Creating a Stronger Community Through Planned Development

Recently, I had the opportunity to serve as the community and urban designer on another Urban Land Institute (ULI) advisory panel. The City of Port St. Lucie, Florida, asked the panel to develop a master plan for a 1,321-acre, city-owned parcel called the Southern Grove.

Not Just a Retirement Town

Port St. Lucie is located within Florida’s Treasure Coast along the Atlantic Ocean about 50 miles north of West Palm Beach and half way between Miami and Orlando. It is the state’s eighth largest city with a population of over 189,344 in 2018.

The city is a large suburban community that was incorporated less than 60 years go. It was originally marketed as a retirement haven and was systematically divided up into 80,000 quarter-acre lots. Now, it is a community with a diverse population and an average age of 40. In the early 2000s, city leaders looked to the west to diversify its economy and to find the right place for an employment center. They identified the Southern Grove parcel along Interstate 95, as its best location for a future “jobs corridor.”

Stronger Jobs, Stronger Community

The panel was asked to develop a master plan for the Southern Grove study area. The intention was for the panel to provide Port St. Lucie with a vision, goals, and a strategy for the successful development of the study area as an employment center. The intention of the development is to both address the debt concerns on the site, as well as provide well paid job opportunities.

Drawing upon our individual areas of expertise, based on briefing materials provided by the sponsor, and interviews with key stakeholders, the panel developed a conceptual master plan and development strategies for the Southern Grove study area. The plan focused on creating jobs and increasing the quality of life for the entire Port St. Lucie community.

The panel’s key recommendations included:

  • • Port St. Lucie is healthy and has great potential as a city with jobs for its residents.
  • • The city’s number one priority should be to provide a mechanism for job creation and a stronger community.
  • • Planning will be required before action is taken to ensure a result that continues to reap the value of your people, your location, and your property.
  • • A disciplined approach to developing the remaining areas of Port St. Lucie is paramount to achieve the stated goal of job creation and debt mitigation.
  • • There is not a quick solution, but the panel is confident of the long-term value contribution of the study area—both economic and lifestyle.

The final report will be published by ULI.

These sketches are some of the exhibits prepared and used for the presentation to the city. The Southern Grove area plan would include residential, industrial, and entertainment areas to create a vibrant community.