The City of Port St. Lucie (PSL) was originally founded as a retirement community and didn’t have a historic downtown or key infrastructure – like sidewalks, streetlights, water, and sewer. Over six decades, PSL became one of the fastest growing cities in the nation and had to adapt to offer important amenities to meet the priorities of a growing population. PSL addressed these growth challenges and opportunities by using data and balancing it with resident feedback.
PSL Jobs Corridor
Port St. Lucie’s annual scientific community survey, and feedback from other platforms, showed that a consistent, primary concern for residents for years was the need for more high-paying, local jobs. In response, the city purchased approximately 1,200 acres of land in Southern Grove, an area in the city that was identified as the ideal place for a job’s corridor. Upon completion of the sale, the city worked with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, the Urban Land Institute, and residents to develop a master plan for the development.
Experts said it would likely take 30 years to sell all the parcels within the Southern Grove land purchase; however, in just five years almost every parcel in the Southern Grove has been sold or is under contract. Leaders of companies that invested reported that they did so out of the trust they had in city leaders, along with excellent customer service and a business-friendly environment. The fact that the city was in control of developing the land with a well-thought-out master plan gave buyers the stability and confidence they needed.
Here’s a quick list of some of the companies that have invested:
Thousands of jobs have been created and city leaders are excited about the potential that remains with the Southern Grove jobs corridor.
PSL Youth Engagement Activities
Nearly 20% of the PSL’s population is under 18 years old, so over the past five years, youth engagement has been prioritized and thousands of young residents have engaged in offered youth programs, some of which are detailed below.
Working with the Florida League of Cities, PSL engaged students in Florida City Government Week, a week-long annual event that celebrates, showcases, and engages citizens in the work of municipal government.
City staff and council members visited four schools and hosted five separate assemblies for more than 1,000 students to discuss how local government operates, ways to be engaged, and the importance of voting.
Government Week has evolved over the years, sometimes including a City Hall field trip, job shadowing day, or in pandemic years, virtual panels with city leaders.
Police department connections
To build trust and transparency between law enforcement officers and youth, the police department has coordinated multiple engagement efforts:
Forum on Race Relations and Inclusion (FRRI)
The City’s FRRI Committee invited teens to participate in “A.N.D.?” (Acceptance Not Discrimination), an interactive seminar designed by teens primarily for teens to engage in candid conversation about LGBTQ+ issues in a safe environment. The FRRI Committee also hosted a Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives (GAAP) session focusing on interactions with law enforcement.
#IamPSL Citizen Summit
With attendance at strategic planning meetings decreasing, and demographics of remaining attendees skewing older, Port St. Lucie City began the #IamPSL Citizen Summit in 2018 to reimagine how it could engage more residents and use their feedback to make improvements.
The #IamPSL Citizen Summit’s purpose is to dive more deeply into the National Community Survey data by empowering participants to propose solutions to challenges raised and to co-create solutions that can be incorporated into the strategic plan. The Citizen Summit is held each year on a Saturday over a period of several hours. Residents provide feedback at interactive booths and play games representing the city’s seven strategic goals.
The Summit is geared toward all ages, with every participant, including kids, being given $100 in play money to identify and prioritize where additional taxpayer dollars should be spent. The budget activity allows the city council to see residents’ spending priorities when forming the year’s strategic plan update.
The 2020 Summit was held shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and drew more than 500 participants. In 2021 and 2022 the city held an interactive virtual summit and organized an outdoor Strategic Plan Trail, during which residents strolled through a park learning about current and future projects and giving play money to their favorite ideas. The 2023 Citizen Summit was co-created by local youth with creative new elements; the first fully in-person summit since the pandemic was attended by over 800 residents!
The Citizen Summit has allowed the city to co-create solutions with residents, building connections and strengthening civic capital.