‘New urbanist’ plan for 4,200 homes west of Palm City gets a look

‘New urbanist’ plan for 4,200 homes west of Palm City gets a look

TCPALM (Feb 22, 2018), Gil Smart

Earlier this month I took a drive out Citrus Boulevard, west of Palm City. I looked at slash pines, saw palmettos and sable palms.

And what I saw was the future.

Well, one man’s vision of the future. Knight Kiplinger, the Washington D.C.-based financial journalist whose family has long called Martin County its “second home,” wants to build 4,200 homes on some 3,417 acres — a 5.3-square-mile parcel that’s actually larger than Palm City or Hobe Sound.

All of which sounds faintly ridiculous. Kiplinger’s development, Pineland Prairie, would in effect be building a brand new small town. In Martin County, of all places — where you can’t knock over a blade of grass without someone moaning about “Browardization.”

How’s this going to work?

To listen to Kiplinger, and see his drawings, the answer is: perfectly.

Kiplinger’s proposal will be the subject of a public hearing before the Martin County Local Planning Agency on Wednesday. Ultimately, the Martin County Commission will need to sign off; Kiplinger hopes the plan will go to the board in April.

Officials will consider comprehensive plan changes to accommodate the development; the county actually doesn’t have language in its zoning ordinances to allow Kiplinger to build the “Mixed Use Village” he wants to construct.

So, helpfully, he brought in planners to craft code he hopes the county will adopt, permitting neighborhoods “with a diverse mix of uses and housing types (that preserve) large swaths of open space.”

That, in a nutshell, is the plan for Pineland Prairie. But I’d driven out to Citrus Boulevard to get a gander at how, exactly, all this would fit into the landscape.

Citrus Boulevard is a pleasant “back door” into Martin County from Port St. Lucie, a sanguine drive. Kiplinger knows it. And in fact, he’ll keep much of it that way.

The property is shaped roughly like the state of Nebraska; just past Citrus Grove Elementary School, it borders Citrus Boulevard to the north. Here Kiplinger envisions “industrial neighborhoods” — light industry interspersed with homes, a community center, tree-lined public squares and corner stores.

Heading west/northwest, beginning at Boatramp Road, Citrus Boulevard bisects the remainder of the site all the way to the St. Lucie County line. But for the first mile or so, vistas would remain largely untouched, with open fields separating the new neighborhoods from the main artery. Cattle would graze in sight of the new rooftops; preserved wetlands would continue to provide shelter for critters like the 6-foot alligator we saw while there.

It wouldn’t be until you hit the center of town, the “Crossroads,” where you’d be out of the woods and into the heart of Kiplinger’s “new urbanist” vision.

Here you’d have tree-lined streets and retail storefronts, a grocery store and a farm market with a water tower; a mix of old and new, the type of place where you want to park, get out and walk. That’s the point of these “walkable” neighborhoods, which really don’t exist in Martin County right now.

Further north, near the St. Lucie County line, Kiplinger envisions community gardens lining Citrus Boulevard, along with 150 acres allotted to larger-scale agriculture. On the west/southwestern side of the road would be: nothing. A few trails; most of the area will stay exactly the way it is now.

All told, 30 percent of the site would be developed, with 70 percent — 2,000 acres — kept as open space.

That would make it the third-biggest “park” in Martin County.

Knight Kiplinger, editor in chief of Kiplinger publications, discusses the plans for “Pineland Prairie” Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, at the proposed site for the new community along Southwest Citrus Boulevard, northwest of Citrus Grove Elementary, in Palm City. “The feedback I’m getting from my fellow citizens is that the time is right for something new,” said Kiplinger of the planned mixed-use village, which would occupy about 5.3 square miles (although only about 30 percent would be developed) and is projected to take between 25 and 30 years to complete. (Photo: JEREMIAH WILSON/TCPALM)


Kiplinger is obviously a wonk when it comes to new urbanist ideas. But — witness the financial publications bearing his name — he’s also a savvy businessman.

