There are many reasons for a region as diverse as Southeast Florida to coordinate internally. Although each county will always retain its autonomy and opinions, there are issues that face our region that cannot be tackled one county at a time. We not only need inter-jurisdictional cooperation, but by joining together as a single voice on certain topics, the region can utilized its combined strength to leverage the state and federal sources to revise policy and award funding for the projects that really matter to Southeast Florida.
The following are some of the areas that could be coordinated as a region for a better future for everyone.
Coordinating our rail lines, seaports, airports and highways will improve the region’s ability to be a hub for the transportation of imports and exports, bolstering and further diversifying our regional economy.
Keeping the region in motion is too much for any one organization. Public facilities and the land use and transportation systems that surround them must be planned in an integrated way.
We envision a paved path for cyclists and pedestrians from Key West to Sebastian Inlet. Currently our region offers a patchwork of trails and there are a variety of ways to connect those trails. The surest route may be a path within the Florida East Coast railroad right-of-way which extends from Miami to Indian River County. A paved path was proposed in the early versions of the Department of Transportation’s commuter rail plans (a rail-to-trail plan) but the future of this path became uncertain when All Board Florida introduced its new Miami-Orlando passenger rail concept. As All Aboard Florida connects the region with rail, with municipal assistance it could also provide a trail to further connect the region.
Few other single projects could unite the region as much as a continuous path connecting all its cities.
Speaking for the region means speaking for over six million people today and over nine million people by 2060. When regional leaders identify consensus issues that unify the region Seven50 creates a vehicle for expressing the regional will.
While Seven50 has identified several possible initiatives in the future other issues will arise. Seven50 can be a voice for local and regional goals and aspirations in Tallahassee and a voice in Washington.
A SUSTAINABLE FOOD & ENERGY SUPPLY
With such an immense boom in population expected in the next 50 years, establishing a secure food supply will be of utmost priority. South Florida contains the two biggest growing counties in the state, but a substantial amount of our food is still imported, whether domestically or internationally. Advancing the status of agriculture in South Florida will have a triplicate benefit. First, it will provide the ability to feed the expanding population. Second, a substantial amount of jobs will emerge from improving the agricultural industry. Agriculture is evolving constantly, and the emergence of technology in food production will lead to jobs across the entire education spectrum. Lastly, the increased demand and supply of Florida agricultural products will result in a greater dispersion of food in the region, rather than requiring new markets. The decreased shipping that follows will reduce the costs of agriculture, decrease emissions from one of the most notorious CO2 and Methane heavy industries, and work to keep the South Florida economy internally strong and self- reliant.
The future will require a much more varied mix of housing options than our region currently provides. Families come in many more shapes and sizes than they once did. Seniors, younger people, new immigrants and the working poor have become statistically dominant populations in our region. The previous approach to public housing, isolated towers in the inner-cities have given way to a more integrated approach. As funding for subsidized housing market solutions to housing will be necessary including mid-size apartments, units above commercial, accessory dwelling units, and multi-generational homes. But housing is more than simple structure. Transportation needs, social needs, health needs are also part of the housing equation today and holistic approaches and complete “community” are sought.
RESILIENT REGION CAPABLE OF ADAPTING TO EXTREME CLIMATE CHANGE EVENTS & TRENDS (BEFORE DISASTER HITS)
Through its extensive public process Seven50 has helped bring attention to the challenges of climate change and sea level rise. Seven50 helped fund the work of Climate Compact in the northern counties. Seven50 will continue to be an advocate for mitigation and adaptation in the region. The tools that were created as part of the process will continue to be enhanced.
Seven50 will also help lead the conversation on engineering solutions to adaptation which can even mean “retreating to the heart of town” and other compact cores. There are many unknowns in this sphere of science. The solutions that have worked elsewhere may not work as well here with our unique geology. Solutions to climate change and sea level rise for our region may have to be invented by our region. This will require a tremendous regional focus.
A REGION RECOGNIZED AS A GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE HUB WITH OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP & CAREER ADVANCEMENT
Trade and tourism are the mainstays of the Southeast Florida economy. Today, trade and tourism are key drivers of the regional economy, with the region ranking first in the nation for the value of international cargo and the number of home-port cruise passengers, and among the top ten for international visitors, air passengers, number of containers handled, and the value of exports. Yet there is still work to be done to give the region international prominence while at the same time helping the small businesses that are the largest component of our economy and human capital which lives and works in the region.
A RESTORED REGIONAL ECOSYSTEM (PROVIDING BENEFITS FOR NATURAL & BUILT ENVIRONMENTS)
The success of the seven-county region relies on the health of our environment. This is true for our day-today consistent economic activities, including agriculture, tourism, fishing, and recreation. It is also true however, for the long-term wellbeing of South Florida. Although the impacts of climate change have been heavily considered and dis- cussed, the impacts of development on the environment have the potential to be more devastating, and can be seen right in front of us. Building South Florida entailed carving out our most precious natural resources, and diminishing elements of the environment that are not so easily replaced. Draining the Everglades and attempting to fundamentally alter the flow patterns of the Kissimmee River have only led to detrimental socio-cultural and economic results.
All seven-counties contain regions constantly inundated by flooding, ruining infrastructure and driving away residents. While this is no doubt partly due to rising sea levels, a major contributor is the short-term planning principles that attempted to force the natural environment to work around human interests. Developing with nature, rather than against it, leads to resilient environments, where ecosystems flourish, as well as providing benefit to civilization.
Every sign points towards restoring our environment to the point where it is capable of thriving. The benefit of this is both guaranteed and multi-fold. Environmental resources are an obvious necessity. On a purely ecological level: a diverse environment is a healthy one, capable of responding to challenges, and providing all manners of services. Environments also play an essential role in protecting our built environment. Strong ecosystems guard from natural disasters, while also slowing long-term erosive effects on buildings, and minimize any extreme weather patterns. Ultimately, the future of the South Florida region will require an environmental effort.