As we shuffle our way into 2022, Bungalower Media is setting some intentions for the new year, and while we’re doing that (and doing some organizational pilates) we are vibrating out some self-care tips for The City Beautiful to keep in their pocket over the next 360-some days.

Setting intentions is the act of stating what you intend to accomplish through your actions, whether for the New Year or day-to-day. It’s a commitment to set forth on the journey you choose each day by focusing on who you are, what you do, and why you do it, and it shouldn’t be limited to people practicing yoga in stretchy pants.


Cheap land begets cheap construction and is ultimately the herald of urban sprawl. Central Florida’s development landscape is still relatively young compared to the rest of the country and it’s cheaper for companies to build on virgin land than within city limits. This means all of those corridors between Orlando and its neighbors will continue to see more spread-out, random tracts of single-story development.

Urban sprawl isn’t just hard on the eyes, it eats away at precious wildlands and arable land. Urbanization has reduced Florida’s scrub habitat by over 60 percent, leaving fewer and fewer spaces to recharge our aquifer and provide habitat for endangered species like the adorable gopher tortoise. We deserve better.

Things to try:

  • More housing: More housing options in the downtown area means less reasons for people to retreat into the suburbs. That means less new development in environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Say goodbye to single-use buildings: Single-use zoning limits how many income streams a developer can have on a property and promote cheaper builds.
  • Urban Growth Boundaries: Cities like Portland have drawn lines on the map to restrict new development on natural lands and push for more infill development toward the city center.
  • Hire a new Placemaking Director: Mayor Dyer shuffled his staff in 2020 and randomly created a new Director of Placemaking and Competitiveness position at City Hall for his former Chief of Staff, Frank Billingsley. Billingsley has since retired from the position without having had the chance to really flex in his role, and we’re hearing the city isn’t necessarily interested in replacing him. While losing the role before ever letting us see it really take off would be a big mistake, it may present the opportunity to evolve it into something like an Office of Public Space Management which could focus on public space issues like access, safety, homelessness, inclusiveness, and infrastructure. But why can’t we have both?


Developers aren’t building the ways they used to. Some of our most historic and beautiful buildings were created by investors who expected to get their money back over 20-30 years after creating them, meaning they took the time to invest in quality and architectural details that we’re able to enjoy a hundred years later.

Most modern developers are now operating under the assumption/belief that they should be seeing profits as soon as possible and that means creating cheaper buildings with higher rents to satisfy their investors, leaving us with buildings that have shorter life spans and dramatically lower curb appeal.

That environment, coupled with the fact that older buildings are more expensive to renovate and modernize, means we’re seeing more and more of them razed to the ground to free up the real estate for something larger and flashier.

Historic Preservation initiatives can provide incentives to developers in the form of tax credits to help offset those higher costs but often lack strict codes to protect those buildings altogether. The City of Orlando has codes and policies in place to help promote the preservation of historic sites and even signs, but sometimes, like with a historic sign at the former Porter Paints on Colonial Drive, it’s still easier for businesses to just sweep things under a rug (or a vinyl wrapper).

Things to try:

  • Provide better incentives: Some cities offer certain types of permit waivers for certified preservation work or even density bonuses if developers work with them to preserve a certain site from demolition. Some have grant and loan programs associated with historic properties or heritage areas.
  • Hold tight to the restrictions you have: Restrictions don’t mean bans, but rather they’re meant to help guide the correct types of uses and development the municipality has identified for significant properties. If those restrictions don’t mesh with that developer’s vision, then let them build somewhere else nearby.


Growth isn’t a bad word. Cities can become better as they grow, but it’s all about intention and mindfulness. We can manage growth through a process called “incremental development” which is essentially when you build something piece-by-piece and is exactly how communities were originally built, block by block, and building by building.

