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The Celebration Controversies
Is it economically possible to build a
Celebration without the deep pockets of a Disney? The answer is yes;
even the main street is economically feasible. This is demonstrated
by a visit to Haile Plantation in nearby Gainesville. This superb
New Urbanist community was designed and developed by Robert Kramer
under conventional constraints. Haile Plantation, as accomplished in
every way as Celebration, must become an integral part of any study
tour, so one cannot talk oneself out of a commitment to the New
Urbanism by concluding that Celebration is a great concept but “only
Disney could do it.”
Is it economically possible to build a Celebration without the deep pockets of a Disney? The answer is yes; even the main street is economically feasible. This is demonstrated by a visit to Haile Plantation in nearby Gainesville. This superb New Urbanist community was designed and developed by Robert Kramer under conventional constraints. Haile Plantation, as accomplished in every way as Celebration, must become an integral part of any study tour, so one cannot talk oneself out of a commitment to the New Urbanism by concluding that Celebration is a great concept but “only Disney could do it.” Full Article
the Habit of Suburbia
I'm going to talk about what we've been doing for the past 20 years. I'm not sure we knew that we were curing the problems of suburbia, but about 20 years ago, we (my partners, the Fleeman family, our very patient investor partners, an architect, Matthew Kaskel, has been my partner for more than 20 years and was involved in the founding of Haile Plantation and Haile Village Center) had the idea that what we would be building when we began this project, was a town or a village--something that was based on a traditional model of towns and villages.
Much of what actually has been done over the past 20 or 30 years has been based on the standards that have been written by well-meaning professionals that have described how to build a conventional cul-de-sac, suburban development. When we began to develop Haile Plantation, we looked at earlier information that was available to us and thought that a traditional town was a better pattern than some of the other, current, information that was available during those days. The land-use regulations that we had to deal with in Alachua County, Fla., where Haile Plantation is, were all geared toward building that conventional, suburban model. We had to write our own standards much of the way, and have them incorporated into what we were doing.0 people. The urban area is about 200,000. At the time, it was somewhat less than that, but it has been growing at a very steady rate of two to three percent per year. We thought that that would allow us to build out a community that would be fairly stable—not built overnight. We've been building at a rate of 125 to 150 homes per year, for almost 20 years. The population [of Haile Plantation] is about 7,500 and we were limited by restriction that the land use regulations had, that our commercial part of the development be internal to the development; it could not be at the edge. As I go through and explain the rest of the project, you'll see what limitations there were.
The name, Haile Plantation, comes from the fact that we bought 1,100 of the 1,700 acres from the Haile family. The Haile family built this plantation house in 1850 on the property. They had acquired the property from an owner who owned much of Alachua County, and had acquired that from the original land grant from the king of Spain. So there's a very short title history involved here. The property was left intact for many, many years, until we bought it from the Haile family.
This is the house that was existing at the time we bought the property. It has been preserved and restored; there is a foundation that we helped to found, to preserve the house and operate it as a museum.
This is an example of our interpretation of the precedent from the Haile family history, to try to bring some of that into what we were doing in Haile Village Center. This is the first building that was built at Haile Village Center, the first building on the street. In this scene (which was right after the construction was finished), the street wasn't even in place yet; we operated it as a temporary sales and development office as we began to fill in Haile Village Center and the rest of the street.
This is something that I just found recently: It's a 20-year-old brochure that we published during our first year of development. It was hand-drawn and hand-written...basically, it set out some objectives that we had. The primary objective was that we were going to build a community in which people could "work, shop, worship, attend school, enjoy outdoor recreation and leisure-time activities within a short walking distance or drive from their home." The other objective that we had was to develop a high-quality, man-made environment while preserving, maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty of the land.
It is an absolutely beautiful site—more than 1,100 acres of hardwood forest. That portion which had not been farmed during its days as a plantation was allowed to regrow; this is some of the old growth on the fence lines—of live oaks, and so on. I always use this because this is a picture of my family 20 years ago. We tried to incorporate usable open space—we really did believe that the term was probably correct at the time! Preservation of the existing natural environment was a big part of what we thought was important, because besides the high-quality man-made environment, I think people still want to see the countryside left intact.
This property is about five miles from the University of Florida; it's about five miles from the city limits of Gainesville. It's within the urban growth boundary of Alachua County; it is out in the woods, but it's not out in the boondocks where development was not expected. In fact, many of the services in the area were there before we started this project.
It does have many of the things that suburban developments have—golf courses and such—but we've tried to provide the elements in the larger conservation and open space areas, that are reasonably used by more urban development, such as community gardens and some areas that are left natural because they are flood plains, but are absolutely usable by people and animals. We have about 20 acres of horse pasture that is actually a flood plain, but it looks like a horse pasture.
