By Barry Watkins, 7/7/2014
Here at Walkable Brevard our vision is to help to make Brevard County a walking- and biking- freindly place. When you hear that statement you might be inclined to think that we are going to be involved just with building sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails. Actually, making Brevard truly walkable and bikeable will entail a lot more than that.
Our goal is to see walking and biking accommodated not only for leisure and exercise, but that they along with transit would actually become practical options for everyday transportation. Walkability means more than just having a nice trail around my suburban neighborhood to walk on. I think of a walkable place as a place where I can actually take care of daily needs without having to drive my car. Where things like walking to the store to buy bread, walking a few blocks to get a cup of coffee, or even walking or riding a bike to work are realistic possibilities.
Walking for daily tasks
This is where things like “complete streets” initiatives can fall short. Complete, multi-modal streets are great, but unless the daily needs of people can be met within a reasonable walking distance from their homes we are still forcing people to drive to get everyday things done. That’s why the idea of the “walkable neighborhood” is an important concept. If we start creating walkable, complete, connected, and compact neighborhoods around our county then we will truly make walking, biking, and transit valid ways of getting around.
Walkable Brevard has been looking at the Diamond Square area in Cocoa lately and seeing what part we might be able to play in helping that community to succeed. A CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) was created for the area back in the late 1990’s t0 help reverse decline and bring economic growth. The CRA has done a couple of studies and some great plans have resulted. The great plans for Diamond Square however since the CRA was established haven’t really turned into a whole lot of pay-off for that community yet. Things have gotten started and fizzled a few times. Most recently the real estate crash of 2007 thwarted a couple of major building projects that might otherwise have been able to move forward. The good news is that there have been some new signs of life for Diamond Square. Another study was done last year that got a lot of positive input from local residents and the residents and the City of Cocoa have new hopes for things to move forward.Abandoned property in Diamond Square
Walkability is going to be a key to bringing positive change to this community. And why not? What the area mostly needs is a shot in the arm economically. The neighborhood desperately needs to see some private investment. They need some new life in the way of new businesses opening that can carry this community on an upswinging path. Public money just isn’t there to bring the positive change. Private money is the key. One great way a neighborhood like Diamond Square can catch the attention of private investment is to make plans to create a walkable destination that will be attractive for residents and visitors to the area. The most recent Diamond Square study showed the need for more rooftops in the area to support local business. This is true, but what is also important in that regard is the need for higher incomes. More public housing in the area may bring more rooftops, and this may help some, but wouldn’t it be a better impact if we could find ways to attract more high- and middle- income residents?
Planning for greater walkability in Diamond Square will help to attract good businesses and raise local incomes. Greater pedestrian-friendliness will make for an attractive business location and it will also be an attraction for residents of all income-levels. Market studies have shown the demand for walkable places is much higher than the supply and this trend is not expected to change any time soon. There are so few walkable places in Brevard County we could plan for ALL future development in the county to be done in a walkable fashion and still not meet the demand for decades!
Planning the future growth in Diamond Square to be done in a walkable way would be just the shot in the arm that is needed! Let’s work on it together. If you are interested in learning more about the particulars of what Walkable Brevard is doing in Diamond Square contact me (Barry) at email@example.com.Barry Watkins is the founder of Walkable Brevard. He grew up in Brevard County and currently resides in Rockledge. facebook.com/groups/walkablebrevard firstname.lastname@example.org 321-355-2747
Further Reading – How to Build a Walkable Neighborhood: (A Better Way to Build Things)