A hot housing market put Port St. Lucie
A hot housing market put Port St. Lucie in the top 10 best local real estate markets in the United States. Its 120 square miles ensures plenty of room for more. CITY OF PORT ST. LUCIE

Port St. Lucie ranking ahead of bigger municipalities for its quality of life

PSL city hall entrance
Two city departments garnered national recognition recently. The training program for new employees at city hall was recognized as a best practice in a human resources competition, and code enforcement earned the highest accreditation score in the state from the American Association of Code Enforcement. RUSTY DURHAM

With its new awards and honors, Port St. Lucie demonstrates its ability to outrank much larger cities in a variety of ways. Among local governments, the city leads the way with more than 100 awards and honors in the last four years. 

CITY IS 9TH BEST LOCAL REAL ESTATE MARKET – Using 17 measures of housing market attractiveness and economic strength, financial site WalletHub placed Port St. Lucie ninth in the top10 best real estate markets in the U.S. The financial site surveyed 300 cities across the country. The market for real estate plus the affordability and economic climate played a large part in the decision. At the top was McKinney, Texas. The next closest Florida city was Tampa at No. 17, followed by Davie at No. 57. 

POLICE DEPARTMENT: GANG UNIT OF THE YEAR – The department’s Gang Intelligence Unit was named the Gang Unit of the Year by the Florida Gang Investigators Association. The unit received the William Nealy Gang Prevention Award. They were recognized for their dedication to the detection and prevention of gang activity to protect the public from criminal street crimes and violence by gangs and their associates. 

Sixth Best City for Hispanic Entrepreneurs – Compared to more than 18 cities across the country, Port St. Lucie is sixth-most welcoming to entrepreneurs who are Hispanic, says financial site WalletHub. All but two of the top 10 cities were in Florida. Orlando was No. 1. 

One of the Safest Cities in Florida and the U.S. – Safety takes many forms: financial, natural disaster risk, and safety out in the community and in the home. Out of 180 cities that the financial site WalletHub looked at, Port St. Lucie was No. 71. For comparison, just four cities in Florida were ahead of Port St. Lucie: Cape Coral was No. 16, Pembroke Pines was No. 30, Tallahassee was No. 58 and Tampa was No. 68.

City wins Excellence Award – In a competition for best contributions to the human resource profession by public agencies, the city won the nationwide award of excellence for small agencies. The Public Services Human Resources Association cited the city’s half-day program for new employees that teaches them the mission, vision and values of the city and introduces them to the framework of the city’s strategic plan. 

Best for First-Time Home Buyers – The city placed fourth out of 300 cities in a WalletHub survey of the best U.S. cities for first-time home buyers. WalletHub, a financial and survey site, looked at 22 indicators of affordability, quality of life and attractiveness. Ahead of Port St. Lucie were three other Florida cities: Palm Bay in first place, followed by Cape Coral and Tampa. When ranked by city size, largest to smallest, Port St. Lucie was second in the survey of the best place for first-time home buyers.

Mayor Accepted to Sought-After Program – City Mayor Shannon Martin was accepted to an intensive advanced city management program along with only 120 other applicants from around the world. The Bloomberg Harvard Leadership Initiative provides selected city leaders with executive and management training. She joins an international group of mayors and senior officials who will learn how to make better use of data and evidence, foster collaboration and innovation, and create positive ways to better their cities.

Village Green Drive Plan Gets Big Boost – Port St. Lucie’s innovative plan to turn Village Green Drive, a curving commercial street, into an attractive destination has been awarded a grant. Located on the east side of U.S. 1, a quarter-mile north of the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Event Center, the Village Green Drive project just got a tremendous boost from the U.S. Department of Transportation with a $2 million grant. The money will pay for the preparation of construction plans for the 1.6-mile roadway. The design was reached after several meetings with residents who provided and agreed upon a variety of improvements that include bike lanes, wider sidewalks for pedestrians, public art installations, landscaping, park-like green spaces, and features to manage stormwater runoff. It was one of just five projects funded by the D.O.T. in Florida. 

Indian River State College
Indian River State College is turning out young professionals as fast as it can. The nursing program just moved to the Pruitt Campus in Port St. Lucie where a simulated hospital uses the very latest equipment and technology to teach students in as close to a real hospital setting as possible. INDIAN RIVER STATE COLLEGE

25th Best Place for Young Professionals – Based on the job market, desirability as a place to live, and affordability, Port St. Lucie rated No. 25 in a survey by the U.S. News and World Report as a great place for young professionals to live — although the city’s residents [and graduates] are older than in other cities listed. A large portion of Indian River State College graduates are people who returned to college while holding full-time jobs. The city’s average annual salary for all jobs is low [$47,410 vs. a national average of $58,269], but the unemployment rate is low, and the median home price is $354,119, the magazine said. Rated No. 1 is San Jose, California with an overall average annual salary of $99,400 and median home price of $1.5 million. 

Highly Ranked Code Department – Love it or hate it, the Port St. Lucie Code Enforcement Department beat out every other code department in Florida by attaining the highest accreditation score from the American Association of Code Enforcement, an internationally renowned association of code enforcement professionals. One of the accreditation committee members said he considers the Port St. Lucie department a benchmark for others to meet. What this means is that the city underwent a seven-month comprehensive evaluation on 50 high standards relating to their submission of jurisdictional information, staffing, policies, procedures, reporting and response history. This honor symbolizing professionalism, excellence, and competence was awarded to only seven code enforcement agencies in the nation.

Long-time city manager Russ Blackburn
Long-time city manager Russ Blackburn was honored with the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County’s Pete Hegener Leadership Award after his retirement. CITY OF PORT ST. LUCIE

Investment Grade Rating Climbs Again – It’s been a long climb to a better bond rating since the city issued bonds in 2018 to partly fund the $87 million Crosstown Parkway Extension bridge. Standard & Poor recently upgraded the city’s investment grade credit rating to AA from its previous -AA. The change is due to the significant economic growth of the city since 2018, S&P Global said, citing “a significant increase in reserves and material improvement in the city’s debt metrics.” Moody’s Investment Services decided to give the city a “positive outlook,” an upgrade from a “stable outlook,” saying the upgrade is due to improved finances, a strong tax base, and economic growth. 

Russ Blackburn Honored – Long-time city manager Russ Blackburn is this year’s Pete Hegener Leadership Award recipient. Now retired from the city manager’s job, he was skilled at quietly keeping the city on an even keel, overseeing staff and taking on projects requested by the city council. The award is given to business leaders who have made significant contributions to the county’s economy and quality of life. Hegener was a founding member of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County. 

Five Named Home Rule Heroes – Three Port St. Lucie City Council members and two deputy city attorneys were awarded Home Rule Hero status by the Florida League of Cities. The awards are for their work in advocating for the city during the recent state legislative session. Home Rule describes a city’s ability to provide local answers to local problems without much input from the state. Home Rule Hero Awards go to people who lobby for their municipalities by giving lawmakers the local point of view. The awards went to Vice Mayor Jolien Caraballo, Councilwoman Stephanie Morgan, Councilman Anthony Bonna, Senior Deputy City Attorney Ella Gilbert and Deputy City Attorney Frank Moehrle.

See the original article in print publication

Jan. 8, 2024

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