As part of the FloridaCommerce Technical Assistance Initiative, this web page provides a brief overview of community planning and the linkages between comprehensive planning and economic development planning. This page also provides examples of land use planning efforts undertaken by some of Florida's rural and urban communities in support of economic development, including strategies to promote urban infill and redevelopment to sustain or revitalize urban core areas. Readers can also access local governments' websites to view adopted Comprehensive Plan Economic Development Elements and urban infill strategies.

Community Planning

The broad goals of community planning are to protect human, environmental, social, and economic resources; and, through orderly growth, to maintain the character and stability of present and future land use and development. Community planning identifies a community's resources and the long range community needs and goals. It provides a process for developing community consensus and for local governments to adopt their comprehensive plans.

The Comprehensive Plan

The comprehensive plan serves as a blueprint for future commercial and residential land uses, housing, and conservation, as well as cultural and recreational amenities. An important component of the comprehensive plan is identifying the new infrastructure and growth demands needed to support the future physical and economic development of the community. Strategic investments made now in infrastructure, housing, recreational amenities, and education will create communities where families will want to live, where companies will want to do business, where jobs will be available, and where people will come to work and play.

Comprehensive Plans and Economic Development Plans

The comprehensive plan establishes a community's policies and priorities regarding future development while aiming to preserve the environmental features and community character of the area. An economic development plan adopted into a local government's comprehensive plan provides in depth review of the local and regional economy; identifies strategies, programs and projects to improve the economy; and establishes policy direction for economic growth. The various elements of a comprehensive plan support and complement the economic development plans of Florida's counties, cities and regions. Florida's businesses, communities, and regions rely on supporting land uses, transportation, and infrastructure to sustain existing companies and industries and to further economic development programs and initiatives. Together the comprehensive plan and economic development plan should serve as a "Strategy for Tomorrow" and reflect a community's and a region's desired physical, economic, and social growth.

Florida's Communities Plan for Economic Development

Below are examples of some Florida local governments demonstrating how planning can support of economic development. These examples illustrate that economic and comprehensive planning efforts work together to prepare communities for continued economic prosperity, by accommodating new business, and the expansion of existing businesses.

Lake Nona (including Medical City), Orlando

Lake Nona, including Medical City, Orlando - Lake Nona is a well-regarded 7,000-acre master planned community within the City of Orlando that is home to leading education, medical and recreational facilities, a medical city, diverse workspaces, retail centers, entertainment choices and residential options for all types of people seeking the best the City has to offer with all the conveniences of living within a dynamic, vibrant community. Lake Nona is being developed by Lake Nona Property Holdings, owned by Tavistock Group, a private investment company (see About Us | Lake Nona).

To accommodate the Lake Nona development, the City of Orlando adopted the Southeast Orlando Sector Plan to provide protection to the Orlando International Airport, promote compatible and complimentary development in adjacent commerce centers, establish standards for mixed-use development, and identify the necessary supporting infrastructure for adjacent commerce centers.

The City's comprehensive plan provides the basis and general direction for the development of this area beginning with its designation as an Urban Village on the future land use map. Policy 2.4.4 of the future land use element provides the fundamental vision for this area, specifying that neighborhoods and communities contain a mixture of land uses that promote multi-modal travel options, ensure a realistic jobs-housing balance, provide housing opportunities that reflect the community's housing needs, while protecting environmentally-sensitive areas.

By taking advantage of a multi-staged planning process where each successive level addresses more detailed issues, the City has ensured that the impacts of the development would be addressed, so that ensuing development review is streamlined. As part of this process, Policy 2.4.4 specifies a prerequisite that more specific subarea policies, specifying structure and detailed development criteria be established, including:

  • the allowable range of land uses and composition of mix of uses
  • development intensities/densities
  • design principles, guidelines, and standards
  • specifications to ensure connectivity and accessibility

The Policy provides that within this Urban Village, the location of specified land uses may be shifted in conformance with the associated approved Development of Regional Impact (DRI) provisions, without necessity of a future land use map amendment. The policy specifies further that the Urban Village future land use designation shall be implemented through a DRI development order, the associated subarea policy, and applicable Planned Development land development regulations, and have an associated master plan.

