by Barry Watkins, 11/3/14
We’ve been talking about how the SmartCode will bring positive changes to Brevard. Using Cocoa’s 520 corridor in Diamond Square as an example, what changes would the SmartCode bring there and to other places around our area? For this example, I would say that we should use the SmartCode’s T-5 Main Street zone to maximize this corridor’s potential. Just how would it do that? As we said in our last article, with the SmartCode new construction and renovations would be held to higher quality standards than they are now under the current codes. We would see this stretch of 520 between US 1 and Five-Points, transformed from a standard, suburban highway into a pedestrian-friendly avenue with parallel parking lanes and wide, continuous sidewalks lined with shade trees. New buildings would be built closer to the street with parking behind them. The buildings would be allowed to be built a little higher, maybe a 3 or 4 story maximum, and most of the buildings would be attached, over time filling gaps and forming a human-scaled “street wall”.
What a difference that would be compared to what we see there now! Right now we have many empty lots, a few abandoned and aging buildings, and a lot of gaps in the streetscape with surface parking lots dominating the front of buildings. We also don’t see a lot of reinvestement happening here. Empty or aging buildings and empty lots are a bad sign. We need some new activity in this area! The new standards and the new possibilities that the SmartCode would bring this area some new life!
The SmartCode’s T-5 Main Street zone is a mixed-use zone. Bringing the T-5 zone here would allow this typical car-dominated commercial strip to evolve into a walkable Mixed-Use Village Center. It could host retail, office, and residential uses all on the same block and even mixed together in the same building. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have the option to live on a mixed-use block where you can walk out of your front door and around the corner to have dinner out without being forced to get into your car? Converting this area to a T-5 Main Street would bring new interest to investors, and make it a much more attractive place to live or to locate a business. The SmartCode’s standards will ensure that non-residential is completely compatible with adjacent residential. Built-in noise and lighting standards as well as architectural standards make sure that everyone gets along and are good neighbors. Mixing residential with commercial also will reduce crime. It will add eyes on the street 24/7 and make it a less attractive place for criminal activity.
Another dramatic difference the SmartCode would make is that it would separate walkable uses from automobile-oriented uses, like drive-thrus, gas stations, car lots, auto parts stores, repair shops, etc. This will help to create a continuous, pedestrian-friendly environment in village and neighborhood centers and would locate uses that generate a lot of car traffic in specific Special District zones. These zones can be placed away from walkable centers so they don’t become a barrier to walking between homes and destinations in the center. The existing auto-oriented uses along 520 would be grandfathered in, but no more auto-oriented uses would be allowed to be added near the village center and the existing auto-oriented businesses would be replaced with pedestrian-friendly ones over time. In the meanwhile, we can be careful to provide good, direct, and safe alternative walking connections between homes and walkable destinations that give pedestrians the ability to avoid walking in front of those places with higher car-traffic if they so desire.
SmartCode-governed intersections on 520 would be built much safer than the current codes have produced. Crossings would have pedestrian refuges in the medians halfway across the street. Vehicle lanes would be narrower and we would have fewer turning lanes. The turning radii at street corners would also be smaller. All of this would combine to make the journey across the intersections by walkers and bikers much less hazardous. Everything we can do to shorten the time it takes to cross the road and the fewer opportunities for cars, pedestrians, and bikers to collide is going to save lives. Not only that, but the safety improvements will make walking and biking much more attractive and more people will choose to walk or bike rather than drive. Allowing people the choice to drive less gives everyone a chance to experience a healthier lifestyle and would make this area a lot more attractive.
So, are you getting as excited as I am about the positive changes the SmartCode would bring to our county? If you are then please support us in this effort by taking a few simple steps: 1) Come and join our Facebook Group, 2) Share and keep sharing these articles with all your friends and especially your favorite local officials, and 3) Contact us if you’d like to help us get the SmartCode passed and to find out more! Stay tuned here to follow our progress!
Barry Watkins, Walkable Brevard, Rockledge, Florida, USA, Ph:321-355-2747, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, walkablebrevard.wordpress.com, Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/walkablebrevard, Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/walkablebrevard