Tomorrow’s home buyers “don’t want a big yard, they like porches, and they like to meet their neighbors,” he said. “Our county needs good housing for young adults of a size and style they want. … Gated golf course communities are not an unmet need in Martin County.”

Couple that with the fact Kiplinger expects the project to be environmentally neutral — some land will be devoted to cleaning water from the C-23 canal and quite a few of those slash pines, saw palmettos and sable palms will stay right where they are — and you’ve got, I think, a true example of “smart growth.”

It remains to be seen how Martin County on the whole will react to this. I can already see the Facebook laments: NO MORE DEVELOPMENT!!!

But Kiplinger has gone out of his way to meet with local leaders, community groups and everyday citizens to explain what he’s trying to do, and to solicit feedback. A good bit of that feedback has been positive.

And let’s emphasize that “smart growth” does not mean “no growth.” It means — and here I’m stealing from the group Smart Growth America — “an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement.”

On this basis, for all the talk about “smart growth” in Martin County, we don’t have much of it.

That could change — starting this week.

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Kiplinger’s Pineland Prairie takes step forward as Martin County’s next big development

Kiplinger’s Pineland Prairie takes step forward as Martin County’s next big development

TCPALM (September 21, 2017), Lisa Broadt

MARTIN COUNTY — Development of a community roughly the size of Hobe Sound is about to take a major step forward.

Property owner Knight Kiplinger next week will submit to the county plans for Pineland Prairie, his proposed 5.3-square mile, mixed-use community.

Pineland Prairie’s design emulates towns from an earlier time, ones that were walkable, with shopping and offices nearby, and that today are intended to appeal to young people.

Neighborhoods there would have a variety housing types, many with front porches, and most nestled close to the street, according to the vision outlined by Kiplinger, editor-in-chief and president of Kiplinger Washington Editors.

“It’s going to require people to look at housing differently,” Kiplinger said Thursday. “I hope it raises the bar.”

The community would be built on the Kiplinger family’s 3,375 acres west of Palm City, between Florida’s Turnpike and Interstate 95.

A mix of about 4,200 residential units, 230,000 square feet of retail space, 90,000 square feet of commercial space and about 300 acres of light industrial would occupy about 30 percent of the property, according to Kiplinger’s plans.

Most of the currently undeveloped land, though, would remain undeveloped.

About 70 percent, or 2,400 acres, would be set aside for open, public preserve, as well as farm land, sports fields, playgrounds and parks, according to the plans.

Kiplinger acknowledged that major development in growth-shy Martin County could pose challenges, but he said he is hopeful his proposal will be well received by the county.

People who have seen the plans, he said, “have never seen so detailed a plan, one so fully realized.”

Over the past few months, Kiplinger has embarked on an outreach campaign to tell the community about Pineland Prairie, answer questions and solicit input.

On Wednesday, at an event at Ground Floor Farm in downtown Stuart, Kiplinger unveiled to the public a more detailed proposal.

Martin County conservationist and former Sewall’s Point Mayor Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch was one of about 70 people in attendance.

Thurlow-Lippisch on Thursday said it will be “fascinating” to watch the project play out.

“We haven’t seen anything this big in Martin County in a long time,” she said. “On an ecological level, I trust Mr. Kiplinger really has a vision here and wants to leave some walkable nature” for future generations.

The development must proceed with caution, though, Thurlow-Lippisch said.

“It’s a big step, so I think anybody, no matter what, has to be diligent in looking at everything, and not just jumping into it before we know everything bout it,” she said. “Nonetheless, I have to say I’m very impressed.”

Kiplinger on Thursday said he is serious about preserving the land.

He plans to sever development rights and put easements on the land that would protect it in perpetuity, he said. The preserve likely would be managed by a board of trustees, Kiplinger said.

He also is committed to making the community affordable to a range of people. He envisions a mix of housing, with mansions next door to more smaller, more affordable homes, he said.

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Gil Smart: ‘New urbanism’ coming to Martin County?

Gil Smart: ‘New urbanism’ coming to Martin County?

TCPALM (May 9, 2017), Gil Smart

Where’s the “ka-boom?”