We have the "required" golf course. This was a bit of a public/private cooperative project with the City of Gainesville, which provided reclaimed water so that we were able to do this in an environmentally sensitive way and not use any groundwater at all for the irrigation.
As we began to develop Haile Plantation and especially Haile Village Center, the local newspaper started to notice and actually declared that we were not suburbia. The title, "A town unto itself" is a fairly good description of what we were trying to do—I'm not sure we accomplished it all, but it helps when the local press notices. We haven't publicized that to any great extent, but sooner or later, people start to recognize what it is you're doing.
This is the overall property that we've been developing. It's about three miles across and about two and a half miles north to south—almost three full sections of land.
The area that we're going to focus on is Haile Village Center, which is at the intersection of these two major roads, which will, eventually, be major collector roads. The north/south corridor will, in the very near future, be completed to connect two state roads—the major north/south roads in Gainesville. The east/west connector is one that will eventually tie in to the west.
This is the approximately 50 acres of the Village Center. It's a half mile north to south, which is a five-minute walk from the town center to the edge. This is one of the basic principles of developing a neighborhood and defining it. The defined edges are a flood plain, a natural low area that has been left as forest, and the two major collector roads. The major streets will, over time, develop more traffic; therefore, they are designed for a much greater capacity that they are currently carrying. But this is the most internal site in Haile Plantation, so there is a limitation as it has been developing: We don't have the traffic that retail ordinarily needs.
As you can see, it is not built out yet. It's probably 70 percent built out. Over the past few months, we've been working on some major projects within the Village Center, design projects that will be built out this year and next year; probably within three years we will be completed with the entire property.
This is roughly the same scale as the actual photograph. The half-mile north to south, the actual plan of Haile Village Center. Again, the five-minute walk from center to edge; you can see that everything within Haile Village Center is a five-minute walk.
A five-minute neighborhood
In addition to the residential uses, we have office, retail and civic uses—all within the village center. The main street runs roughly north/south. This is a flood plain, left natural, with vegetation and dense woods. This is the edge of the golf course. The town hall (meeting hall) is here. Town Square contains civic uses, including the police, homeowners association functions, community management and that sort of thing. All of this is a mixed-use core of office and retail, with residential mixed in with it.
One of the techniques that new urbanists use in comparing a site that they have to develop is: How does it measure up to things that have already been built? This is the historic core of St. Augustine, Fla., developed in 1565 by the Spanish and located about 70 miles from our site. This is the central plaza, which contains a government house, a cathedral, other churches, important civic and public buildings. As you can see, over time this has filled in and the blocks have become very urban. We thought there were some appropriate examples of urbanism here, developed over a 400-year period. We felt we should look at these examples, given that our site has fairly directly descended from the Spanish land grants! We thought we should at least consider this as part of the precedent involved in developing what we're doing.
So as you can see, here, at the same scale, is a much smaller, finer-grained version of that kind of urbanism that we found in St. Augustine: Our central square, our civic building, correspond to what you find in St. Augustine. And it's knowing that there are cathedrals and shopping centers and offices and all kinds of things going on here—it's not so hard to imagine that you can create an awful lot on 50 acres when you allow for mixed uses.
Here are a couple of ground shots of Haile Village Center in the very early stages—the street scene. We began at a very small scale and very small increments to build a village, making mixed-use buildings such as this restaurant with apartments above. You can see the sidewalks are rather wide and fairly well detailed, with narrower street sections.
One of the important things was to make the transition from the neighborhoods around the village center, and to allow people to come into the village center easily. One of our goals, of course, was to allow people to take care of many of their daily needs within a short walk of their home, and to provide connections from adjacent neighborhoods that bring you right into the heart of Haile Plantation—to make these passageways that were inviting and strictly pedestrian passageways that would invite you in.
This happens to be that house that was modeled on the historic precedent of the Haile Plantation House that was built 150 years ago. It is now a part of the street.
Many of the residents' daily needs are provided for here. We have 48 businesses at this point, including a dry cleaner.
This is some of the adjacent development—neighborhoods that we developed and built ourselves as much as 12 or 15 years ago, that were built in anticipation of Haile Village Center being built, but no promises made as to what would be done, but this particular neighborhood is a neighborhood of townhouses that was built immediately adjacent to Haile Village Center in anticipation of it becoming a more urban area. This is built at a density of about 16 units per acre. We joint-ventured this with a division of Weyerhaeuser, which was active in the Florida market at the time. It was a very successful real estate project at the time, but nobody knew what was going to be adjacent to it.
This is our little post office/sheriff's department/homeowners' association. And you see we tried to save some trees and this works very well. It's one of our very early buildings, but it is brought right up to the street and it became a pretty important little 900-square-foot building in the overall scheme of things.
