Strong Growth and Progress on 2019 Horizon

South Dade and the Upper Keys show signs of increased business presence and strong housing market

When Mayor Jeff Porter recently gave his final “State of the City” address in Losner Park in downtown Homestead, the video, “Soaring Higher”, tracked the resilience of a city and surrounding communities devastated by Hurricane Andrew and later a nation-wide real estate “bust” that was particularly painful in Florida.

When Hurricane Irma tore through last year and farmers face myriad impacts to their livelihood, there is little certain dynamics are being shifted. As a broad measure, however, 2018 serves to show both strength and growth.

For Homestead, in another year without increasing millage rate, the City Manager George Gretsas provided an update of significant noteworthy accomplishments and plans:

• Property values increased by 9.5% with the crime rate lowest in twenty-two years.

• Everyone who passes along Krome Avenue sees the construction of Homestead Station, a major development for downtown that will feature a Showbiz Cinemas family entertainment center with a movie theater, bowling alley, video arcade, and a parking garage.

• The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) option was approved by Miami Dade County.

• In the three years since the renovated Seminole Theatre re-opened its doors, they reached the 65,000 mark for patrons who have attended performances and other events.

• An additional dimension of downtown development will be the transformation of Losner Park from a small open-air amphitheater to a

multi-use destination park inspired by neighboring National Parks with native landscaping and water features. Construction scheduled to begin in 2019 will enable Losner Park to continue to be the ideal place for

residents and tourists to gather for live performances, fairs, and special events.

• Miami Dade College-Homestead Campus exercised its option with the City to expand its campus to plan a $36 million, four-story building which will include a Student Center and Entrepreneurial Center downtown.

• The East Campbell Drive traffic improvement plan was completed including additional lanes and the new northbound ramp onto the turnpike.

• SW 328th Street is currently being widened to four lanes.

• Twenty-five years to the day after Hurricane Andrew made landfall, the new Orange Bowl Field at Harris Field Park boasts a new scoreboard, new artificial turf, new fencing, new goal posts, and a new sound system.

• Renovations at Phichol Williams Community Center and Roby George Park were also completed.

• In the Park of Commerce, Dunham Bush broke ground on a new facility that will create more than 100 jobs over the next five years.

• 6,239 permits were issued in the last year for new development.  Throughout the City, thirty-five new dining and retail businesses have opened.

• A new wastewater pump station is nearing completion; a needed project which increases the City’s capacity to safely treat wastewater as Homestead expands.

• Homestead Public Services (HPS) Energy is participating in the Florida Municipal Solar Project, a large-scale joint effort to help HPS increase its power capacity through renewable energy; a smart move for both our community and the environment.

(The “Soaring Higher” video can be seen at

As Mayor Porter said, “Thanks to my colleagues on the City Council, City Manager George Gretsas, and the city staff working together, Homestead is stronger than ever.”

For Mayor Otis Wallace of Florida City, he and the City’s Commissioners were sworn in January 23, 2018 and they haven’t had time to slow down. “Despite everything else going on, what I still get the most questions about is when the Waffle House will open. They’re planning for February.”

In other development, three new hotels will be added. Tru by Hilton is under construction next to the existing Hilton Homes2Suite and this will be the first Tru in the area. According to their site, “Say hello to a brand-new hotel experience from Hilton that's vibrant, affordable and young-at-heart. It's energetic, yet relaxing and comfortable. It's familiar, and it's also unexpected. It's completely unprecedented, it's uniquely Tru.” In another first for Florida City, it will be six stories high to accommodate the ninety rooms. The more familiar brand of a Fairfield Inn with 133 rooms will be close to the Holiday Inn. A new Sleep Inn, also six stories, will have ninety-three rooms.

On the residential side, east around the Outlet Mall will soon have D.R. Horton’s 152 single family dwellings and then Amber Key with 249 rental apartments. To the west on Redland Road, approximately 144 townhouse units will be for sale.

The Mayor is experienced and realistic about growth. “Development brings more traffic and that’s always a concern. Phase One of widening Lucy Street to Highway 1 is in progress. Phase Two will widen west out to Redland Road.” He also has news for those who have heard about work on Palm Drive. Permits and contractors are in place to begin later in January. The canal will go into a culvert to allow for paving over and widening to five lanes. Two left-turn lanes leading to the Keys will help alleviate the current bottleneck of a single left turn lane.

“We do still want rail for transit,” Mayor Wallace acknowledges, “but that’s out of our control. One way to reduce northbound traffic is to create good-paying, sustainable jobs in Florida City. That will be our focus in the coming year.”

Whether you’re turning right to make your way on south into Key Largo and the Upper Keys, most businesses and residents were able to recover from Hurricane Irma in 2018. This has not been true in all areas and the Monroe County website maintains important information about on-going efforts as well as goals reached. ( Aside from the mountains of storm debris that once lined the Overseas Highway, many canals were virtually impassable. At nearly a cost of $50 million, the half-way mark of clearing 172 canals has been reached as of mid-December.

With scuba diving as a long-time draw, dive operators spread the word that the reefs are as alluring as ever. Non-profit organizations such as Reef Education Environmental Foundation (REEF) and the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) continue their important programs of ocean conservation, educating people and offering volunteer opportunities to help preserve the amazing ecosystem underwater.

Although no one can know exactly what 2019 will bring, it could surpass 2018 as a busy year.