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Pembroke Pines – Small Town Feel, Big City Amenities

Pembroke Pines is a welcoming, friendly, and warm community, offering its residents, businesses, and visitors a vibrant yet relaxing place to live and work in South Florida. The City reflects a diverse and high quality of life that meets the needs of families, singles, and senior citizens, providing “big City services” yet staying true to a small-community feel.

 
Dozens of lushly landscaped parks; numerous leisure and recreation opportunities, which include walking and bike paths, 18 hole golf courses, music events, and sports programs; an award winning senior center; varied shopping and restaurant destinations; entertainment venues; healthcare and educational facilities and cultural attractions are but a few of the elements the local government and residents have created throughout the years to ensure an unparalleled quality of city life.
 
Known for its forward thinking and municipal leadership in education, technology, economic development and the arts, Pembroke Pines is strategically located in southwest Broward County with easy access to the Florida Turnpike on the east; and Interstate-75, US 27 and the Everglades on the west. It is only 15 miles from Fort Lauderdale, and 16 miles from Miami.
 
Pembroke Pines, with a total area of 34.4 square miles, is now home to over 160,000 residents. In population, it ranks as the second largest city in Broward County and the 11th largest city in Florida. To understand the City’s growth, however, one must look back at the beginning – 20 years before Pembroke Pines was even incorporated.
 
A Look Back
 
The 1940s saw the aftermath of World War II, and it was then in 1943 that Henry D. Perry, a dairy farmer, sold 640 acres of his land to the United States Navy for a flight-training field between Hollywood Boulevard and Pembroke Road that is known today as North Perry Airport. Broward County acquired the airport from the Navy in 1950 and a steady growth from families and retired servicemen began. A post-World War II population explosion resulted in a need for new streets and highways in the area. The Florida Turnpike worked its way through open pastures and pine forests on the eastern edge of Pembroke Pines in 1957, and then the construction of other Interstates and highways to the west quickly followed.
 
With this growth, in 1960, the Village of Pembroke Pines became Pembroke Pines, and was incorporated with the casting of 425 votes in a resident’s carport. The less than a square mile property at the time was between Pembroke Road (south), then Hollywood Boulevard (north), SW 72 Avenue (west) and the Florida Turnpike (east). Dr. Seth Kipnis, the first mayor, presided over a seven member Board of Alderman (or councilmen/women).
 
The City’s name, Pembroke Pines, is traced back to Sir Edward Reed, a Member of Britain’s Parliament for the County of Pembroke in 1874, who purchased and farmed land in the 1880s which today occupies much of what is now the nearby city of Dania Beach. The road put through his land came to be known as Pembroke Road. When incorporating, Mayor Kipnis suggested the name Pembroke Pines because of the pine trees growing near Pembroke Road.
 
At first, in the 1970s, westward expansion was blocked by the County-owned North Perry airport and South Florida State Hospital. However, a developer, Joseph LaCroix, agreed to have his 320 acres north of Pines Boulevard and east of Davie Road Extension annexed into the City, allowing for the western expansion. The 70s saw the establishment of the Southwest Focal Point Senior Center, the first of its kind in the County. In the 1990s it became a national prototype for the delivery of senior services. Today it is not only a senior center, but also a thriving community center offering numerous classes, workshops, special events and activities year round, adult day care for the frail and those with Alzheimer’s, and a host of other services and amenities.
 
In 1980, the largest piece of property from Flamingo Road to US 27 was annexed, which doubled the City’s size. Four years later, residents voted to adopt a districting system for city government – four Commissioners, each elected from a specific district, and a Mayor, voted on by all the residents. Districts would be re-arranged as the City expanded in size and population. There were two city hall locations before the City settled into its current building in 1988.
 
Rapid Growth
 
Partly due to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Pembroke Pines rapidly grew in the early to mid 1990s, with thousands of southern Miami-Dade County residents moving northward and settling in Pembroke Pines. This influx gave the City the distinction of being the third "Fastest Growing Cities" in the United States in 1999. Pembroke Pines began to establish itself as a retail center and its journey towards strategic economic development was on a steady path.
 
It’s important to note that the hurricane influx, population boom and economic changes of this time didn’t catch local government off guard. Years earlier, demographic studies had alerted Pembroke Pines planners that crucially overcrowded schools were imminent. In response, the City decided to start a Pembroke Pines Charter School System which has become the largest Charter School System in the County, and the largest municipally run non-profit charter system in the state of Florida.
 
A School Solution …
 
In 1996, when Pembroke Pines’ Charter School legislation passed, the City adopted an ambitious school construction timeline, and was able to creatively finance the land acquisition and construction without taking away from the local public schools. The City Commission served as the Charter School System’s School Board.
 
Within 15 months, Pembroke Pines built and opened two elementary schools and a middle school: Pembroke Pines Charter West Elementary and Middle, and East Elementary campuses. The Charter High School was then built, which was created as part of the City’s Academic Village. This campus also includes a regional library, a community college, a university and a performing arts center.
 
Two years later, another elementary and middle school were built – Pembroke Pines Central Charter Elementary and Middle Campus. Pembroke Pines Florida State University (FSU) campus, which opened in 2003, was the last campus to be built.
 
For the first time, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) evaluation team this year awarded the Pembroke Pines Charter School System full accreditation – the highest possible accreditation a district can receive – for the next five years.
 
The initial process of becoming accredited actually began in November 2010, when the schools pursued the option of becoming an accredited school system, and applied to SACS. Prior to that time, the schools had been accredited individually.
 