Things to try:

  • Empower our Main Streets: When they were originally launched in 2008, Orlando’s Main Streets were tasked to help brand and differentiate their respective neighborhoods and to help empower the businesses that called them home. Years later, it’s time to give those offices more money, more autonomy, and the ability to help control and foster development on their own terms with updated comprehensive neighborhood plans. The Main Streets know what their historic assets are and they know what their communities are missing. They should be allowed to actively recruit what businesses should be moving in and they should be doing it while on a real City of Orlando salary.
  • Encourage more small-scale developers: Small development is really sexy right now and applies to projects that are typically overlooked by larger developers like infill apartment buildings or live-work properties. Small projects are more flexible and can fill in missing pieces in neighborhoods and help inspire new energy and activities and are a great way for newcomers to dip their toe into the development pool. They can also help ease the burden of missing middle and affordale housing and should be encouraged by local municipalities. Imagine a small scale developer incubator program with private and public investment dollars to go alongside Orlando’s tech hub programs.


Getting from A to B in your car is getting increasingly difficult in Orlando. We know it is, because every time we publish an article about new housing development, everyone comments about how much worse traffic is going to get. We also know, because we live here and we know to avoid corridors like Virginia Drive around 5 p.m. because it’s a two-lane road to nowhere.

Most of our historic neighborhoods have been designed with grid road networks that help ease traffic congestion by providing multiple route options to choose from, but in older suburbs and newer subdivisions you’ll find those diverse route options to be much slimmer, both by dated design standards and natural geography; College Park, for instance, is notoriously closed off from other neighborhoods like Ivanhoe Village to the east by Lake Ivanhoe and I-4, and actual gates and walls to the south along Colonial Drive.

The City of Orlando recently seized the opportunity to reconnect Parramore with adjacent Holden Heights with the extension of Hicks Avenue to Anderson Street, following the removal of a series of on-ramps for the 408 and I-4 that had strangled Griffin Park and restricted flow between the two neighborhoods.

But connectivity also means more choices in transportation. Good transport connections can benefit business communities by increasing access to jobs, it can shape healthier places by promoting cycling and reducing air pollution.

Things to try:

  • Going car-free: We’re not saying to ban cars throughout the city, but how about in certain neighborhoods like the Central Business District? Oslo and London have done it, why can’t we?
  • Think outside the bus lane: Transit ridership is down across the country, which makes it difficult to advocate for funding when the numbers don’t support it, but autonomous vehicles may help make the case, especially in places like downtown Orlando that have dedicated lanes in place to keep buses out of the main thoroughfare. But what if those lanes were used to promote scooter share or bike use instead?
  • Supporting transit initiatives: Good transit costs money and a good way to find it is to have a penny tax initiative. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is looking to bring back his push for his penny sales tax idea that was shelved by the pandemic, so consider supporting that when you have a chance. It’s estimated that it could bring in $600 million a year to the county for transportation projects and that’s a lot of bike lanes.
  • It’s not “those people” it’s just about “us”: It’s too easy to honk a horn at someone on their bike because their slowing your commute to the office. Don’t treat that person as something “other” just because they’re different. They’re a person, just like you, trying not to make a mess of it during their day. And if they had another route to get to work that was safer they’d probably have taken it so take a breath and relax.

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  1. I think this is very well thought out. Glad you shared. So many of these steps can be easily taken, and should be taken. It’s great to read a publication that LOVES Orlando, instead of tearing it down all the time. Great Work!

  2. Love most of this but people need to lose this obsession with “autonomous vehicles.” Driverless taxis are not a replacement for high capacity transit. Why can’t we start with an expansion of Lymmo so that it actually connects downtown to useful places north/south/east/west Charge $1 a ride outside of downtown to fund it. Plenty of cities already have downtown fareless zones. Expand the downtown busway system. If you want people to use transit it needs to be faster than driving. Putting a cycle track on Robinson instead of a reversible busway (AM inbound/PM outbound) is dumb an emblematic of the interests of the decision makers over the interests of the region.

