Seven50 Plan For South Florida’s Future: More Jobs, Better Transit, Climate Response

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By: Doreen Hemlock
January 16, 2014

Come 2060, a larger share of Southeast Florida residents will live in walkable districts linked to railroads, trolleys, bike rentals and other transport options besides cars.

More diverse, urban housing will let more folks of different ages and incomes live together. And more coastal areas will be protected against sea level rise through such investments as back-flow preventers.

Furthermore, the economy will depend less on serving new arrivals and tourists, with more high-tech jobs and schools better preparing residents for the jobs available in the region.

That’s just a glimpse of the Seven50 plan for seven Southeast Florida counties 50 years from now, a report presented Wednesday after two years of input from business, government and civic leaders

The mayors of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties made a rare, joint appearance at the presentation to celebrate the plan and pledge cooperation on common concerns, especially in areas such as transport that demand massive, regional investments that no single area can make on its own.

“Only when the region speaks in one voice can we be effective in Tallahassee and in Washington, D.C.” to persuade officials to fund major projects for Southeast Florida, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief told a crowd of more than 200 people gathered for the presentation at the county’s convention center.

The Seven50 plan focuses on ways to make the region from Key West past Fort Pierce more prosperous and livable in 2060, when its population likely will reach 9 million, up from 6.2 million in 2010.

If current trends continue, the future for the area would be more traffic jams on roads, more suburban homes encroaching on nature and farmland, plus growing shortages of clean water for residents.

In that scenario, 98 percent of trips still rely on cars, and just 70 percent of households live within one mile of a park. That lifestyle pushes obesity rates past 25 percent, presenting big health risks and costs.

But the outlook brightens with a more mixed-use, walkable areas with new transit links in a scenario dubbed “Region In Motion.” In that case, only 60 percent of trips use cars, 90 percent of households live within one mile of a park, and the region’s obesity rate slips to 17 percent.

What’s more, regional efforts attract more of the “creative class” in high-tech, arts and innovation, with one of three workers in that group and the area rising into the top 50 U.S. creative hubs, the plan said.

But the challenge is getting from here to there.

“We have a plan. Now, let’s implement it. Let’s find that funding source,” said Sara Fain of the Everglades Law Center and member of the executive committee of the South Florida Regional Partnership that collaborated on the report.

Yet obtaining funds involves lobbying jointly as a region in state and federal capitals, an area where Southeast Florida long has been weak, according to Seven50 leaders.

“The I-4 corridor [in the Tampa-Orlando area] is kicking our butt, because the 13 counties there are working together,” said Michael Busha, executive director of the three-county Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and co-director of the Seven50 effort.”They have accepted the fact that they are a region and are behaving that way.”

In contrast, Southeast Florida cities, counties and organizations too often act independently, rejecting the notion of regionalism — a problem highlighted by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez.

“There are only a couple of things you can see from outer space. One is the Great Wall of China, and the other is the Dade-Broward county line,” Gimenez joked. “And we are working to knock that down.”

Other counties involved in Seven50 are Monroe, St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River. The complete Seven50 report is available online

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