All seven Charter schools on five separate school sites were visited by the Evaluation Team as part of the accreditation, which evaluates an institution's organizational effectiveness. All the schools were given high scores in five different standard areas according to AdvancED standards: Purpose and Direction, Governance & Leadership, Teaching & Assessing for Learning, Resources & Support systems, and Using Results for Continuous Improvement.
 
Integrating Technology
 
Technology is and continues to be a vital component for the success of the Pembroke Pines Charter School System – ensuring that all schools possess the technology necessary for improved classroom instruction and support, and access to strategic tools. The City has made it its mission to integrate technology as a learning tool in the schools to explore, gather, problem solve and communicate information effectively through the use of emergent technologies.
 
The five campuses of the Pembroke Pines Charter School System, which has over 5,600 students, will soon have wireless access available throughout all classrooms and have accessibility to a variety of cloud-based education programs.
 
During the 2011-2012 school year, representatives from the City and Charter School System formed a system-wide technology committee to assess the technological abilities, usage, and needs of systems for teachers, students and parents to ensure the continued acquisition and implementation of new technologies that support student achievement.
 
Most recently, the City’s Technology Services Department launched a new City website, www.ppines.com, complete with advanced and user-friendly communication tools for residents and businesses.
 
The new design includes key features such as FAQs to answer the most commonly asked questions; “Notify Me,” where visitors to the site can sign up to be notified via email or text messages about community activities, meetings and other updates; a translation link to translate the website text into different languages; specialized calendars to keep informed about activities in the community; and a document center which allows for easy access to documents, spreadsheets, pictures, videos, forms, etc.
 
The Open Government link ensures that residents have open and easy access to information that demonstrates how their elected officials conduct business, as well as provides information about government structure, meetings, and access to databases and reports.
 
Residents are also taking advantage of the City’s “See, Click and Fix It” program which involves technology to resolve and solve various issues easily and efficiently with just a click from a smart phone. Reports of non-emergency issues such as pot holes, graffiti, chronic overgrown landscaping and missing traffic signs can be made directly from a smart mobile device to the City for quick attention and resolution.
 
As part of Pembroke Pines’ efforts for open communication, the City also launched a newspaper called City Connect in 2011 which shines a spotlight on activities, events and local issues. Published six times a year, it is found online, dropped at key locations, and is mailed to all businesses and residents. Residents can also watch OCTV (Our City Television) on local cable, which features stories relating to City departments, events and services.
 
A Strategy in Place
 
The new website and the City’s other media outlets are just a few of the tools being used by the City’s Planning and Economic Development Division to stimulate and encourage businesses to expand and locate in Pembroke Pines. The Division has been busy with redevelopment of the eastern section of the city, streetscape improvements, building updates, beautification and branding within designated commercial corridors, the creation of education programs, promotion of business friendly code revisions, strategic partnerships and the creation of an Economic Development Strategic Plan.
 
Most recently Pembroke Pines was recognized as a Platinum Permitting City by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, a distinction granted to a city that establishes one point of contact for permitting, encourages pre application meetings and offers an open online tracking system for the permit process.
 
In 2011, the City created a Shop Local program to promote local businesses to the residents. With Shop Pembroke Pines, an interactive on-line directory of businesses in and around Pembroke Pines, residents can easily and quickly go to one central location on the City website to search for local businesses that they can support. Local businesses are also finding it easier to get involved in the project bidding process when competing for goods and services purchased by the City with the passage of a ‘local vendor preference’ ordinance which supports and encourages local businesses to contribute to the local economy by keeping the tax dollars spent on contracts in the area.
 
All eyes are also on Pembroke Pines’ future multi-use City Center project which will feature residential, commercial, office and hotel uses. The 80 acres with high visibility to the City’s main commercial corridor is a great opportunity for developers to attract residents and visitors alike. Over 1,000 residential units are currently being developed on site. The City will also be building a multi function Civic Center just south of the City Center property.
 
Pembroke Pines features one of South Florida’s first lifestyle centers; has been instrumental in devising business friendly code revisions which include food truck codes, outdoor dining codes, sign code and parking revisions and a monument sign program. Always looking to the future, the Economic Development Strategic Plan examines all avenues of growth opportunities to create new and innovative programs for the betterment of the City, taking into account all of its diversity and needs.
 
Pembroke Pines has a median household income of $61,873 and over 61,000 housing units. Statistics show the median age of the City is 39.5 years of age and nearly 25% of the population is under 18 years old. The City is diverse with approximately 40% of the population identified as Hispanic or Latino and 20% identified as Black or African American. Pembroke Pines is also home to over 10 million square feet of commercial development, with a majority of the City’s development occurring along the Pines Boulevard Corridor.
 
The City is proud to be the premier retail destination in South Florida with over eight million square feet of retail spread throughout 34 square miles. Pembroke Pines also has nearly 600,000 square feet of industrial development divided between three main areas, and has multiple office complexes to meet the business needs. In addition, the City has two major hospitals that support a strong medical industry.
 
City Pride
 
It’s no wonder the City of Pembroke Pines has been honored with numerous awards and recognitions, including being named an “All America City,” one of the top “100 Best Places to Live,” one of the “Most Integrated Communities” in South Florida, and “#1 in Florida as Best Place to Raise Your Kids.”
 
A driving force behind the City’s success, Mayor Frank C. Ortis received the 2012 Public Leadership in the Arts Award for outstanding leadership in the advancement of the arts; was recently presented with the Partner America/U.S. Conference of Mayors “Small Business Advocate Award” for his efforts and support of small business throughout Pembroke Pines; and he was honored with the prestigious E. Harris Drew Municipal Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest award an elected official can receive from the Florida League of Cities.