Smart Growth Illustrated
Abacoa, Jupiter, Florida
Abacoa, jointly developed by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Cypress Realty, demonstrates how compact community design and open space restoration can preserve south Florida habitat by protecting and restoring riparian and endangered species habitat on site while reducing pressure for development near the Everglades. The 2,055-acre, mixed-use community will preserve 393 acres of land for open space. This includes a 260-acre greenway that protects the natural environment of wetlands and pine woods, home to a diversity of wildlife, including birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Sixty acres of the greenway are set aside as endangered gopher tortoise habitat. In addition to providing wildlife habitat and recreational and educational opportunities for residents, the greenway serves as a unique storm water management system for the entire community. The value of Abacoa's open space was demonstrated by a 2001 survey of residents on the use of the greenway. While only 56 percent of the survey's respondents had actually used the greenway, 98 percent said the greenway was important to them. The remaining open space in Abacoa includes numerous neighborhood parks and greens for community gathering and recreation.
In the remaining 1,660 acres, the project is expected to contain an intensive mix of land uses. This includes as much as 5,800 residential units, 1 million square feet of retail space, 1.9 million square feet of office space, a spring training baseball stadium and practice facilities, an 18-hole golf course, and a proposed 130-room hotel with conference space. Civic uses include campuses for Florida Atlantic University and Honors College, as well as two public schools. This intensive use of land in this compact community located in the eastern part of south Florida will help reduce demand for development further west that impinges on the Everglades ecosystem.
Abacoa contains a wide variety of housing types including large- and small-lot single-family detached homes, townhouses, condominiums, free-standing apartments, and apartments above the town center retailers. Front porches, sidewalks, bike paths, and narrow streets make the neighborhoods and the town center more accessible while reducing the number of cars on the road. In addition, the greenway trails connect neighborhoods with pedestrian paths, and a free weekend trolley bus brings residents to and from the town center, stadium, and Abacoa Plaza.
Work began on the development in 1996. By 2003, about 1,500 units of housing, along with approximately 340,000 square feet of commercial and retail development, had been built, as well as a 3,733-seat movie theater, two public schools, and primary portions of the Florida Atlantic University MacArthur Campus and Honors College.
Abacoa has received national recognition as a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) and has hosted many tours and talks with such organizations as Urban Land Institute, American Planning Association, Walk Florida, and many Florida municipalities.