This is an aerial shot, which works pretty well to describe the street scene, the fairly regular plantings of shade trees, which will allow, from time to time, more visibility for business or retail uses. But generally, they provide a shaded corridor, which, when it's 105 degrees in August in Gainesville, is absolutely needed.
But what you're looking at here is businesses: insurance offices, dentist offices, a restaurant, a market—with people living on top of them. Those are all occupied; they have been from the beginning and there are never any vacancies. These are also aerial shots, which show the connections from the main street back to the parking and how you get people from there—it's not just "walk through this alley"; there are specific planned passages. You can see the development of the street scene, the slight deflections and curves in it, which show off certain buildings along the way and give them better exposure for retail uses.
This again is an example of the same idea, where you're turning, with a slight deflection, to expose these [facades] as you go. But each of these is a separately owned building; it's not a shopping center or an office park. This is a town or a village.
This is a corner store, with the manager living above. This is a real estate office, with an employee living above. This is another millwork business, with two apartments above (each of those apartments are separately owned buildings, too).
This is David Coffey, a friend of mine and our land-use attorney. He has his office right over here, in the building that was based on the Haile building. His house is a five-minute walk (exactly) from his office. He's the former mayor of Gainesville and a very knowledgeable new urbanist, so he enjoys living here. But frequently, when he addresses groups, especially land-use hearings and presenting the model of New Urbanism, he will talk about how he can visit, theoretically, all of these 48 businesses every day—how he can walk from his house and drop his kid off at preschool, go to the bank, make a haircut appointment, stop at the corner store and get a cup off coffee—all of the things that he does every day are described.
One of the really important things in trying to get entitlements for projects these days is the idea of having "internal capture" of trips. So of the 10.5 trips per day that each single-family house generates, some number of them can be contained, or captured, within the development. In our last traffic study, which was done in 1996, we were already internally capturing 23 percent of those 10.5 trips, which makes a huge difference in the infrastructure that you have to commit to, to the overall traffic network, etc. That's one of the real, measurable benefits.
Jim Kunstler talked about the public realm and how people need places to get together. Here, people were having a concert here in an open space between buildings—nothing really as a planned plaza or a public space, but clearly the street's place—the village center—becomes the public realm. All of the outdoor space is the public realm. The kids have their Halloween parades every Halloween.
Let me point out that we don't engineer these events—we don't even initiate them, usually. We try to help with planning, if needed, but we don't think that these are things that we need to be involved in engineering. They come from within the community.
This is the beginning of the development of our town square. It's a more formal public space that will have three-story buildings fronting it. Again: public realm. Every Saturday morning there's a Farmers' Market. We didn't go out and hire some farmers; they came to us and said "Could we have a Farmers' Market? We think this is a neat place to do it." So it's very successful and it brings a lot of life to the village center, of course.
This happens to be an annual summer celebration of some sort—again, each is a different one; I don't know exactly what each one of them is, but the businesses have gotten together and formed a merchants' association like they do in many small towns, and they help to organize three or four events like this per year. For one event, this one, we actually got a head count because we had a giveaway that the merchants' association organized. At that time, the population of Haile Plantation was about 6,000; for that event, about 4,000 people showed up—and there wasn't even any free food! But it was something that made them come and use the place as we had hoped it would be used.
Buildings and businesses
This is a very, very simple, ordinary, straightforward building brought up to the street with a minimal front yard. It is a mixed-use building: It has apartments on the second floor (this is the residential entrance). On the main floor is an accountant's office; this is a psychologist's office on this side.
These things are not very hard to do when people actually see them and see how they work: "Oh, yeah, the apartments have a front door; the other side has a door; there's no confusion."
This, again, is the same kind of thing: apartments on the second floor that have usable porch balconies that overlook the street where all the activity is, and retail and office space on the first floor.
More of the same: dentist, stockbroker, insurance agents—and people living "on top of them." It works, even though these are not all what you would call "live/work" in the purest definition of live/work, where the shopowner lives above the shop, but we do have examples of that, such as the corner store with its manager living above. The real estate office and an employee of that office.
We're breaking ground right now with a new real estate office on the town square for the largest brokerage company in Gainesville, Coldwell Banker. That office will have an apartment above it. It's absolutely acceptable to do this now in Gainesville; it's not seen as being "outside the box" at all.
This is a case where the business owner on the first floor owns the space; the second floor is owned by our bookkeeper—two completely separate ownerships, not rentals.
This is a real live/work that was just finished, on a public space that is in the works right now.
This is a doctor's office—two young doctors (a husband and wife in internal medicine and family practice)—this is their house. They own the building. They're doing very well and they're very happy they did that.
This lady lives up here and has her poodle-grooming business down here.
