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Blog Article Details
Date: 07/10/2011
Title: Orange expected to lead growth next 30 years
Emptiness is what people see today when they drive through the monogrammed iron gates of Lake Drawdy Reserve in east Orange County. There are paved cul-de-sacs, lakefront lots and fancy frosted-glass streetlights. But nobody lives there.

Thirty years from now, they will likely see 28 upscale homes occupied by young families, residents from abroad, refugees from coastal counties, in-migrants from other states and well-to-do retirees.

"It's going to have a lot of young families who can stay here for the balance of their lives," said Peter Gardner, vice president of Condev Homes, the subdivision's builder. "Orlando is still a very young city compared to Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. It's one of the few areas that continues to grow."

Orange County is expected to lead the state in growth for the next 30 years, adding nearly 670,000 residents by 2040, according to the latest projections from theUniversity of Florida.

The new projections are the first based on the 2010 census. They show Orange County outpacing Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties, while Osceola County is predicted to add more people than Broward County.

"The expectation is that eventually we will get out of this recession and things will return more to normal," said Stan Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at theUniversity of Florida.

To Orange County, normal means about a third of its growth will come from the natural increase of more people being born than dying. Central Florida's population has always been relatively young compared with that of the state, where only 18 percent of population growth comes from births over deaths. Some of this is because of the area's tourism-based jobs, which attract young people, and its growing Hispanic population, which tends to have larger families, Smith said.

Those two forces also are at work in the county expected to have the second-largest population increase: Miami-Dade. Natural increase will fuel 60 percent of the growth in that South Florida county, expected to add 654,000 more residents by 2040.

"It's part of Miami-Dade being a Hispanic county with a relatively younger age structure," Smith said.

Immigration also plays an important role in Miami-Dade's growth, with a substantial number of its new residents arriving from abroad, Smith said. With 2.5 million people, Miami-Dade will rank only 43rd among the state's 67 counties in terms of its growth rate, despite adding more than a half-million people in the next 30 years.

On the opposite end is Pinellas County, which is expected to lose population during the next three decades because its retirement-age population produces more deaths than its young people create babies.

In Central Florida, Lake County — home to the megaretirement development The Villages — is the only county that relies solely on new residents for its growth.

In Broward County, population growth has been slowing for a number of years, while Osceola has been one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. Osceola — with about a seventh of Broward's 1.7 million residents — has plenty of land for development, while Broward has the second-highest population density in the state behind Pinellas, Smith said.

Orange County also will benefit in the future from the continual movement of the state's population from coastal areas into interior counties, said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith.

Florida, in recent decades, has begun to mirror California, where the expense of living in Los Angeles and San Francisco spurred growth inland, Snaith said.

"As the cost of living in the coastal areas becomes more expensive, that squeezes population growth toward lower cost-of-living areas," he said.

In South Florida, less expensive Lee County, home to Fort Myers, is projected to increase by 468,000 residents in the next three decades — ahead of Palm Beach County — as the sixth-fastest-growing county in the state.

Snaith said theOrlando area also will benefit from the diversification of its economy spurred by the creation of the Medical City concentration of hospitals, health care and research facilities aroundLake Nona. The approval of SunRail also will create construction jobs and encourage development along the commuter-rail line. UCF also is emerging as a center of growth with its research and large enrollment, Snaith said.

Both Smith and Snaith caution that, although Orange County will lead the state in growth, it won't be the kind of high growth the region, and the state, experienced in previous decades. The overall aging of America will reduce mobility, as older people tend to move less often than younger people, and the birthrates also will decline. Competition from other states for retirees and workers will further cut into Florida's growth.

"Between 1970 and 2010, we averaged 280,000 to 320,000 more people a year," Smith said. "We're projecting that we will be down to 213,000 people a year between 2035 and 2040."

A slower rate of growth should be coupled with a greater effort to create a more condensed urban area that relies less on the automobile, said Phil Laurien, executive director of the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council.

"It should be more compact. It should be more urban. It should be less low-density, auto-dependent sprawl," Laurien said. "It should be building up as opposed to building out.

When he looks into the future, Laurien fears what the builders of Lake Drawdy Reserve and the other unfinished subdivisions along Lake Pickett Road envision for the future: more houses on large lots farther from the urban core.

"The failure of the large developments on the edge was the first thing we saw with the recession and $4-a-gallon gas," he said. "We should be warned against more far-flung, auto-dependent, low-density, residence-only subdivisions.

The recession stalled the sprawl, but the sound of the housing market beginning to rebound is the dull thud of sod being dropped on the bare earth of the first house being built in Lake Drawdy Reserve.
 
Source: Orlando Sentinel
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