POINCIANA – Any community – even one that’s already grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade – could benefit from a specific long term vision for what it wants to be, and how to get there most effectively.
Nick Murdock thinks it’s time for Poinciana to move in that direction as well.
Although this community made up of 10 villages that cuts across Osceola and Polk counties has already grown to a population of more than 84,000 people, Poinciana lacks a plan that can successfully guide the community to future growth, Murdock said. That’s why he’s recommending that the community’s largest developer, Avatar, develop a Poinciana Urban Master Plan.
“That’s kind of a pie in the sky thing,” he said, but added, “I think of it as continuity in design. Rome, Italy and Washington D.C. were built on master plans.”
Murdock is the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, the group working to help promote economic development projects and bring more jobs to Poinciana. PEDA met this morning at the office of Manhattan Kraft on Poinciana Boulevard.
Poinciana experienced a major building boom in the past decade, as scores of new homes got constructed. The crash of the housing market in 2008 brought that growth to a halt and left the community with a high unemployment rate as jobs in the fields of construction and real estate vanished.
But the community has reason to be optimistic about the future – and to question whether the growth curve is about to start up again.
PEDA was formed over the summer by a group of residents, Murdock included, who didn’t want to leave the community’s economic future to chance. PEDA has estimated that Poinciana is going to benefit next year from up to 7,000 construction jobs being created through a host of projects, large and small, that are currently in the planning stages.
They include Osceola Regional Medical Center’s decision to build the first ever hospital in Poinciana, and Osceola County’s plans to construct the Poinciana Parkway, a new toll road designed to get residents in and out of Poinciana more quickly.
The state of Florida is also moving forward on SunRail, a commuter rail line that would run from Volusia County to downtown Orlando, then on to Poinciana, the final stop on this 61-mile route.
Construction on most of these projects will start next year, and the thousands of jobs they create could help lead to more spinoff positions, particularly in the field of health care. Osceola Regional Medical Center is also planning on creating an emergency room facility and a Medical Arts building to house medical offices.
To help get the community ready for these projects, PEDA is organizing a jobs fair on Jan. 19 to focus on local workers who want to apply for the construction-related jobs, followed by a second Medical Jobs Fair sometime next spring.
“We’re progressing along,” Murdock said. “We need to determine how many available jobs there are going to be. There’s no sense having a job fair if we don’t have an adequate number of employers hiring.”
Part of PEDA’s job has been to encourage residents to begin polishing their resumes for these jobs being created, and the alliance is sponsoring several upcoming resume writing workshops to help residents do that.
They’re also reaching out to Poinciana’s existing businesses, and to form even stronger alliances to help those firms grow.
“We want to get business partners,” Murdock said. “Ideally, we want to have every business in Poinciana be a member of PEDA. We want to promote the business community here.”
Doing so, said PEDA member Wendy Farrell, will help stabilize the existing jobs base while making the community more appealing to companies looking to relocate here.
“You create the economic base where people can have the jobs, and then everything else settles in,” she said.
“We want to get jobs so we can keep businesses here – so we can bring in other businesses,” said PEDA member Letha Vanderhei. “That’s our vision.”
Murdock thinks as these projects begin to get underway, Poinciana could once again start growing – and that the community could benefit from a master plan that maps out exactly where residents and developers want Poinciana to be in future years.
“It would be nice to get a professional involved in that,” he said.
Farrell said the challenge for Poinciana is that the homes got built first, and the commercial development came in later – but the counties never invested in the roads needed to accommodate all the newcomers. As a result, Poinciana has become notorious for heavy traffic congestion in the mornings and during rush hour.
“The key to a master plan is always your infrastructure, where we’re lacking,” Farrell said.
She added that if Poinciana does develop a master plan, the community needs to stick with it.
“A master plan should be just that – a master plan,” she said. “You don’t tweak it.”
Murdock agreed, saying “We have to do it professionally to take it to the next step. We can’t just talk about it.”
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