopment is the idea that a large corporation might find it appropriate to buy a huge swath of land or property, anywhere, and fill it with large, corporate-friendly businesses against which few small organizations can compete as of yet. The typical suburban American, with gas from Exxon, a car from Ford, groceries and furnishings from Target, fun from Dave & Buster's and clothes from Abercrombie -- this lifestyle is deplorable to me in hundreds of ways! And I see a link, whether it's in New York or Moscow, ID, between redevelopment and this kind of sanitized life.

    I wish there were more incentives in cities for small property owners to stay that way. And I wish there were incentives for developers working with undeveloped land to consider human scale.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JayEM View post
    What I don't like about redevelopment is the idea that a large corporation might find it appropriate to buy a huge swath of land or property, anywhere, and fill it with large, corporate-friendly businesses against which few small organizations can compete as of yet. The typical suburban American, with gas from Exxon, a car from Ford, groceries and furnishings from Target, fun from Dave & Buster's and clothes from Abercrombie -- this lifestyle is deplorable to me in hundreds of ways! And I see a link, whether it's in New York or Moscow, ID, between redevelopment and this kind of sanitized life.
    These experiences and examples don't play out very much in Albuquerque and we are experiencing a real boom in development/redevelopment downtown (I say development as well because we have a lot of vacant parcels in the area as well). Sure, there are some misguided projects that cater to wealthy out-of-staters that just aren't selling, but mostly the activity we have taking place downtown is very much in the spirit of tying in with the exiting fabric and enhancing how it functions for existing residents and newcomers alike. The quality is decent and the appearance diverse and textured (since it is many smaller developers filling in these spaces).

    We have a number of infill developers from Albuquerque and other parts of New Mexico that develop one or two projects at a time, often small-scale, pedestrian oriented. These are often a mix of retail and housing, with the commercial spaces small and appropriate for small local businesses. I can think of 7 projects like this within a 6 block radius of my work. None of them, except a Starbucks and Subway, currently have chain stores in them, and they are all well-below anything that could house a Target or similar (we have plenty of Wal-marts, mind you, just not in the downtown area). We did recently get a Walgreen's and Lowe's home store, but they are also right next to the highway where it is perhaps more appropriate given the scale of the rest of development there. The land was vacant before these projects went in (owned by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center)

    We also have a large area near my home and work that was formerly a series of lumber related industries (surrounded by residential) that have left and the land acquired by City as "blighted" (not the same as eminent domain - the blight being the environmental impacts, particularly to groundwater quality, that were a problem but is now being remediated). This area is at the northern edge of downtown and is being developed by a mix of non-profit developers, for-profit developers and a community land trust (http://www.sawmillclt.org/).

    Its exciting stuff here right now, though the specter of rising property values is threatening displacement in some areas. Still, the emergence of the Sawmill Community Land Trust (perpetual affordable housing), the Greater Albuquerque Housing Project and a recently approved affordable housing bill is doing a lot to help protect poorer residents and those on fixed income stay in their communities. People, including a majority of City Councilors, actually do seem to care about this stuff (displacing poor people, that is).

    One of the reasons we are having good quality development downtown, though, is because the larger developers are working at the edge in Albuquerque, in the county and in Rio Rancho. These are the Pulte, Artistic, Hoffman, etc. type folks - big developers whose money comes from developing on a large scale. I think for our market, they have left the core alone because they just are not nimble enough to stuff themselves in there and make an acceptable profit. So, the sprawl (which is being curtailed somewhat through the Smart Growth initiatives that use things like graduated impact fees to discourage fringe development) seems to be distracting these big developers from messing up the city center. Plus, ownership patterns make it difficult for interests to buy up large number of properties for larger scale development.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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