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Dade growth is slow but certain

Miami-Dade's population continues to grow at roughly the national average, the U.S. Census Bureau says in a report released today. But county planners expect that growth rate to accelerate.


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New U.S. Census estimates show Miami-Dade's population continuing to grow slowly, but planners see a potential boom on the horizon as developers dig into South Dade farmland and urban lots.

Today's 2003 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau say Miami-Dade's population is about 2.3 million and is gaining about 25,000 people a year -- a rate of just over 1 percent. That's an average growth rate for the United States, with Miami-Dade remaining the eighth-largest county in the country.

To the north, Broward County's growth has slowed somewhat from the blistering pace of 38,000 new people a year, reached two years ago, to about 27,000 last year. It slipped from 14th to 15th in size among U.S. counties.

Immigrants continue to drive Miami-Dade's increase, with an average of 117 arriving in the county every day, according to the census estimates. Every day, an average of 90 Miami-Dade residents move to other parts of the United States, 92 are born and 54 die, according to the annual estimates for 2003.

Based on finished housing units, Miami-Dade planners project that the county will continue to grow at a rate of about 30,000 people a year. But thousands of new homes are under construction, and experts suspect the population growth might accelerate.

''We used to say in the inner city that there's no more capacity, it's all built up,'' said Chuck Blowers, a county planner. ``But now we're seeing little apartment buildings torn down and 500, 1,000 units going [in Miami]. So we're having to adjust our thinking.''

Michael Cannon, a real estate consultant whose column runs in The Herald, said he believes the annual census figures are an underestimate of current growth.

''Residential sales are at an all time-high,'' he said. ``The market is still moving, money is still churning.''

Cannon said he believes the county's annual population growth is closer to 40,000.


The coming boom is hard to quantify, since so many units are still incomplete. But planners can see the signs in Homestead, Miami, South Miami and the fringes of the Everglades.

South Miami-Dade is projected to double in population in the next 10 years, according to preliminary county estimates. About 10,000 homes are under construction south of 184th Street.

Increases of up to 50 percent are projected in Northeast Miami, Homestead, the Dadeland area and the far west suburbs by 2015. But those numbers are based on finished units, so they could grow dramatically when current construction wraps up, planners said.

But Blowers says planners can't be sure yet what the real impact will be on the population.

''There's a bit of a herd mentality going on with developers,'' he said. ``It's popular, but I'm not convinced yet that the houses will attract people. Once people get down there and see that it's 45 minutes or an hour to drive downtown, and when you get more development it will be longer than that . . . we'll have to see.''


Cannon says he believes the market does exist for the new housing, from a variety of groups: immigrants, part-time residents and people who already live in Miami-Dade.

He called trying to calculate the marketplace ``frustrating. There is no reliable data today that one can lean on.''

Cannon said he was able to predict a real estate crash in the early 1980s by two measures: new telephone hookups for people in apartments and condos and new Florida Power & Light hookups.

But now people use cellular telephones, and FP&L no longer furnishes meter hookup information.

''Nobody is counting all the trees in the forest because there is no way of counting them,'' Cannon said.

According to the census, one Florida county is among the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the nation: Flagler County, where one in five people is a new resident since 2000. The tiny beachfront county, sandwiched between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach, saw its population mushroom by 12,374 to 62,206 -- a 24 percent increase from 2000 to 2003.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that four of the 10 fastest-growing counties in America are in Atlanta's suburbs, where sprawl has created some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. The fastest-growing county in the nation is Loudoun County in northern Virginia. It grew by about 31 percent, the census said.

Herald staff writer Erika Bolstad contributed to this report.

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Overcrowded Broward lowers the population boom

As slower growth continues in Broward, planners warn not to underestimate the number of new residents in coming decades.


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More people moved to Broward than to any other Florida county over the past three years, but new U.S. Census estimates also show the county's heady days of rampant development continue to wane.

From 2000 to 2003, Broward added 108,329 people, giving it the 10th-highest number of new residents in the country, and making the county home to 1.7 million people, according to estimates released Thursday.

But as Broward builders run out of room for new construction, the county has lost its place as one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States.

Broward's blistering annual pace of 38,097 new residents, a peak reached three years ago, slowed to 26,983 last year. Broward has also slipped from the 14th- to 15th-largest county in the United States. In Miami-Dade, population continues to grow slowly, but planners see a potential boom as developers dig into South Dade farmland and urban lots with a water view. Miami-Dade's population is about 2.3 million, and it remains the eighth-largest county in the nation.

In recent years, as the dust of nearby new construction has floated over the Atlantic and the Everglades, planners and developers have returned to older neighborhoods.

''Broward County is entering a new life cycle,'' said Cynthia Chambers, head of the county's Office of Urban Planning and Redevelopment. ``We've gone from youth to adolescence to middle age. Now we're looking at things like needing face-lifts.''

Broward continues to grow. Women gave birth to 23,120 babies last year; 16,794 people moved to Broward from other countries; and 3,986 moved from other states, and other Florida counties -- especially Miami-Dade.

But Broward's building boom, fueled by the migration of Miami-Dade refugees from Hurricane Andrew, is being overtaken by other U.S. counties in the suburbs of Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas. Other Florida counties with more open spaces are also catching up; nine Florida counties are among the nation's fastest-growing.

Among the top 10 fastest-growing counties is Flagler County, where one in five people are new residents since 2000. The small beachfront county, sandwiched between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach, saw its population mushroom 24 percent to 62,206 from 2000 to 2003.

''We have been found,'' said Walter Fufidio, Flagler County's planning and zoning director.

Fufidio, who was the planning and zoning director in both Margate and Miramar until 1995, knows well the pitfalls of rapid growth. His county already is struggling with the same crowded schools and roads that people in Broward know so well.

But Flagler County has taken one important step : voters approved two bond issues recently to buy open space and environmentally sensitive land before it's gobbled up by developers. They know the growth will continue, Fufidio said, mainly because of the county's beautiful beaches.

But even as other counties experience Broward-like growth, planners warn not to underestimate the number of people who could still move to Broward County. They've been forecasting for several years that as many as a million new people could move here between 2000 and 2030, and those estimates still hold.

Forget about cookie-cutter housing developments, which already have blanketed nearly every available stretch of the county's once-open land. High-rise condominiums are the new growth industry, especially in downtown Fort Lauderdale and along the beaches.

''We're at the levee,'' said Jim Hickey, an associate planner with Broward County. ``With Broward not having much land at all left, redevelopment will have to be one of the solutions.''

Another 7,500 to 8,000 people are expected to move to downtown Fort Lauderdale in the next several years, said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle.

He is part of a City Commission that has put the brakes on development in recent years, but believes the city can accommodate all the new people if it concentrates on developing the FEC railroad corridor as a metro line between Broward cities.

''It's every city's dream to have a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week downtown,'' Naugle said. ``But we have to be cautious we don't develop too much, so it doesn't get too congested.''

County and city planners will have to be smart about the next development phase, Chambers said. They need to make sure, for example, that redevelopment occurs in places where roads and schools already exist.

Control over redevelopment has touched off a political battle between Broward's 30 cities and the County Commission, which is trying to avoid ceding its land-use planning authority to cities who want more control over the density of their neighborhoods.

''The numbers are down, but people are still coming to south Florida,'' Hickey said. ``People are coming for the lifestyle, the weather, the culture. We don't see that changing in the foreseeable future.''

Herald staff writer Tim Henderson contributed to this report.

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