Miami Gardens takes stock of progress 10 years after its founding

Ten years ago, Miami Gardens was an unrealized idea.

Through community meetings and a valiant drive, proponents of incorporation in the large swath of North Miami-Dade convinced property owners to form their own city, in spite of critics who said the predominantly black area could not sustain itself.

“The incorporates of this city stood firm in the face of critics who said we couldn’t do this. But we knew we could, and we did,” Mayor Oliver Gilbert, the city’s second-ever mayor, said at the State of the City address Monday.

Every year, the mayor of Miami Gardens stands before an audience of residents, business owners and dignitaries to give the annual State of the City address.

It’s a tradition.

But this address, the first for Gilbert since his election, was special: It was the tenth anniversary of the city.

Gilbert talked about renovating the city’s aging park infrastructure, enhancing public safety and building a well-founded city for future generations.

The audience responded with “Yes!” and vibrant applause to a speech peppered with biblical references and the city’s successes in recent years.

In 2012, Miami Gardens saw its most successful Jazz in the Gardens, with 63,000 attendees who partied at the two-day fete headlined by R&B and jazz greats. That broke the previous record of 48,000 in 2012.

With the new state-of-the-art city hall to be completed later this year, he said the city will continue its mission to provide quality services. Gilbert called on city employees to always treat residents with respect and dignity.

“We will be friendly first in everything that we do. People may not always receive the answers that they want, but they’re entitled to professionalism and politeness,” he said.

Sometime in the near future, the council will propose to voters a $50 million General Obligation Bond issue.

Gilbert said the average cost for a home valued at $75,000 over the 20-year life of the bond would be $56 per year.

If voters approve the city’s first-ever bond, Gilbert said some of the money would go toward building a senior center dedicated to the community’s older population.

The bond would also pay for a number of upgrades to the city’s parks and pools. Among those upgrades would be a fully equipped culinary institute, a fine arts studio, and a science and technology center.

“This community’s children will not be limited by the traditional sports that are common in urban areas … for every professional football player this community produces, we can produce a gymnast, ballerina and boxer,” said Gilbert. “For every waiter, there can be a chef and restaurateur.”

Gilbert, hitting on a theme of unity, said that whatever dark times the city encounters, “we’re coming through it together. We, Miami Gardens, are coming through it.”

And as for the state of the city: “The state of the city is strong, and it is getting stronger,” he said.