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Community Background Report

City of Sunny Isles Beach



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Although the City of Sunny Isles Beach was not incorporated until 1997, its history begins in 1920 when Harvey Baker Graves purchased a 2.26 square-miles to develop as a tourist resort. He called it “Sunny Isles: the Venice of America,” though the area was called North Miami Beach until 1931. In 1925, Haulover Bridge was completed and brought developers from Miami Beach. They changed the canals and inlets and created peninsulas and islands for their bayside properties. In 1936, Kurtis Froedtert bought out the development from Graves. He constructed Sunny Isles Pier and developed the area.

During the 1950s, Sunny Isles went through its first growth spurt, as residents and tourists flocked to the area. During the 1950s and 1960s, over thirty motels were built along the beach creating “Motel Row”. This included America’s first two-story motel, the Ocean Palm. Entertainers such as the Beatles frequented the themed motels along Collins Avenue. Tourism gradually slowed down during the 1970s. It was not until the 1990s that activity began to pick up with the construction of Ocean Towers. Upon incorporation, citizens voted to change the city’s name to Sunny Isles Beach. The early twenty-aught brought on a boom in large luxury developments, replacing most of the historic motels.

Community Dynamics

The population of Sunny Isles Beach is estimated at 22,123, making it the 15th largest city in Miami-Dade County. With only 1.4 square miles in land area, it is one of the most densely populated municipalities in the county.

Sunny Isles Beach also has one of the most aged populations in Miami-Dade, with a median age of 49.8 years, over 10 years above the county average of 39.3. The percentage of residents aged sixty-five and over is 29%, indicative of a large retiree community. Over half of the Sunny Isles population is foreign born, and the City is host to a large Eastern European community, with 15.4 percent of the population coming from either Russia or Poland. From a racial and ethnic standpoint, 50.2% are White, 3.2% are Black, and 44.4% are Hispanic. A total of 51.7% of the City’s residents were foreign born, and 72.8% spoke a language other than English at home. Notably, 9.4% of the population is of Russian descent, and 7.37% of the population speaks Russian as a first language.

The median household income of $47,183 is above the county median of $43,129. The median home value of $294,000 is fairly high, compared with the Miami-Dade median of $203,300. Sunny Isles also has a comparatively higher percentage of its population with high school and college degrees than the county. The median household size for Sunny Isles is 1.87 persons, and the median family size is 2.55 persons. This is almost identical to the City of Miami Beach, which has a median household and a median family size of 1.87 and 2.76 persons, respectively.

Business Landscape

Over the last decade and a half, Sunny Isles has seen increased condominium development, starting with the Oceania Towers project. There are also two Trump developments, Trump Grand and Trump Towers, on the east side of A1A. Condominium and resort development has continued to fuel the Sunny Isles economy, with much of the City’s population employed in either the retail or hotel and restaurant industries. Sunny Isles Beach is a rapidly developing resort area. It is visited by over 1 million vacationers from around the world every year.

Transportation Characteristics

Since 2005, the City of Sunny Isles Beach had either completed or was working on several transportation, waste disposal and storm water projects. A storm water runoff and road repaving project was completed in the City’s central district. The City is building a pedestrian bridge on the westbound lanes of 163rd Street, has made seawall repairs on 183rd Street and Atlantic Isles, and has conducted a traffic calming roadway redesign on 163rd Street. There is a shuttle bus service for its residents and visitors. For further transportation recommendations, the City has conducted a survey among its citizens, and follows their desire to build a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly environment, known as “Complete Streets”, with an emphasis on “multi-modal transportation improvements.”