The comprehensive plan includes additional specific subarea policies for the components of the Southeast Sector Plan area that provide more specific direction on development. This planning approach combines the following strategies to facilitate economic development:

  1. Accommodating a wide range of land uses, at generous development intensities, in a sufficiently large enough area to attract development, generally, and more specifically, to achieve a critical mass of medical-related industries and services, and through the synergy created, provide an ideal location for other industry subsectors and related subsectors;
  2. Balancing the latitude to develop a wide range of land uses at generous development intensities with requirements for protection of natural features, provision of infrastructure, and direction for acceptable design;
  3. Implementing the vision for area through successively more extensively detailed tools - future land use map and category-specific policies; subarea policies; sector plan; DRI development order; land development regulations - thereby obtaining concurrence-consensus on overall development parameters at the most basic level and allowing details to be hammered-out in later planning stages, thus providing significant certainty that development is doable and enabling planning for supporting infrastructure early on; and,
  4. Providing generous direction on specific detail to achieve a quality development, thereby reducing the need for a contentious and time-consuming development review process - essentially the argument over design and other development specifics occurred within the master planning stages, and once the master plan was approved, ensuing development review is streamlined (see Future Land Use Element: Goals, Objectives, and Policies).

West Palm Beach, Arts and Entertainment District

West Palm Beach, Arts and Entertainment District - The West Palm Beach Arts and Entertainment District is a centralized collection of inspiring arts and entertainment venues; art and history museums; galleries; libraries; performing arts companies; and art education institutions. Situated in the heart of South Florida's most progressive city, the District includes more than 20 distinct and distinguished cultural destinations that form a defining industry cluster. The Arts and Entertainment District enhances the appeal of West Palm Beach as a visitor destination, drawing attention to its status as a vibrant city illuminated by its beauty and range of creative expression. A free trolley dedicated to connecting partners makes getting around the District easy and enjoyable (see Play, Arts and Entertainment / West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority).

The Arts and Entertainment District is located within the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority area. The West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority was created in 1967 as an independent special taxing district to promote and enhance a safe, vibrant Downtown for residents, businesses and visitors through the strategic development of economic, social and cultural opportunities. The Downtown Development Authority improves and maintains Downtown West Palm Beach by offering information and services to visitors, residents and business owners.

The City continues its longstanding support for a robust, pedestrian-friendly downtown, home to the Arts and Entertainment District, through the adoption of a Downtown Master Plan Element in its comprehensive plan. This element sets out the community's vision for the Downtown as:

  • A place of unity, which its residents and visitors, at work or play, feel attached to and responsible for
  • A place of unique character with public spaces in which people feel comfortable together
  • A place of common vision and physical predictability for all new building, to ensure security of investment for property owners and developers as well as an aesthetic experience for users
  • A memorable place of human interaction, safety, and commercial and cultural benefit

Contact the City of West Palm Beach Planning Division at or (561) 822-1461 to receive access to the City of West Palm Beach Comprehensive Plan.

In combination with provisions set out in other portions of the City's comprehensive plan, the Downtown Master Plan Element provides clarity and predictability as to the appropriate character of development within each of a number of implementing zoning districts. Thus the City strategy of establishing a vision for its Downtown and associated policies, and greater detail within the zoning districts that regulate development within the Arts and Entertainment District have paid benefits by providing clear signals to the marketplace what type of development is appropriate and by ensuring that the Downtown facilities a high degree of pedestrian activity by establishing goals, objectives, and policies supporting safe, comfortable, and efficient travel by foot, bicycle and transit.

Escambia County, High Tech Manufacturing and Aerospace Industry

Escambia County, High Tech Manufacturing and Aerospace Industry - General Electric Wind Energy, L.L.C. operates a wind turbine blade manufacturing facility in Pensacola that builds upon a large ex-military workforce (associated with several nearby military bases) with technical and aerospace training. The facility takes advantage of a prime location that offers multimodal access for transshipment of parts and equipment, including shipment of finished product: barge @ Escambia Bay (approximately one-third mile from manufacturing facility), I-10 (approximately one-half mile), U.S. 90 (approximately one-quarter mile), and the CSX Railway (approximately one-fourth mile). For more information, see Wind Energy Solutions - General Electric Renewable Energy.

Escambia County offers more than the above transportation advantages. The Pensacola area and surrounding region offers a highly skilled workforce: northwest Florida is home six military bases, with five being aviation-related, it is well-equipped to serve the Aerospace, Aviation and Defense sectors; its workforce includes scientists, engineers, production workers, and information technology specialists.

