When Isabella Falcon was growing up, she looked forward to spending her Saturday nights at the movies on Main Street in Miami Lakes.
“We’d see a movie and eat ice cream after,” Falcon, 19, said, adding that she pictures herself living in her hometown in the future, since it “has everything, but it’s not too suburban.”
Those small-town, homey vibes are exactly what the town founders envisioned when the area was incorporated 15 years ago.
“I think we’ve exceeded what we anticipated 15 years ago,” Mayor Michael Pizzi said.
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On Saturday, Dec. 19, residents, town officials and others will mark Miami Lakes’ 15th anniversary with a celebration in Miami Lakes Park West. (The celebration was originally set for Saturday, Dec. 5, but rescheduled because of rain.)
The family of retired U.S. Sen. Bob Graham began developing Miami Lakes in the early 1960s. Residents voted to incorporate into a town in late 2000. More than 30,000 residents now live in Miami Lakes, according to the town website.
Pizzi said he’s proud of how far the town has come in its short history.
“So, 15 years ago our Town Hall was the size of my office,” Pizzi said, looking around his current Town Hall office. “When I walk into our council meetings today I still get giddy, I still get a sense of wonder. I really feel so happy that we’re here and we’ve managed to improve people’s lives.”
While Pizzi was on the team who worked to incorporate the town years ago, Councilman Manny Cid was in high school at Barbara Goleman High Senior High.
Cid says that the town owes a lot of where it is now to its founders, and for him, a long-time resident, maintaining the founders’ vision is a priority.
“To me it’s extremely personal,” Cid said. “The quality of life I enjoyed, I want them to enjoy some of that.”
Cid and his family moved to Miami Lakes in the early 1990s. He jokes that back then there were “definitely more cows,” in the town.
“When I was 13 one of the treats for me was if I had good grades and I was good that week my mom would let me ride my bike from my house to the Burger King, and ride all the way to the Blockbuster and rent a movie,” he says smiling.
And, yes, Cid still rides his bike around town every now and then.
Monica Estupinan’s children have a similar experience, playing outside and hanging out with his friends.
“Everything around here is beautiful,” said Estupinan, 33, who became a “Miami Laker” about five years ago. “In my neighborhood we all know each other. The kids play with each other outside; it’s safe.”
Peter Llaguno, who moved to Miami Lakes in 1992, says he enjoys the consistency of the town’s mood and feel in that time.
“Nothing has changed,” Llaguno said. “I know my neighbors, I talk to my neighbors, I have fun with my neighbors.”
Llaguno had originally intended to live in Kendall, but right before moving day Hurricane Andrew hit. He ended up in Miami Lakes.
He moved into an apartment complex off Cow Pen Road, which he compared to the television show Melrose Place.
“We all interacted with each other,” Llaguno said.
For Cid, he hopes Miami Lakes maintains its small-town charms in the years to follow, while still progressing.
“I think the next stage in Miami Lakes is reinvesting into our community, into the aesthetics, making sure it’s beautiful,” Cid said. “I am very proud of my town. In the next 15 years I think we will be the best example of a small town in Miami.”