There was supposed to be an earth-shattering “ka-boom.”

And if you think it’s odd to begin a column with a quote from Marvin the Martian, consider that last week a major Martin County landowner announced he wanted to develop nearly 3,400 acres, and the response was… silence.

In space no one can hear you scream, I guess.

The landowner in question is Knight Kiplinger. You’ve heard of the Kiplinger Letter and Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine? Right, that’s his company, based in Washington, D.C. But the Kiplinger family has a long history in Martin County. Knight’s grandfather vacationed here in the 1950s and liked it so much he bought a home in Sewall’s Point. In 1980, Kiplinger’s firm bought 3,375 acres nestled between the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 95 in Palm City, a property he dubbed “Pineland Prairie.”

Last week, Kiplinger took out a full-page ad in our publication saying he envisioned turning the site into “a wonderful new kind of community — something that doesn’t exist anywhere in Martin County, or indeed, anywhere in our state.”

Kiplinger envisions Pineland Prairie as a mixed-use, walkable neighborhood where homes are located adjacent to businesses and significant amounts of undeveloped open space remain, situated alongside small-scale agriculture and outdoor recreation.

He has even suggested building temporary water retention areas to help clean water from the C-23 canal.

This map shows the boundaries of the nearly 3,400 undeveloped Pineland Prairie tract. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED BY KNIGHT KIPLINGERS)

You see neighborhoods like the one Kiplinger loosely has in mind elsewhere in the country. The concept is dubbed “New Urbanism,” though Kiplinger prefers the term “neo-traditional town planning” because “my ideal towns are less ‘urban’ than ‘small-town’ in feel, like Stuart itself,” he said via email. “This concept, I believe, should be one of several choices of living styles that our county offers to current and future residents.”

Kiplinger hasn’t yet pitched specifics, and in his ad — and on a website devoted to the project, pinelandprairie.com — he asks for the community’s input. He sets out his broad vision of what the community could be but wants to know what local leaders, business owners and residents think.

He’s meeting one-on-one with many in the community, and stopped out at our offices last week as part of his “listening tour,” where I spoke with him in person.

And in general, Kiplinger wants people to “describe their personal priorities for Martin County’s future and to suggest ways that this land can help meet our county’s needs” in terms of the environment, housing and the local economy.

And here’s where I expected the “ka-boom!”

Here’s where I expected, and still expect, people in Martin County to go into shut-down-all-growth mode. “We don’t need more houses!” they’ll lament — although we do. “We don’t need to pave over any more land” — although what Kiplinger loosely envisions would keep paving to a minimum.

And of course I expected “No more traffic!” — though if Pineland Prairie were designed according to New Urbanist principles, traffic would be minimized because of something called “internal capture.” That is, people wouldn’t have to leave the neighborhood for each and every need.

Let’s talk about that for a moment because it occurs to me many who complain the loudest about traffic live in neighborhoods that actually maximize it — with exactly one way in and one way out, with no shopping or commercial/office space whatsoever. That type of neighborhood means every resident who needs the littlest thing must get in his/her vehicle and clog the roads of Martin County. And that so many neighborhoods have been built in this fashion is one huge reason why those roads always are so clogged.

Anyway, I’m still waiting for the “ka-boom,” but in the meantime Kiplinger said he has gotten some substantive feedback. Hopefully, a thoughtful dialogue can continue.

Pineland Prairie faces many hurdles, particularly the fact that most of the site is outside the urban services district and isn’t served by municipal sewer or water. That could be a huge fight.

But in a broad sense, Kiplinger’s right. It’s time for Martin County to consider, and perhaps change its regulations to accommodate, mixed-use development like the one he has in mind. Our housing market isn’t going to be dominated by wealthy retirees forever. If this county is to be attractive to a younger demographic and the type of jobs they want and the community needs, a wider variety of housing/neighborhood options needs be available.

“Change,” however, tends to be a dirty word in Martin County. Which is why, if and when the “ka-boom” comes, it might have less to do with the specifics of Pineland Prairie than it does with the idea the county needs such a neighborhood in the first place.

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