City Expansion Space Nearly Gone, Planner Says; URBAN AREA the Development Director Suggests Building to Attract People Who Want to Live in a City Environment

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Byline: TIA MITCHELL

Jacksonville will soon arrive at the point where there is no more room to expand, the city's new planning director says.

William "Bill" Killingsworth, who was confirmed as director of the Planning and Development Department in August, said little land remains for new residential developments, especially when privately owned property, preservation land and areas zoned for commercial or industrial use are factored in.

"We are not built out yet, but I would argue in some sense we are close to it," Killingsworth said.

By "close," he says it could take 20 years or longer, but the time will come when Jacksonville, like other cities, will have to start looking upward and not outward.

Killingsworth said the city should embrace its unique position in the region as an urban area and begin building developments that attract people who want to live in a city environment. As the person in charge of administering and interpreting the city's comprehensive plan and zoning code, he is ushering in a new era where old, aging areas are and will be re-purposed into new high-density developments.

A lifelong Floridian, Killingsworth attended the University of Florida after a four-year Army stint. After graduation, he studied cities around the state before deciding to move to Jacksonville with his wife, saying he decided the city had the best long-term potential.

Unlike other Florida cities, he said, Jacksonville seemed interested in becoming more than a tourist destination, embracing the transportation, banking and health care industries.

"The economic structure here is more diverse than many other cities in the state," he said.

Killingsworth has a business degree in real estate and urban analysis, and he initially worked as an industrial real estate broker. But when the market dried up in the early '90s, he decided to take a position with the city. He started out as an assistant planner, compiling statistical and demographic data, and during his 20-year career continued to rise through the ranks.

Last summer, he became the fourth planning director under Mayor John Peyton, following the controversial tenure of Brad Thoburn, who was appointed and confirmed in 2007 even though he lacked the education and experience required for the position. Thoburn left the position a year ago to take a job with the state Department of Transportation.

Killingsworth became the acting director and, shortly after, the mayor appointed him to the position.

"He hits the deck running," the mayor said. "There is no learning curve. He knows the players. He understands the dynamics."

Killingsworth said his top priority is helping implement vision plans currently being finalized for three of the city's six planning districts: urban core, Arlington/Beaches and the southeast. …