Sun Sentinel - June 24 2004
South Florida's population up by 280,808 since 2000, census says

By Robin Benedick
Staff Writer


The breakneck pace of growth in South Florida continues to slow, yet the area still added almost 80,000 people last year, according to estimates released today by the Census Bureau.

Palm Beach County led the region, gaining 27,973 residents from July 2002 to July 2003. Broward grew by 26,983; Miami-Dade by 24,648. Those numbers are down from 2000, when Broward alone added nearly 40,000 people.

For the second year in a row, no city in South Florida made the top 10 list of the nation's fastest-growing large cities. But Port St. Lucie, a bedroom community about an hour's drive north of West Palm Beach, made its first appearance at No. 6. Cape Coral, near Fort Myers on the west coast, was the only other Florida city at No. 10.

Pembroke Pines and Coral Springs first made the top 10 list in 1996, when their populations reached 100,000. Coral Springs was on the list for two years; Pembroke Pines remained until 2001.

As cities get bigger, their growth rates typically slow because the change is less dramatic, demographers said.

"We're not going to show up on the top 10 charts much anymore," said Dick Ogburn, principal planner for the South Florida Regional Planning Council. "But with Scripps [Research Institute] coming to Palm Beach County and all the growth around Martin and St. Lucie counties, Port St. Lucie is going to absolutely explode off the map."

Just ask Diane Volkart, a Coldwell Banker broker-associate who works in Port St. Lucie, which topped 100,000 people in the 2003 estimates,

"Our biggest customers are from South Florida, and so many of them come up here on the weekends that they stand outside our door waiting to see someone," said Volkart, a 15-year Port St. Lucie resident.

Many tell her they want to move to escape congestion and find a house they can afford. New three-bedroom homes in Port St. Lucie sell for $175,000 to $200,000. Resales cost less. The median price of homes in South Florida is about $300,000, with demand for houses far outpacing supply.

Ogburn expects Miramar to make the nation's top 10 list in a year or two.

The southwest Broward city grew by nearly 24,000 during the past three years, second only to Jacksonville, which added about 38,000 people.

Today, Miramar has likely surpassed 100,000 people to become the fifth city in Broward of that size and the 16th in Florida. The city was only a few thousand shy of that mark in 2003 estimates.

While Broward's building boom has slowed, more people moved to Broward between 2000 and 2003 than to any other Florida county, the census data showed.

Broward added 108,329 people, boosting its total population to 1.7 million. Palm Beach County added about 85,000 people, growing to 1.2 million. Miami-Dade grew by about 87,000 to 2.3 million.

Florida's population passed 17 million, up just over 1 million people from 2000.

For smaller cities and towns, Parkland, in northwest Broward, again scored near the top statewide in percentage growth since 2000. The town of almost 20,000 people grew by 44 percent. Royal Palm Beach and Wellington in Palm Beach County also were in the top 20 in Florida in percentage growth.

Royal Palm Beach grew by almost a third to almost 29,000 people. Wellington grew by 22 percent to about 47,000.

Nationally, eight of the top 10 fastest-growing large cities are in Arizona, Nevada and California.

The Census Bureau looked primarily at building permits to devise 2003 population estimates. To view the data, go online to http://eire.census.gov/popest/data/cities.php.

Staff database specialist John Maines contributed to this report.





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