As the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew approaches, the people of South Dade are reminded of the destruction and havoc the monstrous storm caused in our community. As Ground Zero for one of the costliest natural disasters in the nation’s history, the impact on our area’s economy was staggering.
Andrew damaged much of South Dade’s infrastructure including some of our most iconic landmarks and economic engines. We all remember the hand-painted signs, proclaiming “We will Survive” that homeowners and businesses displayed as they began the long rebuilding process.
Twenty-five years later, it’s clear that South Dade did not just survive — in many ways our communities have thrived since the Aug. 24, 1992, storm altered our lives and the place we call home.
▪ The 5-year-old South Dade Performing Arts Center in Cutler Bay now serves as an exciting cultural hub for the south end of the Miami-Dade County.
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▪ The Redland’s agriculture industry has experienced rebirth with high-demand ornamental plant and tree farms and burgeoning agri-tourism.
▪ The Homestead-Miami Speedway attracts thousands of visitors each year for the prestigious NASCAR national series and, for 17 consecutive years, the Ford Championship Weekend, making the racetrack one of the longest recurring championship sites in all of sports.
▪ Public transit along the South Dixie corridor has been greatly enhanced with the transit way dedicated to bus travel.
▪ Record crowds visit South Dade’s two national parks, Everglades and Biscayne, as eco-tourism continues to grow as an important component of our tourism industry.
▪ Zoo Miami, one of the area’s best known venues, was heavily damaged in the storm. But, today rebuilt and expanded, with new attractions, activities, gardens and wildlife conservation programs, it has joined the ranks of the nation’s top zoological parks.
▪ Miami Dade College’s Homestead campus offers award-winning programs in nursing, aviation, business, and sciences. The School of Nursing has trained more than 50 percent of Miami-Dade’s nurses.
▪ In Homestead, a public-private partnership is developing Homestead Station, an innovative multi-use transit hub and entertainment/retail center as part of an ambitious downtown re-vitalization program that includes the recently restored Seminole Theater, a new City Hall and police headquarters.
▪ The owner of the historic horse track and casino in Hialeah is developing a jai-alai fronton and poker complex in Florida City that promises to bring more visitors to our southernmost municipality.
Today, South Dade (generally considered everything below Kendall Drive) has a stronger sense of community with the advent of new cities. Pre-Andrew, more than half of population lived outside municipal boundaries. An incorporation movement fueled, in part, by residents’ frustrations with local government during the rebuilding process, led to the creation of three additional municipalities — Pinecrest, Cutler Bay, and Palmetto Bay. These municipalities, with enhanced zoning and services, add to our quality of life.
As chair of the Economic Development of South Miami-Dade (EDC), I am proud of what has been achieved, and I believe the region is on the cusp of new and robust economic development.
South Dade’s population growth is outpacing that of the rest of Miami-Dade County (2.68 percent versus 1.45 percent in the last Census) and our residents are significantly younger. In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, development was pushed to the county’s north and western sectors, but today with available land limited in these areas, South Dade is well poised for new growth and prosperity.
South Dade’s diverse communities are ideal locales for business interests offering land zoned for commercial development, affordably priced housing, excellent healthcare facilities, good public/private schools, and numerous institutions of higher learning.
With the support of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and County Commissioners Dennis Moss and Daniella Levine Cava, the EDC recently launched a marketing campaign, South Dade/More to Explore. There is much to experience in South Dade — everything from sports and wildlife to cultural and historic venues. The business landscape includes agriculture, the military, and the hospitality industry along with growing numbers of new entrepreneurs.
We invite people to discover what makes South Dade an exciting place — and, perhaps, even more important, a resilient place that not even mighty Andrew could destroy.
Rene Infante is chair of the Economic Development Council of South Miami-Dade.