Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Long-Range Planning for Region Gets Reality Check; 300 Leaders to Help Plot How Northeast Florida Should Grow

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Long-Range Planning for Region Gets Reality Check; 300 Leaders to Help Plot How Northeast Florida Should Grow

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

About 300 government, business and community leaders from seven Northeast Florida counties will soon take the lead in an unprecedented growth planning effort aimed at shaping the way the region will look in 2060.

Despite today's downturn, growth planners expect that by 2060, Northeast Florida will have 1.6 million more people and 650,000 more jobs.

Now's the perfect time to find out what kind of future people in the region want to see, they say.

Enter Reality Check First Coast, a local adaptation of an exercise that has worked in other cities, and will now address seven counties - Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns.

"You don't grow on arbitrary political boundaries, you grow as a region," said Peter Rummell, CEO of The Nicklaus Cos. and Reality Check First Coast steering committee chairman.

For the past year, about 100 project volunteers have worked with Northeast Florida Regional Council and Urban Land Institute staff to accumulate data about the region's current population and land-use mix and where growth is projected. Next, it will be the public's turn to participate. On March 23, a simultaneous one-night town hall meeting will be held in each of the seven counties.

"It's been a tremendous amount of work planning for game day," said Brian Teeple, Northeast Florida Regional Council CEO.

May 21 is "game day." In a long-anticipated, day-long session at the St. Johns County Convention Center in Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village, 300 leaders from government, education, business, nonprofit and other institutions will take a hands-on approach to sculpting their view for the region's future. Working in groups of around 10, they'll place interlocking "Lego" building blocks, representing current types of land use in the region.

It'll be their job to determine where the "Legos" that represent future job and residential growth - while considering the environment and open spaces - should go, and place them there. Future roads and light-rail systems will be represented by lengths of yarn. Each table's group also will decide what the guiding principles for future growth should be. …

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