It’s hard for me to believe, but in July I will be a resident of Florida for 25 years, or more than half of my life. The change that has taken place in these 25 years is nothing short of dramatic. In terms of population, Florida has just leap-frogged New York State and jumped into 3rd place with over 19 million residents. I remember a time when I vacationed here as a child, or teenager and felt like I was in a far quieter place, with a relaxed attitude and little to do in terms of entertainment other than Jai-Lai or attending a Dolphin game during the football season. There were also delicatessens everywhere and today almost none exist. There was no traffic and no need for reversible lanes on highways, or the need to pay for high cost express lanes.
We were a far less diverse community too. Today, Florida and especially South Florida, is almost the melting pot that New York is. South and Central Americans, Cubans, Canadians and now Europeans make up large percentages of our cities. Different languages can be heard spoken at Starbucks that seems to be on each corner where none previously existed.
There was only one Disney theme park. Universal didn’t exist. Even professional sports was almost non existant where today, there are nine professional sports franchises throughout the state. If you wanted to gamble, you had to board a gambling cruise, whereas today Indian reservations and other hotels have slot machines and table games all over the state.
The skylines in our major cities look nothing like they did 25 or 30 years ago. The building of massive large scale condominiums keeps on happening because it seems as if the people keep coming and coming. Florida is no longer “god’s waiting room” as the number of families with children in our state rises every year. We are simply growing and growing and growing. The massive amount of baby boomers who are expected to retire in the coming years only means that this trend in population growth will continue with no end in sight.
So to those of you that have lived through this meteoric rise in population, I ask if you think Florida has gone from better to worse or visa versa? Do you miss the Florida that was once known solely as a place to relax and retire, or is the trend toward families, entertainment and youth a trend that has made Florida a better place to live?