DPZ CoDesign and Perdido Key Master Plan (Update)

DPZ CoDesign is a Miami-based architecture and town planning firm that was founded in 1980 as Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. by the husband-and-wife team of Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. The firm has offices in in Gaithersburg, Md. and Portland, Ore.

According to Wikipedia, DPZ’s area of practice includes: regional and downtown plans; new towns; urban infill; villages and resort villages; transit-oriented development; suburban retrofits; campuses; housing; affordable housing; and civic buildings. The firm counts over 300 projects built, ranging from individual buildings and small urban infill projects to new communities, regional plans and zoning codes

Duany and Plater-Zyberk are charter members of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) in 1993. In the last decade, DPZ has developed a new model zoning code, called the SmartCode. This is based on an analytical tool called the Transect, which classifies degrees of urbanism within a continuum, from the urban core, through general urban neighborhoods, to rural wilderness.

A key method to their planning is charrette, which DPZ describes on its website:

“The charrette is a dynamic and stimulating process of design. A week-long work session assembles key decision-makers in an iterative design cycle of proposals, feedback and revisions, organizing a complex project quickly. Rapid prototyping ensures informed choices and saves months of sequential coordination. In a private setting or with a public audience, the charrette ensures a comprehensive approach and builds support for the vision.”

DPZ played a major role in helping cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in south Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Duany organized and led the Mississippi Renewal Forum in 2015 that generated redevelopment plans for 11 Mississippi municipalities.

According to archives of several Louisiana newspapers, Duany developed planning codes for Erath, Abbeville and Delcambre through his Acadiana Corridor Charrettes that were funded by the Louisiana Recovery Authority. He also helped develop plans for Lafayette and Arabi in St. Bernard Parish. Duany had projects in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, too.

DPZ developed the plans for several resort towns along 30A in south Walton County—Seaside, Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach.

Duany and Plater-Zyberk have written several books on New Urbanism, two with Jeff Speck, who consulted in the OLF-8 master plan— Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream (2001) and The Smart Growth Manual (2009).

In March 2016, DPZ Partners (another predecessor to DPZ CoDesign) delivered its master plan for Perdido Key. The project director and project manager were Marina Khoury and Mike Welch, respectively. The pair have also led the OLF-8 project for DPZ.

DPZ commissioned two property owners surveys, one in 2011 and the second in 2015, and used the residents’ answers to define the master plan objectives. According to the report, 3,285 surveys were sent out and 766 (24%) were returned. DPZ didn’t survey Beulah residents and business owners for its OLF-8 plan.  SEE UPDATE

Between the two surveys, Doug Underhill defeated Gene Valentino and took over the District 2 commission seat. The change brought less pressure to four-lane to Perdido Key Drive and more residents wanting mixed uses, pedestrian-friendly streets, traffic signals at busy intersections and additional off-site parking.

The design team focused on five “pedestrian sheds” for potential locations of town and neighborhood centers.

• Site A: Generally, at the intersection of Johnson Road with Perdido Key Drive as it curves up north;
• Site B: Generally, along the north side of Perdido Key Drive at the southern end of WCI properties and where the Cocina Village used to exist;
• Site C: On the north side of River Road, facing the intracoastal waterway;
• Site D: At Innerarity Heights; and
• Site E: At and around Flora-Bama.

Five years later, none of the town centers have been developed.

DPZ’s retail analysis reported that there was retail demand for 30 to 40 new stores and restaurants that would increase the gross sales to $28.2 million by 2020. Retail and restaurants have struggled in the Perdido area, even before COVID.

The Perdido Key Master Plan has come up three times since 2016:

In August 2018, the board was upset that Underhill had blocked opening to public access land the county owned next to the Crab Trap. Underhill argued the land was needed for the county’s habitat conservation plan and the county should buy other property closer to the core of the island, as called for under the Perdido Key Master Plan.

In October 2018, Democratic challenger Scott Trotter alleged Underhill was in the pocket of Perdido Key developers who wanted to build a town center under the Perdido Key Master Plan. Underhill defeated Trotter, 56%-44%.

In September 2019, the Board of County Commissioners voted to swap the Florida Department of Transportation  2.5 miles of Beulah Road for 6.2 miles of Perdido Key Drive. The negotiations began in May 2018. Some felt that the swap would make it easier to implement the Perdido Key Master Plan.

Update – 2/17/21: DPZ did conduct neighborhood surveys of Nature Trail, Bell Ridge Forest, Blackberry Ridge, The Residences at Nature Creek, Forage Estates, Brunson Meadows, Daniels Grove and Rock Ridge. The members of NAIOP, the commercial real estate development qssociatiom, were also surveyed. Neither results have been published by DPZ…yet. We have submitted a public record request.



