Thursday, February 02, 2006

is 192 the next Vegas strip?

On a recent trip to central Florida, I couldn't help but realize the glaring new similarities of new development in south Orlando to the worst examples of roadside Americana that I have experienced. It's not just that things are flimsy, covered in Dryvit, and haphazard to each other. It's a fundamental attitude of "Me too!" for every business, outlet, and structure that is within x miles of the first attraction of note-Walt Disney World. But without the oversight of the Disney infrastructure, Joe business owner is stuck doing what he can afford on his own site, which can be a alligator petting zoo, an orange store inside a giant orange, or a 26 story Sheridan resort. It's whatever one can build cheaply, that's the only rule.

Before I get lost in a world of timeshare sales and chain restaurants though, I wanted to reinforce that there are different ways that we experience these areas. And I don't mean locals vs. tourists either. Sure, it's possible that many visitors go to the happiest place on earth and don't care what the impact, or "footprint" to put it another way, is. But it's not insignifcant. Think of the people who staff these resorts, drive the busses, and live and die on the sales they push onto unsuspecting tourists of flowers, glowing bracelets, oranges, timeshares, and golf garbage. I know it's an industry, but it's one built on adjacency and distraction. I would recommed the book Married to the Mouse for more on the impact on nearby residents.

The real vacation for some, and life for many, is the retail strips and absolute rule of sprawl.

I could see in the coming years route 192, which runs E/W, to be more and more overrun by the symbols of American corporate ownership, and eventually transforming into a destination all of its own. Compare Las Vegas Blvd. of 20 years ago to today's. You can see similar trends in land value on the strip vs. that immediately nearby. The value falls off immensely within a few miles of Disney World. In my recent trip, also, I saw local residents crusing the road, from mile marker 8 to mile 10, the most densely settled area. Convertibles and chopped Civics were the most common sight. So, what is land worth, and why does my round of golf cost $139 on a weekday? Answers that I just don't have.

Next time: The pattern of Disney hotels, an atrium with two 3 story wings enclosing a courtyard. Insert zebra/tree/geyser/bonfire/christmas tree, repeat.