This building is now being used as a temporary sales and information center, and this is a lawyer whose office is right about here, who lives in this whole thing. This is a very nice house overlooking the town square.
Again: restaurant on ground floor; the owner lives above.
Going back to the overall plan. The various uses that we have: condominiums, custom single-family, townhouses in this whole block, live/work all in this area, single-family through here, townhouses above retail in that area. The town square is in the center.
These are some of the buildings. This is a 10,000-square-foot building that we're building for the University of Florida, Shands Family Medical Practice. We own the building (it's a 10-year lease). The credibility that you get from having those kind of people agree to occupy space that has people living above it is pretty nice.
Our town hall terminates this street vista. These are apartments above—fairly spacious. We have not finalized the lease on this building yet, but we expect that nurse practitioners and/or employees here are going to be the tenants.
These are some of the floor plans of the houses that we have been building in Haile Village Center. This is one example, built by a physician from Shands Hospital—a very well-known physician who actually built an apartment in the back, which he rented out to somebody that he didn't even know!
All of the houses offer the option of having accessory units. This is one that was based on the floor plan that I just showed you. This is another based on that exact same floor plan. I believe this floor plan is in TND Series Volume I. This is the variety that you can get when you follow certain precedents: You can see the detailing that we're using, which refers to some of the Spanish and British influences in St. Augustine. There's a wide range of architectural detailing within the 52 acres that comprise the village center.
Throughout the country, this kind of architecture occurred and Gainesville has its share of it. We, too, are building some of that.
Much of this is the equivalent of production building: We built these one at a time, but we've tried to build these as models that can be used. This house, too, is in TND Series Volume I—you can buy the plans for that one.
As an example of the available range of buildings, here are three houses built in a row. The first is a 1,200-square-foot house that was built for $120,000. Next to it is a $300,000 house, and then a $250,000 house. There are setbacks; the homes are not attached. This is on a close that actually comes around and completes a space—instead of a cul-de-sac.
This is my house, my backyard, the side yard. This is where my daughter lived when she went to college: a garage apartment. We have a completely separate garage apartment and a very, very private courtyard. These houses are amazingly private; for all of the promises that suburbia makes about privacy on half-acre lots, this offers much more privacy than you could possibly have on a half-acre lot.
This is an example of some unusual conditions in taking what are standard street conditions that we want to have—porches and the street wall. This happened to be a triangular piece because of the curve of the street (you can see the unusual intersection of those spaces), but there is that kind of variety, which we think is important: to adapt to the conditions that you have, that make the place something more than the standard that you see everywhere.
Again, this is the floor plan for this house. In reality, we put a little bend in this house because the street was deflecting here. It (the bend) shows up in the porch and the detailing, but not the rooms.
Most of the houses are brought right up to the sidewalk and elevated at least three feet above the sidewalk. Sometimes they have small setbacks because of the deflection of the sidewalk or the street, but generally, this is the condition that you have. And here, from this windowsill to the street, when you're walking, your head is right about here, so you really can't look directly into these houses. My house is right there and I'm very comfortable with that arrangement: right on the sidewalk.
Each house can be designed so that it helps in some way to form the street spaces. This particular one terminates a street.
Again, three different types of architectures and finishes here: A stucco; a brick with Chippendale railings; a simple, New England- or Nantucket-like vernacular building with some very, very simple detailing. These, generally, are very, very simple buildings with simple detailing.
Alleys. Most people, when they talk about New Urbanism, are really afraid to talk about alleys and lanes. Well, alleys are not horrible, nasty places where you're going to get mugged. They don't have to be that way; here are some examples of how they can be done.
We've just recently completed our Town Hall. It is our civic building. We own it and operate it as a for-profit facility because we didn't think that there was any way that the homeowners' association or the people of Haile Plantation could afford to buy a building like this. It's not something that you want to impose on people, so we operate it as a for-profit facility. It's near "break-even"—not quite—after about 10 months of operation. We have weddings there; a Methodist church rents the building from us every Sunday, which provides a nice income also. Within a year or so, we'll probably have it scheduled so that it is self-sufficient. It's very clear to us that we'll be able to do that. It's about a 3,200-square-foot building on the town square.
Here's the town square: benches, brick pavement, fountains. This tower terminates the major north/south street access and the southern street access. It is adjacent to commercial buildings. Here will be a three-story mixed-use, live/work building (which we will start very soon), which will have offices and retail on the first floor, one residential unit, and then townhouses above that, where you can own your shop or office and the space above it. You can own it horizontally or vertically.
The other side of the meeting hall fronts on a public plaza which is also a street. This allows it to be used for a number of different functions. It's pretty much a universal kind of interior space. It works for church; it works for weddings.
What NOT to do
I should probably wrap things up with that. Thank you very much.