Every city faces problems with growth, ranging from sprawl – the expansion of suburban areas away from the central city – to blight, slums and community issues.

Defining growth

Traffic on Interstate 4 travels past the Suntrust Center and the construction site for 55 West, a new residential tower on Church Street.

Every city faces problems with growth, ranging from sprawl – the expansion of suburban areas away from the central city – to blight, slums and community issues. While most of Orlando’s growth has occurred in the modern age of urban planners and design, the city still faces the same problems that plague other cities. Its inner-city areas face continuing economic struggles, the city’s infrastructure needs constant maintenance, the city must decide how to best spend tax-payer money while still providing basic services such as police protection fire services and education, and Orlando has the added stress of handling the millions of tourists that visit the city each year.

However, while some growth issues are consistent from city to city, urban planners will argue that growth varies from place to place. In fact, urban growth trends chance and evolve to meet the needs of each city. Planning historians began studying urban growth patterns during the 1890s and held their first national convention on planning New construction and developments are often the result of pro-growth government policies. issues in Chicago in 1907. At that time, the City Beautiful was the popular urban design trend, which called for a strong sense of aesthetics and design, which would often trump use and reason.

When the Great Depression came in the 1930s, growth patterns shifted from private hands into federal, as the government unleashed Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The New Deal called for the wide-spread construction of public housing and the investment of millions of dollars into national infrastructure.

World War II would be the next great event that would alter urban growth in America. Not only did automobiles become Interestate 4 cuts right through the heart of downtown Orlando, separating the Central Business District from the historically black Paramore neighborhood.popular during this time, but manufacturing jobs for the war effort brought workers into inner-city areas. However, the automobile would have the most lasting impact, because it took middle class white residents out of the central cities and into the suburbs. Because these residents were able to commute, they could live farther away from downtown and not have to hassle with public transportation.

President Eisenhower's Federal Interstate System would also change the way that cities function. The connectivity these new highways provided created a more mobile population, which also encouraged sprawl and a lack of community identity.

Vacant lots such as this one in Orlando's Paramore neighborhood are often the result of federal Urban Renewal programs during the 1960s and 70s. The government would often tear down buildings in hopes that private developmers would rebuild, but often these lots sat empty or were converted into parking lots.

This new-found mobility paved the way for suburban sprawl throughout the 1950s and 60s. Television supported the idea of the single-family home on a large lot, and soon those types of developments began being built in cities across the country.

This type of growth would be the norm until the late 1980s and early 1990s, when New Urbanism became the popular form. New Urbanism called for the creation of new downtown areas in the suburbs to give suburbanites the feel of a traditional downtown without having to actually go downtown. The Paramore neighborhood near downtown Orlando is just one area of the city that struggles with urban growth issues such as blight, degredation and suburbanization.During this time, central cities were garnering a bad reputation because of the press’ heavy emphasis on crime and other urban-related problems.

While New Urbanism is still a popular design form today, in-fill projects are increasingly more common. These types of developments involve empty lots or existing developments that should be redeveloped. Instead of using new land for development, in-fill projects recycle existing development with new, more modern design.