These factors have attracted many of the largest U.S. defense contractors, international companies, and commercial aviation businesses to Northwest Florida. These companies, together with the Department of Defense, are engaged in a variety of cutting-edge research and development activities. In addition, there is a regional university-based research and development infrastructure which includes Florida State University, the University of Florida, Florida A&M University, and the University of West Florida, with university centers of research in Aero-Propulsion, Robotics, Commercial Space Flight, and Composite Materials and Systems (see Florida's Great Northwest - Aerospace and Defense)

Escambia County accommodates the Westinghouse facility through its designation of the manufacturing facility and surrounding area as Mixed Use Urban on its future land use map, which the Escambia County Comprehensive Plan describes as "Intended for an intense mix of residential and non-residential uses while promoting compatible infill development and the separation of urban and suburban land uses within the category as a whole." This mixed-use category provides for a wide range of uses, from residential to retail and services, to office, and light industrial (such as the General Electric Wind Energy facility) and an equally wide-range of development intensities, from 3.5 dwelling units per acre to 25 dwelling units per acre, and from a floor area ratio of 0.25 to 2.0. In addition to lands designated as Mixed Use Urban, Escambia County has specifically designated more than 5,000 acres of land for industrial use on its future land use map, supporting numerous high tech manufacturing concerns, such as Cerex Advanced Fabrics, Inc., Ascend Performance Materials, the Pall Corporation (Biotech), and transportation logistics businesses, including Buffalo Rock. For more information, see Escambia County Comprehensive Plan 2030.

Comprehensive Plan Economic Development Elements

Below are examples of Economic Development Elements that have been adopted into comprehensive plans by Florida communities.

Competitive Florida Partnership Resources

The Competitive Florida Partnership program is an enhanced technical assistance program within FloridaCommerce that is designed to support a local government's efforts to build and enhance its local economy while staying true to what makes it unique. While not all communities qualify to participate in the program, the economic development strategies discussed on the program web page may provide important tools and ideas for local governments that want to develop a comprehensive plan economic development strategy.

Additional Local Government Economic Development Strategies and Documents

Florida's Communities Plan for Infill and Redevelopment

Below are examples of community efforts to promote infill and redevelopment in urban cores to support economic revitalization and expansion. Many of the examples reveal land use planning efforts that have involved public-private contributions to achieve measurable economic results.

  • Orange County - Orange County prepared an Infill Master Plan in 2007. The Infill Master Plan articulates the County's infill, redevelopment, and rehabilitation strategies to accommodate future growth, provide an alternative to a traditional suburban development on vacant lands, protect natural resources, and take advantage of existing infrastructure.
  • Fernandina Beach, Nassau County - Since 2004 the City has amended its comprehensive plan to add a Community Redevelopment Agency Overlay to promote urban infill and redevelopment, added design guidelines to promote a broader mix of uses, and . In 2011, the City adopted a policy into the comprehensive plan to provide density bonuses to qualified projects within the Community Overlay Area.
  • City of Largo, Pinellas County - The City of Largo developed a Strategic Plan in 2010 to address Largo's most challenging issues, including infill and redevelopment. The Strategic Plan is used to align City programming and capital improvements with the community's goals. As part of the implementation of the strategic plan, the City has undertaken several initiatives to encourage redevelopment including the establishment of two Community Redevelopment Districts and the new Downtown Largo Multimodal Plan.
  • City of Gainesville, Alachua County - The City of Gainesville believes redevelopment is one of the most effective ways to breathe new life into deteriorated areas of the city. Through redevelopment, a target area will receive focused attention and financial investment to reverse deteriorating trends, create jobs, revitalize the business climate, rehabilitate and add to the housing stock, and gain active participation and investment by citizens which would not otherwise occur. The City has adopted specific goals, objectives and policies that promote infill and redevelopment as well a Transportation Concurrency Exception Area, Enterprise Zone, and a Community Redevelopment Agency.
  • City of Altamonte Springs, Seminole County - The City of Altamonte Springs is approaching build-out and all vacant land is classified as "infill." The City's comprehensive plan includes goals, objectives, and policies to implement the City's future land use directives including supporting infill and redevelopment activities. The City has developed many incentives to support infill development and to encourage the redevelopment of underutilized parcels including density bonuses, mixed use land use zoning districts, accelerated permit review, and reserved transportation concurrency.

Infill and Redevelopment Resources

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