It had always puzzled me upon my move to Melbourne, Florida, from Chicago why places grow and flourish to become metropolitan areas and others are destined to stay small if not shrink although they have all the reasons to compete and achieve greatness. I know it might not be fair to compare both, the Space Coast and Chicago due to the major differences between both in population and context. However, I am trying here to make a point, that every place can be great if developments in the bigger scale of the city were achieved.
Space Coast, in my opinion has the potential to be a great place to live and work in, yet it still hasn’t got its full potential. Its location between Orlando and Miami, space program heritage, its touristy qualities, and definitely being a tech corridor of the country and ranked the fourth tech center in the country by Forbes magazine can definitely change its destiny from famously being a retiree destination, and a “Nasa” town alone to be a metropolitan and diverse area.
As we live in a world that is continually urbanizing, it is expected by 2030 that 6 out of 10 people will be living within urban metropolitan areas. Here comes the crucial question, of what will be the future of space coast? And how do its people envision it growing to be like? With growing interest of people into urban areas and all amenities they provide, Space Coast have only one of two options, either to grow and become a metropolis, taking the advantage of what it already have and build on it, or to give its back to urbanization and just stay a retiree haven, risking whatever industries we have here leaving somewhere else. With Cloud technology and the internet, many tech entrepreneurs prefer to live near the bigger cosmopolitan urban areas such as Silicon Valley, Austin, and NYC,Chicago,etc.. for their livability qualities. It is important that Space coast residents realize how decisions made in the city would affect its growth in the next thirty to fifty years from now.
Cities have been the centers of population since the beginning of urbanization. Communities flourish and businesses thrive when the right environments are established for them to enhance people’s ability to explore and walk around freely with minimum need of transportation. This could be done in many ways, either by shortening the distance between commercial and residential areas, or by creating a transit system that liberates people from cars and saves them money for gas.
In the case of Central Florida, there is lack of both, the short walking commute distances, and the transit system. This resulted into sprawling into new built areas, while the relatively “older” parts of the cities are still not fully occupied, which made cars an essential item for living comfortably. While cars are essential in all American cities, Central Florida has 20.9% of its population older than 65 years old, and 16.2% are younger than 16 .Assuming that the senior demographics are stable all year around, this unique demographics sets a bigger pressure on the rest who can safely drive to provide the means of transportation to their families, while enabling seniors to live comfortably and dependently as well. In an area of almost 536,357people only, there is no need for urban population to be spread out.
By fully utilizing vacant areas, and allowing for construction of higher buildings to increase the density in established areas, Central Florida could turn itself into a collection of pioneer cities that responds to the demands of the new century challenges where gas prices will only get higher, and become more energy efficient and sustainable. Using new means of transportation can be a success, and in fact it will increase the value of real estate, as it will enable retail to be in a walking distance from transit systems and residential areas. Redevelopment of the built areas and creating reasonable walking/biking distances between them will encourage people to use other means of transportation.
Moreover, its location between Orlando, and Miami, makes it more strategic to be closely connected to them. If we looked back to the history of transportation in the Midwest, it played a big role in people’s lives, moving merchandise and agricultural goods, which revitalized all the rural areas around Chicago.
The growth of a bigger network of transit system will enable creating more businesses, and jobs, and will change the face of Space Coast. Being creative in creating unique transportation is not only a tool of commute, but also a tool to encourage activity, tourism, and construction.
Becoming connected has become more important than ever, in a world of limited resources, and increasing population, thinking of sustainable transportation and car alternatives will create jobs, decrease pollution, and help the Space Coast to become a central addition to the metropolitan area of Florida.