Rick Cole's Weekly Message

CNU Members, Board Members, and Staff:

Last week I finished up my Florida sojourn with a visit to Seaside and two adjacent developments on the Emerald Coast, Alys Beach and Rosemary BeachIt was my first visit to Seaside, the iconic town that Time Magazine called “the most astonishing design achievement of its era, and one might hope, the most influential.”

You can find my impressions of Seaside (An Everyday Town of Extraordinary Impact) over at Public Square, CNU’s blog, edited by Rob Steuteville. I’m committed to write more about what I learned in Florida about the evolution of New Urbanist developments and will be sharing those in the weeks ahead.

Walking tour of Rollins College with Winter Park Mayor Phil Anderson (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)

Today, I want to talk about chapters.

We have nineteen of them – but not all are currently active. Chapters thrive on in-person meetings and events, so the pandemic has taken a toll on local activism. It takes consistent effort to persist through the tough times we’ve endured, especially since chapter volunteers lead busy professional and personal lives.

Yet meetings with our leaders in Tampa Bay and Orlando inspire me with confidence about the strength and importance of our grassroots. They are key components of CNU Florida, our strongest state chapter. For our movement to meet the moment on ClimateEquity and the vital issues of our time, dedicated volunteers like the ones I met with will be the ones who will make the greatest impact.

New Urbanists have always thought globally, but we act locally. Whether it is zoning code reform, stopping mindless freeway expansion, pushing for complete streets or practicing community-based economic development, chapters on the ground provide the fulcrum for making a difference. 

For three decades, our annual Congress has been the hallmark of our movement. And that will continue as we plan for the best ever Congress in Charlotte next May. But we need to be organizing, advocating, teaching and advancing the cause of New Urbanism week in and week out. There is strength in numbers, strength in diversity, strength in coming together to reclaim our cities and towns for walkable urbanism.

In Downtown Winter Park with CNU-Florida Chair Rick Geller and Rollins College Professor Bruce Stephenson (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)

If you used to be active in a local chapter, we need you back! If you’ve never been active, we need you now! If there is no chapter in your city or state, start one! It’s not as hard as you think – we all know half a dozen people who share our passion for the architecture of community – invite them or dinner or drinks and get organized! We’ll be happy to help . . .

That’s what the locals in New Port Richey are going to do after my visit last week. The advice I gave them was from Booker T. Washington: “Cast down your buckets where you are!” They want to join the growing CNU-Florida network and make a difference in their hometown. I hope we’ll all be inspired by their example!

As always, I welcome your feedback!

 Rick Cole's signature

CNU Executive Director