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What makes Venice “paradise” and how can we preserve and build on it?  In the last of a series celebrating John Nolen, the 19th century landscape architect who created our 1926 city plan, Rollins’ Professor R. Bruce Stephenson will lead a lively talk at 7 p.m. tonight at the Venice Community Center about his new book John Nolen: Landscape Architect and City Planner. The lecture is free; so too is an exhibit about Nolen at the Venice Museum & Archives.

What Stephenson has to say is relevant to where our city is headed. City officials and residents are revamping the master plan for the city—a document that outlines what the city will look like as it develops. We are having an ongoing debate about the lack of affordable housing; where the recently shuttered Venice Public Library should be rebuilt; and we are facing unprecedented growth, with about 6,000 houses planned and another 15,000 just outside the city limits.

What would Nolen say about all of this?  You’ll have to come to the talk tonight and ask Stephenson, director of the Department of Environmental Studies and Sustainable Urbanism at Rollins. Few academics have studied Nolen and his Venice plan as thoroughly.

The lecture series has been part of a Venice Museum & Archives’ celebration of Nolen, who brought European-style, walkable communities to the United States in the early 20th century. Venice embodies Nolen’s most realized plan. City planners and academics regularly make pilgrimages to Venice, which Nolen designed in the early 1920s, to experience what they call an example of one of the best-planned cities in the United States.

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