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A lot can happen in 50 years, and that is just what the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership (SERP)—a voluntary partnership consisting of more than 200 public, private, and civic stakeholders—wanted to remind people when they hosted the first of four public summits meant to guide the creation of Seven50 (“seven counties, 50 years”). Seven50 is a 50-year regional plan offering development guidance to Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties. The plan is meant to ensure the preservation of the environment, identify desirable development patterns, establish a broad range of transportation options, and foster a vibrant and resilient economy. It is an investment plan at heart and will help to determine the allocation of federal and other funding to projects that support livable and sustainable development in the region.
Seven50 is funded by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Initiative as a result of a joint application of the South Florida Regional Planning Council and the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. The plan will gather stakeholder input through a series of public summits, workshops, internet-based discussion groups, and studies led by consultant teams.
The opening summit was held on June 27, 2012. It was a huge success, attracting an astonishing 650 participants—many at the physical location at Old School Square in Delray Beach, Florida and others online—and brought together both public officials and concerned citizens alike. Attendees included Metropolitan Planning Organization leaders from across the region, City Commissioners, representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), and many others.
The summit began with a series lectures to get participants thinking about the kinds of changes that can occur in 50 years and what we will be facing as a region. Beginning with a discussion of visions of the future in 1962 (50 years ago), we were consistently reminded that Seven50 is an opportunity to reimagine our future to guide it in the direction that we desire. Southeast Florida will grow at a faster pace than the United States over the next 50 years and will become more diverse. Additionally, as preferences change, we will be facing an undersupply of compact, urban residences and an oversupply of the traditional single-family suburban homes common throughout the region. Regionalism was the overreaching theme, and everyone was encouraged to start talking to their neighbors and reach beyond the existing political boundaries to regional discussion and innovation.
After the presentations, participants self segregated into six interest groups: – Education, Workforce, and Economic Development – Development Patterns (Housing, Transportation, and Healthy Communities) – Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture – Climate Resilience – Community Assets and Culture – Inclusive Regional Leadership and Equity
I participated in the Development Patterns group. My workgroup consisted of six FDOT employees, a City Commissioner, and a planning and zoning employee. We spent our time brainstorming ideal improvements for the region, including passenger rail connections, freight movement, infill development, densification in city centers, and carbon emissions reduction. After the sessions, we were given a one-minute overview of major ideas from each category. Common themes included connectivity, the creation of a multimodal transportation system, and the reimagining of the development patterns in Southeast Florida to encourage compact and environmentally friendly growth. All of these ideas tied into the reinvention of Southeast Florida as a well-connected economic hub that fosters healthy living and the protection of the environment.
Everyone left the summit feeling energized and excited to get involved in the workgroups and future summits. I, for one, am looking forward to the development of a long-range plan that aims to reinvent Southeast Florida into an invigorating and alluring place to call home.