Gonzalez, the West Palm architect, emphasized that the streets on which all winning blocks are situated share elements common to traditional urban neighborhoods: a relatively dense, compact mix of places to live, work, shop and eat, and places for culture and entertainment, all easy to traverse on foot.
I hope this will help people to focus on whats good in our megalopolis. I hope this will help people who are designing new projects to get a clue, he said.
Above all, jurors said, winning blocks make capacious, attractive accommodations for pedestrians, and with the possible exception of Calle Ocho put them first, taking measures to slow down or limit motorized traffic.
Nowhere is that more true than in the Española Way Spanish Village, where motor scooters share the narrow street with pedestrians but no car parking is allowed after dark, effectively keeping out auto traffic.
Jurors said that sense of safety, in combination with the warm, traditional architecture, cafe-lined sidewalks, intimate sense of scale, the warren of passageways and interior patios that connect the buildings, and shady awnings and street trees, make Espanola Way an irresistible draw for tourists and locals.
However, like all the winning blocks all, by South Florida standards, old places Española Way experienced years of decline, especially as South Floridians decamped for the suburbs.
They were very vibrant blocks that went down and came back, Parks said. Its the story of a comeback.
In the early 1980s, Clematis, the historic spine of downtown West Palm, was a desolate, rundown place. City codes prohibited sidewalk cafes, recalled Gonzalez, whose architecture firm has been on the street for years. Planners, meanwhile, focused on moving cars through as quickly as possible, giving people few reasons to linger.
Transforming streets like Clematis requires vision and changes in both zoning codes and attitudes, Gonzalez and other jurors said.
What I learned from this exercise is that design really matters, Dover said. The streets that rose to the top have the basic things right. If you want to allow for prosperity and not pave over the Everglades, we need to make more streets that have these characteristics. When we get people close together, we get all sorts of good things.