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Monday, May 01, 2006


Florida Smart Growth and Charrettes

Florida developers have recently discovered a new development review process weapon in the arsenal to push through projects that is called a "charrette". What is a charrette? Thought you'd never ask:


Or, if you prefer not to click on a link:

Here are the usual components of a charrette:

  • definition of issues to be resolved;
  • analysis of the problem and alternative approaches to solutions;
  • assignment of small groups to clarify issues;
  • use of staff people to find supporting data;
  • development of proposals to respond to issues;
  • development of alternative solutions;
  • presentation and analysis of final proposal(s); and
  • consensus and final resolution of the approach to be taken.

  • These charrettes are being used to push through the beauracratic red tape that can come with development projects, and in a quick summary can be thought of as a town meeting that happens to be on a timer. Any party affected by a development project is encouraged to attend, and the charrette process has been discovered to be particularly useful when an impasse between parties has resulted.

    Now, the Florida developers have found that the charrette process can be particularly helpful when they've identified a profitable project that needs to be pushed through a review process quickly.


    What's unique about this particular charrette is that the organizers feel as though it should be appealing to builders that could be categorized as having a "cookie cutter" mentality. In fact, one of the charrette organizers states that "
    Production builders typically build single-use neighborhoods with pretty much one price point,” and that because of this have shied away from the new urbanist approach. This is in addition to providing the developers with more design autonomy and reaching a greater segment of the market.

    All of this sounds astonishingly simple as an approach to board review of development proposals, and if they have succeeded in at least presenting these politicians and interest groups with an alternative to building the typical suburban developments then it would appear that success can be declared in the war on the cookie cutter neighborhoods that seem to dot the landscape of eastern Colorado Springs. This might also provide some with hope that this would give other builders the economic incentive to consider a more aesthetically pleasing approach to sprinkling the occasional strip mall and development project across our landscape while maintaining an economic model of profitability (but not at the expense of any overall societal well-being and without removing the process of choice for the consumers).

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