  3. I don’t live in Orlando, but I grew up here, spend at least 2 weeks a year here visiting family, and have been following this blog since its inception. I’ve also been paying attention to metro Orlando’s economic growth and politics for decades, as my interest in urban planning and urban politics started here. I travel often to cities across the world, and I can’t help but compare them to my little hometown. Some of my thoughts and learnings:

    1. Light rail is not the panacea. Everyone still seems to be obsessed with it as the “totem” of successful cities, but I just see low ridership and expensive public works, even in Portland. It has sex appeal for voters who want their cities to resemble their European holiday destinations, but these voters don’t actually use the systems they vote for. I’m a convert to bus rapid transit as a more cost-effective way to quickly address mass transit needs to combat gridlock traffic through dedicated lanes, and the groundwork for a future of autonomous electric vehicles. Bombardier or Siemens and the major civil engineering and construction firms are the only ones who benefit from light rail.
    2. Smart development requires smart angel investors. Most of the disposable development is due to the fact that developers are highly reliant on investment banks to provide the bulk of funding, and bank funding models tend to be very conservative. The more equity a developer can bring to the deal, the more risk they can take and say they have into how their developments turn out. Orlando is lacking deep-pocketed local angel investors, who largely lost their shirts in the Great Recession. Chuck Whittall has the pockets of John Morgan; maybe there are other angels out there who would like to invest in Orlando beyond the Disney area.
    3. Better parking is needed. The City of Orlando doesn’t seem to be interested in addressing parking concerns in its nascent “Main Streets” which are heavily constrained by the single-family neighborhoods which surround them. A few strategically-placed, city-funded multi-level parking decks in places like Mills 50 (it’s still Colonialtown to me) could make these areas more attractive to smart developers. I’d rather seem more parking decks than disruptive streetcars or light rail to get people out of their cars and on their feet.
    4. Civic activism is lacking. I’m stating the obvious when I say that Orlando is transient. People move here and get disillusioned very quickly, and don’t stick around to champion the kind of policies which can make Orlando a better place. Buddy Dyer has been Mayor for too long, and doesn’t have the thorns in his side of connected local activists pushing for smarter policy. Barack Obama started his career in politics as a community activist; where are the Orlando Obamas?
    5. Bungalower is an amazing resource. I always use it to plot out things to do during my two-week family visits. I wish Orlando had more of the things which make for great city experiences (I don’t do theme parks), and its great to have a voice which promotes these things so vibrantly.

  4. Orlando & Orange county should go to Salt Lake City UT and see how it is done and done right.1. They built a great efficient mass transit system like Europe with two types of trains a gas and electric the gas train (front runner) as limited stops and the electric train (trax) has multiple stops, that run from the suburbs into the city Train stations are built close to neighborhoods with easy access and FREE PARKING. Bus are coordinated with the trains and within 5 minutes they are out of the station (Buses have direct routes- you do not need to take three bus for 2 hours to get 15 miles.) Business purchase and give to their employees a train and bus pass which encourages them to use mass transit and you tap on tap off at the turnstile. The electric trains were broken down to Green, Blue and Red. Example you live in South Jordan and need to go to the airport, you pick up the Front runner gas train at the south Jordan station 20 min ride to North Temple Station and you take escalator up and catch the green trax (electric train to the airport 15 min ride) 2. They have created a Tech and BioTech corridor and then courted tech companies to come with a coordinated effort from the Governor, Mayors and Universities. Central Florida could coordinate with Universal,Sea World, Disney along with UCF and the Airport authority to build a really good mass transit system. ****Note round trip $5.00 for most fares****

  5. Yes to all of the above. Otherwise Orlando will become a very unattractive, low quality of life city. We need immediate improvement.

  6. I love this! Portland, Oregon is a city I’ve been researching a lot lately and it’s comparable in population but has a far better transit system. I’d love to see an investment in light rail, especially connecting East/West corridors. Great article!

  7. Thanks for this article.
    I couldnt agree more with most of these points.
    I’d especially love to see our Mainstreet districts lead the way to smart sustainable development.

  8. Terrific way to jumpstart the neurons of the public and human realm here in Central Florida with this thoughtful, smart and spot on article. Putting people first is a notion that always needs to be pressed repeatedly out in the open as a reminder that doing right by people in community design, housing and civic architecture pays it all forward for both public and private sectors.