Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Dr. Andrew M. Wood

Abstract

Rooted in the theories of urban entrepreneurialism, this dissertation employs a political economy framework as a means of analyzing urban governance and economic development in the contemporary US city. This case study of Orlando adds to our understanding of how entrepreneurial narratives are being applied to transportation infrastructure projects in pursuit of local economic development.

The empirical case study explores the relationship between planning narratives, urban governance and economic development in the establishment of the SunRail commuter rail system in central Florida. I present the political history of economic development and the role of local boosters in shaping the sociospatial distribution of urban infrastructure and public investment in Central Florida. Utilizing a qualitative research methodology, the case study is based on a series of extended interviews with transportation planners, urban policymakers and community leaders in the Orlando area. The empirical data was complemented with official documents and archival records concerning the planning of transit-oriented developments along the SunRail system.

This research presents the current efforts of Central Florida boosters to apply governance approaches to reshape the urban form and to direct the ensuing flows of capital investment through the restructuring of the region’s transportation infrastructure and employing planning narratives that draw heavily on creating amenity growth strategies. Local boosters expect that by providing dense development corridors through the region, including transit-oriented development centers, the city will have met the pre-conditions for attracting private capital investment. Specifically, local leaders are seeking to attract investment by the type of firms that will provide high-wage jobs to the region to balance the glut of low-wage service sectors jobs found in the region’s theme park industry. In the case of Central Florida, early private investment in SunRail adjacent property has come from local firms that tend to have a high level of local fixity and existing investments in the Orlando market.

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