2 thoughts on “DPZ CoDesign and Perdido Key Master Plan (Update)

  1. The only thing on the PKMP is the bicycle path that conveniently runs right up their somewhere near Doug’s house. The proposed roundabout, according to the PKMP, is in a place where it has been deemed least effective. Yep, that’s in the master plan so it’s not going to happen. The county is wasting a bunch of money on a design plan that is not in accordance to the master plan (that cost even more than the roundabout plan). There were 3 different times stated for the meeting on this roundabout (same day, different times – there was one meeting at one time. Three different times were put out to the public).

    He is still telling everyone in his district that the intersection of Sorrento and Gulfbeach/Innerarity is going to be “fixed”. He was able to buy some time on this by encouraging a Circle K on that corner. Can’t do anything with that construction going on. Even more peculiar is the fact that the project is not listed anywhere (FDOT) website, Escambia County website) . When I called to inquire I was told basically that it just hadn’t been put on the website (by FDOT), it’s still not there and it’s been months since my inquiry. If anyone has any up to date information I’d be very interested in getting an update from you.

  2. Rick, what a lot of people truly don’t understand is that Doug has always been fueled by developer money. He was put in that seat by it, they have continued to fund his campaigns heavily through direct financing and PAC money, and his involvement in OLF8 to begin with was for developers–not for the “people of Beulah.”

    There’s nothing illegal about that, and nothing unethical on the side of the developers. It’s Doug’s hypocrisy with his continual diatribes against his fellow commissioners, pretending they are bought and paid for–and accusing them of outright corruption–that knows no bounds. Doug is the most bought and paid for elected official this town has seen in a long time. He has always been, and will always be, a glorified bag man for other people to make money off of, and to try to shore up his own past financial disasters, even back when his own contractor’s license was active. The paperwork shenanigans that went on during that period are legendary. Doug chalked it up to “scrivener’s errors” when what actually happened was he broke the law, but was not held accountable for it.

    As I understand it, Interim County Administrator Larry Newsom terminated DPZ because he felt that they were getting too involved in the politics of the two-lane versus four-lane on PK Drive. Doug was heavily funded in his campaign against Gene Valentino in order to deliver, among other things, bringing them back. After Doug was elected, he called Dr. Joe Mirabile to the podium one night at a BCC meeting to represent him as an expert on the Perdido Key Master Plan. Dr. Mirabile is the major landowner on the east side of the island, and has presented his pre-app on a Town Center, residential development, and towers near the National Seashore around the intersection of PK Drive and Johnson Beach Road. The reason Doug is so desperate to hold Beach Access 4 as mitigation is to offset the mouse houses that will be needed for that development. Dr. Mirabile is the cofounder, with Fred Hemmer, of the Integrity in Leadership PAC that funneled tens of thousands of dollars into Doug’s campaign in the month leading up to the primary against Alan McMillan.

    Beach Access 4 has nothing to do with the PKMP. In fact, one of the mandates of that plan is *increased* public beach access, which he has not only failed at miserably but worked at counter purposes to his entire time in office. You mentioned the parking mandate; he has, in fact, closed down parking (some with the assistance of Dan Brown) and just recently got an ordinance passed that will hinder parking even more. He held off ANY parking out of the Multi Use Path planning, because, of course, he doesn’t intend that to be for day visitor use. (He has recently started singing a different tune on that; we’ll see.) He wants to be able to ride a golf cart around on those paths unhindered by the storied “Seven Families From Alabama,” the moniker he uses to malign day visitors and condo renters to the Key.

    Doug is going to keep doing what he is paid to do: hence his stubborn allegiance to a plan for OLF8 that isn’t even on the table any more. What he doesn’t tell voters in District 2 is that we lost 125M in internal DOT funding when he orchestrated that road swap to keep PK Drive 2-lane. Whatever a person’s opinion on the 4-lane debate and the roundabout going in, that money could have been used for Sorrento. Instead, he lost the 25K for that project also at a recent TPO meeting. This is not just a bad traffic concern; it is a horrible safety issue for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians when people had worked for decades to bring the project that the 125M was slated for–yet for some reason, he threw the baby out with the bathwater on Sorrento Drive, contrary to staff recommendations at the time.

    There is nothing he will not do to adhere to his instructions from the developers who fund his campaigns. That’s why the only portion of his district he cares about is Perdido Key; it’s not time to develop the west side yet, apparently, unless he is locating places for tiny homes. Instead, he is focused on how he’s going to finagle gifting away the Main Street waterfront out of District 2. That will be a heck of a dance, given the populations of the current 5 districts. But he’s a guy that was born to dance for his supper, so it’s about to get real interesting.

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