New Urbanism and The VUE (by Jack)

A number of Sarasotans have raised concerns about The VUE (and the adjacent Westin hotel) that are being constructed at the corner of U. S. 41 and Gulf Stream Avenue. Mumblings have been heard in local bars along the lines of “the view for who?” and even my mild-mannered wife, Sasha, has likened the massive hulking structure to a Klingon Bird of Prey, saying that it casts a dark shadow of death on Sarasota.

But, like most things in life, there’s another side to the story. Back in April, Gretchen Scheider, general manager of planning and development for the City had the unenviable task of defending the building. Invoking the name of Andres Duany she claimed that the building was consistent with New Urbanism principles because New Urbanism recommended buildings that were closer to the street in order to create a more walkable feel and a better interaction between the pedestrian and the building.

Vue with man

OK, stop laughing.

With all due respect to Ms. Scheider, she’s cherry-picking the part of New Urbanism she needs to justify a really bad decision to allow The VUE to be built using the design they are using. While it is true that New Urbanism recommends that buildings be closer to sidewalks, that principle only makes sense if many of the other aspects of New Urbanism are also present.

The essence of New Urbanism is to create attractive urban environments that nourish the human spirit, where the architecture creates a sense of place, and where buildings are built to human scale. To do this you should slow down the traffic on streets (even eliminate automobile traffic on some streets), have mixed use buildings, encourage the use of green transportation (walking, bikes, scooters, etc.), and link sidewalks with public spaces where diverse types of people (young/old, rich/poor, etc.) freely interact. The VUE violates all of these principles. But, wait! It’s even worse than that.

To really understand what is happening with The VUE I suggest you take a look at its own website (www.vuesarasotabay.com) to see what is really being planned. Behind that massive structure you will find an oasis for the well-to-do. Condos sell for between $1.5 million and $3.4 million. But, look what you get for your money.

There are beautiful green spaces, tennis courts, spas, an outdoor pool overlooking Sarasota Bay (elevated above street level so you don’t have to see pedestrians walking by), an up-scale fitness center, private meeting rooms, a pool-side grill, and even a rooftop doggie park. The idea is to wall off The VUE’s residents from the Sarasota riff-raff. Alas, this is far from New Urbanism. This is American development at its worst. The building alienates not just pedestrians but drivers as well, it walls off a segment of the population from interacting with others, and rather than connecting with public spaces it creates “counterfeit public spaces” behind enormous walls.

So rather than an example of New Urbanism, its sole defense seems to be:  it is within code! Which begs the question about the purpose of Sarasota City codes.

Salt and Snark: The Un-Vue (by Sasha)

Which is scarier, a Klingon Bird of Prey warship (courtesy of Star Trek)…

Klingon Bird of Prey:Star Trek:Pinterest

or the Vue at 41 and Ringling Causeway (courtesy of unchecked development)?

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Consider the similarities:

  • Two huge wings;
  • An enormous mass that casts a dark shadow on those below;
  • A threat to life as we know it.

Okay, so maybe we’ll learn to love it once it is done. But it does raise the legitimate questions of:  A Vue for who? and How close to the road can a building be without requiring a driver’s license?

Read more here

 

 

 

Salt and Snark: My Nomination for Florida’s State Tree-an invasive species (by Jack)

The Florida state tree is the Sabal Palm, also called the Cabbage Palm. The palm has a single trunk and can grow as tall as 70 feet.

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But state symbols should capture the essence of the state and for this reason the Sabal Palm is a poor choice—its characteristics do not symbolize much about what makes Florida so unique.

However, there is one tree that towers above all the others because it more accurately represents Florida—the Australian Pine.

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Although the Australian Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia) is on Florida’s invasive specifies list, I believe it should be removed from that list and proudly declared the “Florida State Tree.” There are at least five reasons the Sabal Palm should be replaced by the Australian Pine.

 

First, the Australian Pine is an invasive species; introduced into Florida in the 1890s it has proliferated. This, by itself, makes it a strong candidate for state tree.

 

 

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Like the magnificent tree, people from other states, who originate primarily from New York, New Jersey, and the Midwest, have become Florida’s invasive  species to the tune of over 200,000 per year. Like the tree, they have proliferated, spending their Social Security checks on a variety of goods and services.

Second, the tree thrives around beaches. While it cannot grow directly in salt water it grows quite well near the water. This, of course, is also true of the human population of the state where over 76% of the residents of Florida live on or near the beach. Like the Australian Pine, Floridians cannot live in the water, but most thrive close to either the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading “Salt and Snark: My Nomination for Florida’s State Tree-an invasive species (by Jack)”