When searching the US for the vanguard of urban planning and design, the Villages, an age-restricted master-planned retirement community in central Florida, doesn’t seem like an obvious choice. But while the residents may be old—the median age is 67.4, a full 29 years older than the average American—the community is thriving. According to census data, the Villages was the fastest growing metropolitan statistical area in the country, growing by about 40% over the past decade. They must be doing something right.
For one, housing stock in the Villages is not in short supply. Plenty of land remains to be developed, and home builders have streamlined the whole process. New buyers get to choose from a selection of predetermined sections: layout and number of bedrooms, exterior paint color, and style (faux Spanish Colonial, faux Western Pioneer, faux Tuscan Villa, you get the picture). Once that’s done, the house gets built. This process allows for some 200 to 250 new homes to be sold each month, or around 2,500 a year. That’s an astounding rate of new housing stock creation that other municipalities would kill for.
But what really gets urban and transit planners excited is the widespread adoption and use of low-speed vehicles, aka golf carts. Some 60,000 residents of the Villages own and regularly use golf carts on local roads and the purpose-built golf cart infrastructure throughout the community, including dedicated roads, bridges and tunnels. And while golf carts connote a certain kind of exclusive country club lifestyle, they are much safer than cars, run on electricity or a tiny fraction of the fuel that a car requires, require less space dedicated to asphalt and parking, and otherwise promote more pleasant, pedestrian-friendly public spaces. They’re also just way more fun to use than cars.
The Villages may have certain advantages over other municipalities—the sort of advantages afforded a master-planned community that was cut out of a vast expanse of otherwise undeveloped central Florida wilderness—but that doesn’t mean other cities can’t learn from and adopt their successes. For all you urbanists out there reading this, do your city a favor and lead by example—ditch your car and buy a golf cart.
Come by the gallery next Friday September 24th from 6pm-9pm for the opening of Fragile Horizon, a new exhibition by Jeremiah Jossim. You won't want to miss this one.
Solidarity with our allies fighting against free street parking.
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